Corrections or additions?
These stories were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
December 16, 1998. All rights reserved.
CDs New Jersey Fresh
Listen globally — and buy locally," is the
truism of the season for area music lovers. Although one may be
to click one’s way to gift-giving glory via a visit to the new music
annex at www.amazon.com, the gift of music that has been
nurtured, and matured to full bloom in the Garden State is a gift
that says you’re in touch with your roots. It supports your neighbors.
And at best, you may introduce friends and family to sounds that they
may want to enjoy "live and in person," just a short jaunt
Central New Jersey’s wealth of musical activities spills over into
its wide choice of recordings by artists based in the area. Thanks
to CD technology, album recordings are no longer the sole domain of
the major record conglomerates (although their sound quality —
and six figure recording budgets — may be hard to beat). But for
many a moonlighting musician, releasing a home-grown CD recording
has become yet another extra job. Lisa Bouchelle, lead singer of
Baby, recently called us to talk about her group’s oven-fresh CD,
"Tales from the Pumpkin Patch."
October Baby’s first CD is the product of 10 months’ studio work with
producer Ernie White of Le Blanc Studios in Hamilton, and Suha Gur,
a Lawrence native who is chief engineer at PolyGram studios in Edison.
The group invested $6,000 in recording costs, CD pressing, and cover
art for their first 1,000 copies. Their capital came from duo
by Bouchelle and bassist LarEu in area coffee houses and bars. Also
featured on the recording are guitarist Rob Paterson and drummer John
"We hope to break even on the first pressing, and come up with
enough profit [just over $2,000] for a second pressing," says
Bouchelle. The group chose World Media Group in Indianapolis for
hoping to experience smooth sailing, but it was not to be. After
delivery of the first 1,000 copies, small flaws were found in the
pressing that then had to be returned — twice. At press time,
Bouchelle and LarEu were at home unshrinkwrapping 500 jewel-box cases
to replace the contents with the newly pressed CD in a race against
time before their December 12 release party.
Aside from using several hundred CDs for promotional and selling at
concerts, October Baby plans to market its CD on the Web through
and other independent-friendly Web vendors. Bouchelle calls all the
unexpected hands-on work in getting their product to market,
a learning experience. The only way to learn about a business is to
learn the job yourself — I guess it builds character."
The wealth of CDs featuring area groups is a clear tribute to the
rich musical life of Princeton, New Brunswick, Trenton, and central
New Jersey as a whole, and can also offer inspired ideas for holiday
giving. U.S. 1 asked music correspondents Elaine Strauss and Richard
Skelly to share their recommendations for a choice of Jersey-made
by Elaine Strauss
An unscientific survey of classical CDs issued by area
artists brought us a harvest of seven new issues for 1998: Four
of piano music, one of music for organ, one instrumental selection,
and one choral selection.
When pianist Robert Taub called us to confirm that his latest
CD of Beethoven sonatas had arrived safely, he asked when our story
was scheduled for publication. Upon learning that it would be
December 16, he mystifyingly said, "Good. That’s particularly
appropriate." Pressed to explain, he noted that December 16 is
Beethoven’s birthday. When I suggested that I might use the
about Beethoven’s birthday, but without attribution, this quick, and
unassuming pianist replied, "It’s okay. It’s in the public
With Taub having distinguished himself by his attentiveness to the
calendar, we’ll start with his two-CD Beethoven for Vox, Volume 5
in his Beethoven series, concluding his account of the complete
sonatas. The recording was an outgrowth of his tenure as the first
artist-in-residence at Princeton’s Institute of Advanced Study from
1994 to 1997. The entire Beethoven cycle was recorded at the
Wolfensohn Hall. Each of the CDs in Volume 5 covers Beethoven’s
life by including early, middle, and late sonatas. Taub’s liner notes
include an introductory essay surveying Beethoven’s creative
in the sonatas. In addition, he has written scholarly analytical
including musical examples, for each of the individual sonatas.
