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Take Five With Bob Albanese

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Bob Albanese: Bob Albanese was born in Newark, N.J. in 1957. Growing up and the Jersey shore, he began practicing the piano at age 8. At age 15, he won top honors in the Garden State Talent Expo which culminated in a solo performance at the Garden State Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. This was the beginning of his professional career. Graduating Neptune High School (Neptune, N.J.) he moved to Boston where he studied at Berklee college of Music for approximately 3 years, while playing in various bands employed in the greater Boston area.

From there his career has taken many turns; from Cape May, N.J. where he played steady solo gigs, to a brief stop in Atlantic and a final move New York City where he has been based since 1981. He performed as alternating Latin and jazz house pianist at the Rainbow Room for a number of years with bandleader Mauricio Smith. His musical sojourns have taken him all over the world. Having played with artists ranging from Buddy Rich to Anita O'Day, Warne Marsh, Ben Vereen, Freddie Hubbard and Datevik Hovenesian, he is a highly versatile pianist composer and arranger. He holds both and BM and a MM from Manhattan School of Music.

He has recorded with many artist as a sideman. His debut recording as leader is called One Way/Detour, recorded in January of 2008 and distributed worldwide by the Zoho music label, featuring Tom Kennedy on bass and Willard Dyson on drums with special guest artist, legendary multi-instrumentalist Ira Sullivan.

Instrument(s):

Piano, Hammond organ, synthesizer, melodian.

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers include:

Morris Nanton, Harold Danko, Dennis Sandole, Herb Pomeroy, Michael Gibbs, Madam Chaloff, Warne Marsh, Garry Dial, Kenny Barron, Michael Abene, Clare Fischer

Influences:

Louis Armstrong, the The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, Santana, Grand Funk Railroad, Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Motown, Lee Michaels, Jimmy Smith, Poncho Sanchez, Alan Broadbent, Claus Ogerman, Lalo Shiffrin, Michele Colombier, Michel Legrand, Marian McPartland, Dick Wellstood, Jack Six, Brubeck, Bradleys: Ronnie Mathews, Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Harold Danko, Kirt Lightsey, Bill Evans, Stevie Wonder, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Clare Fischer, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Noro Morales, Vince Guaraldi, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Eddie Palmieri, Freddie Hubbard, Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Don Grolnick, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Chopin, Debussy, Mahler, Messian... Zimbo Trio. Milton Banana, Tambastics...life... Kahlil Gibran, Eric Fromm, Aldous Huxley, Jimmy Durante, Lord Buckley, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Woody Allen, Victor Borga, the swing of the cosmos, and more...

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

As far back as I can remember.

Your sound and approach to music:

I play what I hear. The music I love is reflected in what I improvise within the context of the jazz tradition. I am always absorbing and seeking further understanding of music, as per the respected traditions, but I am a non-traditionalist in my playing and composing for the most part. However, I believe that the styles of Bill Evans, Clare Fischer, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Herbie Hancock (to note strongest influences) are evident in my musical approach.

Your teaching approach:

I try my best to allow the students individuality to blossom. I offer theoretical information (the perennial language of music) as it pertains to their individual needs. I demonstrate the applications of this information in spontaneous improvisations as well as myriad Jazz and Classical references. I write etudes for students when I feel it will benefit and help to advance their goals. I use technology, i.e. music notation programs (Sibelius), via the Internet, file transfer, video conference, YouTube et al.

Your dream band:

My dream band would include my present most versatile trio with Tom Kennedy (bass) and Willard Dyson (drums) at the nucleus. Many configurations could ensue from there, from quartet with a strong, story telling soloist such as Ira Sullivan, Adam Niewood, Claudio Roditi, Frank Wess, Lew Tabackin, Randy Brecker, Bob Mintzer, Wayne Shorter, Steve Slagle, Bob Mover, Bob Francesini, Bob Malach, Dick Oatts, Walter Smith Jr, Dori Cayami, Kathy Salem, Roy Hargrove, Joe Lovano, Tim Hagans, Paul Meyers, Loretta Ables, Azure McCall, Rachel Gonzales, Diane Reeves, Esperanza Spalding, Gretchen Parlato, Wayne daSilva, Joe Locke, Filipe Salles, Joe Magnarelli, Tom Waits.

Other favorite bass players:

John Benitez, Ruben Samama, Ugonna Okegwo, Ratzo B. Harris, Luques Curtis, Ruben Rodriquez, Mario Rodriquez, Doug Weiss. Other favorite drummers: Victor Lewis, Victor Jones, Steve Davis, Joe Ascione, Steve Williams, Steve Johns, Henry Cole, Obed Calvaire, William Clarke, Mike Clark, Daduka deVonseca, Steve Berrios, Robby Ameen, Roy Haynes, Al Foster, Paul Motian, Frank Bambara, Yayo... Nana Vasconcelos... so many drummers, so little time.

