The Long Game

I know: We’re still in a Global Pandemic. US politics is a mess. We’ve managed to get a bright light shined on the awful systemic racism in this country, and we still haven’t dealt with the climate crisis… but every so often a little personal milestone is realized, and I need to give this particular milestone the positive attention it deserves.  🙂 


Way back in the fall of 1973, I sat in my aunt’s house in Tiburon CA holding in my hands an object that I believed to be indicative of my destiny: a vinyl record album. I was coming to the conclusion that music – specifically making amazing music, and releasing that music on vinyl records – was what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t know anything about touring back then. Earlier that year I had written my first big band chart, an original piece for the Nyack High School jazz band and I had done my first gig in September 73 also in Nyack (with a long forgotten soul band), but the extraordinary experience I had just had listing to this record convinced me that I knew where my destiny lie. The record was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I was 13 years old.

 

Many many many – let me stress this, MANY – things have transpired since that day. Literally hundreds of bands, some of them my own (the list continues to grow to this day). Some recording studio experience, usually gained by harassing my friends who had 4 or 8 track recorders; I still have some of those tapes. Gigs in NYC with my own groups at places like “Inroads” in Soho, and with a multitude of other bands which included vibraphonist Gunther Hampel’s quartet.  Then my first actual tour, with the Adaptors Movement Theater company – not exactly what I had in mind, but hey. We went to Baltimore, Canada, and did 8 cities in Mexico. By this time I was in my early 20s.

But still no album of my own…

Within the next few years the music, and the technology, changed irrevocably. The music I was interested in – specifically, jazz fusion and Prog – fell out of favor, and vinyl albums were replaced by the CD. I made my first ‘official’ record – on cassette – in 1984(ish), called “Alexander’s Imbalance”. In addition to solo tracks, it had 3 band recordings with my current group “Solid Juice” (which went on to become yet another band,  “General Disturbance”).

I continued to play locally (NYC and suburbs) with several bands, including my longest running band “A. Animal” (1986-1994).  I continued to meet and work with a wide variety of people – jazz, rock, funk, experimental. I didn’t know it at the time but I was trying to synthesize something new out of all these elements.

Then a life change: My dad passed away in 1989. He left me a little money; my aunt wisely did not give it to me all right away, but I did 3 things with it when I could. I got my teeth straightened, Nita and I moved out of NYC and bought a condo in Tappan, and I brought A. Animal into the studio to record “Overhaul“, a record produced by Robert Musso. The story of how I came to work with Robert and the making of “Overhaul” I will save for another time. But finally I was getting started on the business of making real albums….or so I thought.

Vinyl was pretty much over by now – 1990 – and the first Gulf war cancelled all distribution deals Robert had lined up for us. The record was never released.


Fast forward to 1996: back to playing solo, and with access to midi sequencers and more modern tech I recorded and released “Alone at Last’. Nita and I rented equipment from Howie Rose, who has the live sound engineer for The Machine at the time, (a band I was in for 10 years (96-06)) and mixed the whole thing in the living room of our condo. Nita was also 8 months pregnant at the time..! I made sure the CD had a very special insert – a poster style insert which unfolds to about the size of an LP. Plus the music was ‘experiential’ – designed to take the listener to a place of introspection.


After AatL and the birth of our child, well… life happens. Things continued to change. More bands, and then actual touring with the Machine. Let me assure you – The irony of the music we were playing and how it related to my early experience in ’73 was not lost on me. Not one bit.

In the early 2000’s more self produced records followed – “Bent” in ’99, ‘Inner Music Ensemble’ in 2001,  “Galvanized” in 2003 and then “Tugging At The Infinite” in 2006. Finally I was making records with some…regularity, and always going for the same idea of an experience – a “movie for your mind”. Around this time I began to appear on a few recordings by others as well, although none of these recordings were released nationally. I just kept working – gigging, writing, etc. My trajectory hasn’t really changed, just expanded into chamber music ambient and electronica. Classical, Jazz, funk, prof and fusion still form the core of my asthetic.

About 2 years ago, thru I series of interesting coincidences, I got to meet and work with the wonderful guitarist Rez Abbasi. I was thrilled when he asked me to be involved in his latest project, a brilliant reimagining of the music of Django Reinhardt called “Django Shift”. These expertly crafted arrangements were brought to life with Rez, drummer Michael Sarin and myself. Rez worked with me on the synth patches and sound design. We did one show in Berkeley CA, and went into the studio to record. I’m happy to report the record is now out – on an actual label, Whirlwind Records. Mixed by Rez and the crew from Systems Two, the record came out sounding amazing. I only hope we get to tour! When I saw there was a vinyl option available, well – I had to have it.

37 years later after that day in my Aunt’s house overlooking the San Francisco Bay, I finally hold in my hands a vinyl record that has my name and even my picture on it. It’s not ‘my’ record in the traditional sense, but it feels every bit a part of me as anything I’ve done independently. And it is an ‘experiential’ listen – the music draws you in, and gives you space to listen…

 

The dream – is tarnished, faded and broken around the edges; and this almost even feels a bit anticlimactic. But it is what I’ve always wanted. I only have one question: When do I start the next one?

FYI the rest of my recorded collection is up on my Bandcamp Page – fell free to peruse. 🙂

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