To my taste, Taub is at his best in Volume 5 in Beethoven’s last two
sonatas, Op. 110 and Op. 111, untangling the musical challenges and
making these relatively impenetrable pieces coherent. Particularly
memorable is the poignant calm he brings to the concluding fugal
of Op. 110. It is a vivid contrast to Taub’s nervous, restless
in Op. 22, and his often harried Beethoven in Op. 81A. In the
sunny Op. 28 (Pastorale) Taub gives a leisurely account of the changes
of Beethoven’s mood, taking large, but tasteful liberties in time
and volume of sound.
Choir College Conservatory, studied at Yale with Boris Berman and
at Rutgers with Ilana Vered. Kaltchev devotes an entire CD to the
piano works of American impressionist Charles Griffes. Recorded in
Bulgaria for GEGA, it is available at Tower Records. Kaltchev wrote
the program notes, which provide biographical as well as musical
For the CD he selected nine from among Griffes’ 67 piano compositions,
aiming to convey the variety of Griffes’ musical output. The nine
pieces range from the delicate evocation of "Clouds" to music
on a symphonic scale. The recording includes "The White
"The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan," and a world premiere
of Griffes’ 1912 miniature, "A Winter Landscape." Kaltchev
does a certain amount of missionary work in this CD, bringing a
unperformed composer into the light.
Kaltchev has an intrinsically pleasing sound at the piano. He uses
his formidable virtuosity to serve musical purposes. Trained
in the Russian school of pianism, Kaltchev learned to feel the weight
of the fingers pressing to the bottom of the key. To this Russian
approach he added a French approach that insists on sensing the keys
pushing the fingers up. The combination enables him to play with both
large sonorities and lightness, solidity and fleetness. He evokes
colors and washes of sound, while presenting enough musical muscle
to give roots to the music. In addition, his playing conveys a sense
of space; the midsection of the Griffes Sonata evokes, in one place,
a processional seen from afar, and, in another, small bells heard
at a distance.
In "Winter Landscape," the composition premiered on the CD,
Kaltchev’s ability to evoke non-musical events is at its most vivid.
His somber, gray chords at the opening evoke a chill. His unmodulated
single notes communicate icicles. It is possible to hear the wind
as it shakes the trees, and to sense the quietness of snow covering
her first CD, "Amor de la Danza" ("Love of the
recorded at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton.
Primarily music based on dance, the CD begins with a Pavane by the
16th-century composer William Byrd, and moves on to a Bach Partita,
which consists primarily of baroque dance patterns. Briefly, the CD
slips into a serenade, a setting of the e. e. cummings poem "I
carry your heart with me" by Pennington composer Olga Gorelli.
Gorelli has come up with a musical interpretation of the love poem
that is almost twice as long as the poetry, and evokes the mood well.
The bulkiest item on the recording consists of 12 Cuban dances by
Joaquin Nin-Culmell. In making the CD Cervantes worked with
and found it edifying. "Working with living composers helps you
know how to play dead composers," she observes.
In the best-known piece on the recording, the Bach Partita, Cervantes
reveals that she can hold her own against any interpreter of the
composer on the piano. Her Bach combines clarity of line with a
of phrasing. Her sense of timing lends excitement to the music. "I
see a lot of lyricism and passion in Bach," Cervantes says.
people think he’s mathematical, that’s all they’ll find." The
Cuban dances, all of them having a tango-like rhythm set a distinctly
Spanish mood, incorporating the subtle but vivid elasticity of timing
that gives authentic Spanish music its tension. The total effect of
the CD is that of having spent time privately with a knowledgeable
musician who decides to share with the listener some of her favorite
combine forces in a varied program of two-piano pieces. Both
are on the piano faculty at Westminster College of Rider University.
No label claims credit for the release, which was made possible in
part by an award from Rider. Lehrer provides the brief program notes.