My ideal big band is an extended eight brass five saxophones 18-piece band with vibes, guitar optional second keyboardist, and multi-percussionist . I like to include tuba and French horn when possible.

My ideal jazz philharmonic includes the large ensemble described above plus full string sections, woodwinds, brass, timpani and harp.

My musical directions follow a jazz aesthetic with leanings toward Latin, Brazilian and ethnic influences, as well as everyday influences of American melting pot (especially NYC).

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

On Buddy Rich's band in 1981, the bus got stuck in the mud in Terra Hoate, Indiana... Buddy ordered the band to get out and push. Everybody seemed to look up at him like "are you serious?" ... he was. Eventually took numerous hours for the bus to be towed out of mud. Then drove 30 hours straight to gig in Las Vegas (the Jerry Lewis Telethon). Buddy, in typical fashion, played unbelievable... but chose to end the 15-minute slot after the first tune because he didn't like that he was kept waiting so long.

Playing with an organ trio on the corner of 42nd and 6th Ave one summer in the '80s, Stevie Wonder walked by with brother Milton and dropped a sizable tip in my top pocket while I played under the hot sun with my shades on.

Playing in Grand Central station on Casio keyboard with Tim Horner on congas in the early '80s, and got a summons for "entertaining the passengers." from a cop named "Officer Nodo."

My best gig to date was the one I did with my trio with Ira Sullivan for my CD release party for One Way Detour, at Smalls Jazz club in Greenwich Village.

Favorite venue:

Smalls (10th St NYC), Oscar Peterson Theatre (Montreal, Canada) Concert Haus, (Berlin, Germany), Newport Jazz Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival, Jazz A Junas, (Junas, France), The Sunset Club (Paris, France), Concert Hall Issi li Moulineau, France. Citi Jazz, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sweet Basil Tokyo, Japan, Blue Note Club, Fukuoka, Osaka, Japan, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fischer Hall, Dizzy's Club Coca Cola.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

One Way/Detour, Bob Albanese trio with Ira Sullivan.

It was a spontaneous session. First and second takes, nice piano, great rhythm section (Tom Kennedy, bass, Willard Dyson, drums) and guest Ira Sullivan, who was 76 at the time of the recording in 2008. It was a simple session without a lot of preparation or preconceived notions. I wanted to document the way I play in write in the moment. Ira Sullivan was one of many great artists that I had the opportunity to play with once. I wanted to make it happen again. By virtue of a gig that I was doing in Palm Beach, Florida with the trio backing singer, dancer, stage and screen star, Ben Vereen, we seized the day(s) on our two days off and went in to a newly found local studio in Jupiter, Florida (instead of relaxing by the pool) and recorded One Way/Detour. I chose the title based on an oxymoronic street sign that me and my father and law spotted in Manhattan previously. The One Way going one direction and the Detour sign posted below in the opposite direction. I identify with that sign as a motif for how much of my life and career has gone. The titles on the project are oxymoronic in nature as well, "Ugly Beauty," "Midnight Sun," "Major Minority," "Joyful Noise," "Friendly Fire," etc...

It was picked up by Zoho music label aka producer Jochen Becker and is now in world distribution. It has made it to the JazzWeek charts and is my first official release to have made it to WBGO Jazz 88 radio Newark, N.J. (my home town--- my grandmother had a restaurant, Mama Lucia's Home Style Italian Restaurant, on Bloomfield Ave. for 40 years).

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Oscar Peterson Night Train, Jimmy Smith Home Cooking, Miles Davis Bitches Brew.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

A fresh approach to the mainstream.

Did you know...

Newark, N.J. is my home town—my father played trumpet in the house band at the Adams Theatre, also played with Charlie Spivak (once). My grandmother had a restaurant, , on Bloomfield Ave. for over 40 years.

CDs you are listening to now:

Michel Colombier Old Fool Back on Earth.

Desert Island picks:

Bill Evans, Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside);

Clare Fischer, Salsa Picante (out of print);

Miles Davis, Seven Steps to Heaven (Columbia);

Egberto Gismonti with Nana Vasconcelos, Danca Das Cabecas (ECM);

Stevie Wonder, Innervisions (Motown).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Fertile but often unyielding to the present times. The zeitgeist is present but rarely acknowledged and broadcasted. Jazz education is overrun by politics and is far too ensconced in the agenda of a few.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Openness, public awareness, encouraging of longer attention spans, embracing world cultures and nurturing originality and talent.

What is in the near future?

Solo piano project. small band (quintet, sextet, and up). Cafe Sympatico Large Ensemble.

By Day:

A husband, father.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

A chef, author, photographer, artist.

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