Is it possible for a musician, virtually unknown, to gain recognition via the web? Yes.
Three years ago, I met a New York guitarist named Dom Minasi who needed a website. I really didn't know the fellow, or his music, but I knew the name from a couple of Blue Note recordings he did decades ago. I heard his new music, liked it, and found Dom and his wife Carol, a vocalist, to be intense, passionate folks so I signed on to his comeback crusade.
I did the website, and using it as the center of activities, Dom jumpstarted his career. With the help of some talented professionals, including the King of Jazz Email, Jim Eigo
, Dom has since recorded four self-produced CDs, played gigs all over the US, and used his website to successfully market himself. His music is now played on the radio, reviewed all over the planet, and he's no longer one of those "what ever happened to him" folks. I can't say the website was the deciding factor because's Dom's determination, and his music are responsible for the recognition he's been garnering, but it has a been a catalyst.
Rather than wait for something to happen, Dom used technology to empower himself. He's invested his money, and time, and slowly, organically, he's been building his career, step by step. Much to the dismay of those who are looking to be stars, the major label record company contract scenario doesn't always work out.
As Dom tells the story: "The Blue Note experience had soured me towards the record business...Let me explain. Basically I came from out of nowhere. I had been playing all kinds of music and teaching to make a living. I was playing jazz, but in little known places throughout the boroughs of New York. I was not in the loop. I had played with some well known Jazz artists but not on a consistent basis."
Through a series of recommendations and phone calls, Blue Note big man, at the time, George Butler, signed Dom to the label. "I couldn't believe it," he explains. "But then, I waited another year for the contract and another year to record. I picked material that was current ("With A Little Help From My Friends") and standards ("On Green Dolphin Street"). I wanted my first album to have a variety of material that would appeal to everyone. From the gitgo everything went wrong, I got plenty of air play, but you couldn't find any albums in the stores. Needless to say, I was not happy!"
He did a second Blue Note recording, but Dom and the label soon parted company. For the next twenty years Dom didn't record. He was busy freelancing, but generally, under the radar scan of the jazz community . He performed occasionally with the late pianist Dennis Moorman, but mostly was involved in writing and teaching. Very prolific and a wonderful communicator, he composed over 300 vocal and instrumental compositions during those years, as well as regularly providing literacy through songwriting workshops for children.
His musical collaborators urged him to return to "the scene", but he just wasn't ready. "I did my workshops with the kids," he recalls. "I was doing great. Why did I need the aggravation?"
But in the mid-90s, he got the bug again, and decided to return to the "big show" once again. He became the principal composer for the Manhattan Improvisational Chamber Ensemble (MICE) and began to work on various projects of his own. By '96, he was busy again, but this time, on his own terms.
Seizing the moment, he formed his own label, CDM Records and decided to record his own music, as well as his wife's Carols vocal efforts. Since then, he hasn't looked back and not surprisingly, each new CD has helped him gain even more recognition.
At this point, perhaps the most serious obstacle Dom faces is the pigeonholing that takes place when people attempt to categorize music. Most of his past work has been playing Out, or so called Avant-Garde music. In fact, his "comeback" CD was entitled Takin' the Duke Out,
featuring breathtakingly original Ellington interpretations.
Yet Dom has moved way beyond that categorization, creating music that spans a number of genres. His latest CD, Quick Response,
features a rousing organ trio and audacious saxman Mark Whitecage on board. Although the music pushes the edge, so to speak, it's rooted, fun, and at times, kinda funky. So why do some radio stations chose to disregard this music?
The labels we sometimes place on music can be very restricting. And for Jazz musicians to be put in a certain category, in essence belittles the nature of their creativity. I dare you to listen to the passionate music on "Quick Response" and tell me it's too out.
No matter though, for Dom Minasi is about creativity. Like all great artists, he believes in his music, no matter how it might be pidgeonholed. He just keeps on keeping on, CD after CD, performance after performance. The only thing that's going to stop him is death, and hopefully, that won't come for many many years.