The program runs from Mozart to Rachmaninoff via two contemporary
composers, Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee, and Laurie Altman, a Westminster
colleague of the performers. Both of the contemporary pieces are
Barton and Lehrer give the music an appealing sense of momentum. In
the Mozart a leisurely second movement is sunny enough to be a
companion for perky outer movements. In Rachmaninoff’s four-movement
Suite No. 2 Barton and Lehrer reveal a more playful Russian than
meets the ear. Despite playing on two pianos, which can sometimes
be a muddy musical vehicle, Barton and Lehrer reveal the lighter side
of this intense composer.
music director of Princeton’s Trinity Church, marks his arrival in
Princeton with a CD that shows the many moods of the organ on an
Recording release. Recorded on the Skinner-Mander organ of Princeton
University Chapel, the CD includes music by Bach and his contemporary
Georg Boehm, Felix Mendelssohn, and 20th composers. A blues piece
by Joe Utterbeck has the organ entering into a contemporary style
with which it is not normally associated. Shenton is out to show the
organ’s versatility. His program notes incorporate his reactions to
the music and gently explain musical matters without getting terribly
Shenton produces a great variety of sound in this recording. It ranges
from the high-pitched silvery sounds of Nigel Ogden’s "Scherzo
for the White Rabbit" to the visceral low-pitched vibrations of
Bach’s "Toccata and Fugue in D-minor," one of the most
pieces for organ. Shenton concludes by shaking the surroundings again
with the "Variations de Concert" of Joseph Bonnet, who died
in 1940. He spins an atmosphere of intimacy in the recording. It is
as if the listener were alone in a large sacred space while the
this year adds a Princeton series to its activities, focuses on the
music of Bach’s contemporary Georg Philipp Telemann in a Centaur
consisting of two concertos and an orchestral suite. The group divides
their favors between winds and strings in the concertos, of which
one is for recorder and bassoon, and the other for viola. Soloists
are Elissa Berardi, recorder; Dennis Godburn, bassoon; and David
viola. The continuo is provided by harpsichordist Bruce Bekker,
Vivian Barton, and violone player Anne Trout, who have a singular
capacity to play lightly in support of solo instruments. The program
notes are by harpsichordist Bekker, who is co-founder and artistic
director of the group.
Since Philomel uses authentic instruments, it brings the listener
back in time to the year 1750 or so, when string instruments used
gut strings, and truly bow-shaped bows; when wind instruments had
not yet acquired the valves of their modern descendants; and when
pitches were lower than what modern ears are used to. Despite its
old-fashioned qualities, virtuosity is demanded and precision is
to bring the music to presentday audiences. Philomel has those
be heard in a CD called "Sing!" issued by ABS Recordings.
The recording consists of three groups of songs, and an encore. A
first group labeled "Sing for the Joy of It" is primarily
music written before 1800. A second group, "Global Songs,"
includes music from Hungary, England, Germany, Serbia, Scotland, and
Africa. "Songs Americans Sing" consists of spirituals and
a Gershwin medley arranged by Trenton’s Bill Holcombe, with an encore
of "America the Beautiful." Participating in the recording
are two American Boychoir concert choirs, as well as the resident
training choir. Some of the piano accompaniments are performed by
pianists who are members of the choir, all boys ranging in age from
9 to 14.
The opening pieces on the CD are by Michael Haydn, brother of Franz
Josef. They give the boys a chance to display the clarity and accuracy
of their voices. In the first group of songs the choir establishes
that its innocence and musical energy has a highly professional edge
to it. The group of global songs ranges from Ralph Vaughan Williams’
pensive "Willow Song" to yipping and hollering in the African
songs. In the group of American songs the black contribution to
music becomes clear. The ABC is, to my mind an American treasure,
revealing that American youngsters possess the discipline and
needed for exemplary achievement. In this recording those qualities
take on musical form.
The Boychoir and the Westminster Choir College Symphonic Choir also
participate in a Teldec recording of Benjamin Britten’s "War
with the New York Philharmonic issued in May.
Blues & Roots-Rock
by Richard J. Skelly
If you’re a working musician or band, what better way
to encourage airplay at college or public radio stations than by
your own CD? More importantly, what better way to secure a booking
at that sought-after club or coffee house in New York or Philadelphia?
Beginning in about 1990, the cost of pressing 1,000 of your own CDs
began to drop. The trend has continued and with DiscMakers located
right in Pennsauken, many Garden State bands have made compact discs
the chosen format for their albums, as opposed to a cassette-only
release of previous years.
Here, in no particular order, are the top local blues CDs that have
crossed my desk in the last year or so. Where applicable, I’ve listed
addresses for ordering, and in some cases, you may just have to show
up at a gig to purchase a disk.
South Plainfield guitarist and songwriter Bernie Brausewetter is one
of a few musicians on the Garden State music scene who makes his
entirely through music. He teaches guitar in the basement of his home
— yes, he owns it — in South Plainfield. Inventive lyrics,
stunningly good guitar playing, and creative accompaniment from
Bill Cherensky and drummer Bob Butterfield are all over this CD.
graphics and track-by-track listings on the back cover have encouraged
airplay as far away as Germany and Spain.
B.B. & The Stingers, 206 Redding Avenue, South Plainfield 07080.
leads another "power trio," Early Warning, a group that blew
the socks off the crowd at the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Festival
in Red Bank last June. If you miss the late Stevie Ray Vaughan as
much as I do, then Tyler is your man. Tyler spent time backing singer
Ruth Copeland in the 1970s and he remains one of the greatest and
most unheralded guitarists and singers on the local blues and
Tyler’s CD "My Passion" clocks in at just under 75 minutes,
which gives you an idea of what his live shows are like. He certainly
takes care of his fans and gives them a show, whether its in
format or live in a club.
John Martin Entertainment Group, Box 621, Saddle River 07458-0621.
This New Brunswick-based quartet is led by Bob Pomeroy, an architect
and designer by day and a bluesman by night. Using an analog,
studio in Brooklyn, the band comes up with winning tracks on
School Special." Live, as on their CD, the band plays an artful
mix of swamp blues, blues-influenced country music a la Hank Williams,
and gritty urban blues. Da Da Records, Box 112, New Brunswick
Led by vocalist and songwriter "Nasty Ned" Petti and guitarist
Lee Fink, of Middlesex and Bound Brook, respectively, Nasty Ned and
the Famous Chili Dogs tackle just two covers on this album. Original
rocking blues and swing tunes are the order of the day here, as well
as a few soul-drenched ballads, like "Lay Down With You."
The other tracks, "Suspicious," "Just Like Life" are
Off stage Ned Petti is a disarmingly nice guy and doesn’t live up
to his jokingly named moniker "nasty." This album was released
several years ago, but if you show up at one of their gigs, they may
still have copies.
Interstate Records, Box 42, Bound Brook 08805.
Longtime Jersey Shore area guitarist Paul Whistler played with Bruce
Springsteen and Southside Johnny, among others, back in the 1970s.
He moved to Portland, Oregon, in the late 1980s, as he saw what
of the Shore’s roots-rock club scene dry up and float away.
for us, he made a fairly prompt retreat back to Jersey City, where
he’s now based. Whistler and his band, which includes his wife, Nora
Michaels, on lead vocals, can be found playing clubs like Chicago
Blues in lower Manhattan and clubs along the Jersey Shore.
His second album in five years, "Spotted Fever" features
vocals on classic Whistler-penned songs like "High Heeled
an ode to women who wear heels to look good, and "Red Eye To
Beatnik Records, 280 Boulevard Way, New Milford 07646; 201-
Bob, Joe Laing works an interesting day job: a cameraman for ABC News’
"World News Tonight" and other television news. This
singer and songwriter also happens to be one of the best sound men
a New York club ever had. He was the sound man at Manny’s Car Wash,
where this album was recorded, and he puts his own spin on classic
R&B and soul tunes like "(Sittin’ On The) Dock Of The Bay"
"Let The Good Times Roll" and "The Things I Used To
Recorded live at Manny’s Car Wash, as opposed to a studio, makes it
a bit less costly, but Laing also has a studio CD of originals in
the works. This album includes his blues ode for commuters, "Mad
Dash For The City." Hopefully, the boxcar’s frantic television
schedule will ease up a bit so he can frequent New Jersey clubs more
Starhill Music, Box 1325, Secaucus 07096; 212-978-8506.
saxophonist Larry Lacasta, the Black Widow Blues Band is by no means
a straight-ahead blues band. This eight-piece band with horns plays
swing tunes, soul ballads and early rock ‘n’ roll at its live shows.
The debut album, recorded simply without a lot of embellishment, is
a good reflection of what the band does so well in concert: an
range of tunes, including "Caldonia," "Shot Gun,"
"Stormy Monday" and "Tighten Up." Slower soul ballads
and dance tunes gets the band a lot of work in dance clubs, blues
clubs, brew pubs, festivals and even the occasional wedding.
There’s no address or phone on disc, so show up at gig. Caution: you
may be blown away by the horn section.
Spring Lake-based Billy Hector is one of a few guitarists I know of
in the Garden State who makes his living completely from his music.
Hector and his trio can be found playing everywhere from Stanhope
House in Stanhope to clubs from the northern stretches of the Jersey
Shore like Atlantic Highlands, all the way down to the Rockin’ Chair
Saloon in Avalon.
Hector has his own record company, Ghetto Surf music, and he has
five or six CDs in the last 10 years, including a couple of less
live recordings, "And The Crowd Went Wild," "And The Crowd
Went Wild… Again." On "Hard To Please," Hector sounds
like Bob Dylan at times, and he mixes acoustic blues numbers with
other rocking blues tunes where he’s backed by his trio.
Ghetto Surf Music, Box 673, Spring Lake Heights 07762;
who currently works on Broadway in "Smokey Joe’s Cafe," and
works as keyboardist with David Johansen’s Spanish Rocketship Band.
Keyes’ second CD, "Tear It Up," is a masterpiece of original
lyrics that includes tunes like "Jimmy’s Boogie" his ode to
Chicago blues pianist Jimmy Yancey, "My Plymouth Car" and
"Water These Roots." Keyes’ high fidelity CD has received
airplay on the blues hour on WBGO-FM, Newark Public Radio, and several
stations in upstate New York.
Keyesland Music, 914-753-6914.
blues and jazz singer Scarlett "Lee" Moore had a high falutin’
day job at Johnson & Johnson as a video conferencing specialist before
she ditched that career for one as a blues singer. Unlike many of
the others on this page, Moore spared no expense on her debut CD,
and spent in excess of $10,000 on her album.
She tackles songs made popular by Etta James, like "Jump Into
My Fire" and Bill Withers’ soulful "Use Me," and
Hands," but also highlights the work of local songwriters like
Connie Bryson, the mother of jazz chanteuse Jeanie Bryson. Songs by
Bryson include "One Good Man" the salsa-flavored "Corny
Little Hip Hop Guy," and "She Put A Curse On Me." Anyone
who’s seen Scarlett and her band live knows she’s an intense
who puts a lot of passion, humor and good feelings into her live
Her debut CD reflects this feeling.
Scarlett Fever Records; 732-745-7628; fax, 732-745-7969.
before the current swing craze hit Jersey’s live music clubs. Led
by Edison-based guitarist and singer Benny "Hi-Fi" Suriano,
this band believes in paying homage to the masters of swing music
before it was swing music, when it was known simply as rhythm and
blues. The Fins interpret classic, familiar fare by T-Bone Walker
and Henry Mancini’s "Peter Gunn" theme, tunes that have gotten
lost in the current swing revival, including "Okie Dokie
and "It Should Have Been Me."
Recorded and mixed locally at Trax East in South River, the Fins have
played festivals as far away as Idaho and Florida based on the
of this CD, and they’ve also received generous airplay on WBGO, Newark
and stations in upstate New York. The band also played at many of
President Clinton’s New Jersey campaign stops and played at his first
inauguration. They can be found playing at a variety of New Jersey
The Fins, 800-333-FINS, 9 Old Post Road, Edison 08817;
night is New Year’s Eve when the VooDUDES are playing. They’re known
for their easy rapport with their audiences and humorous stage antics,
but underneath the showmanship and humor is a lot of solid
Gary Ambrosy, one of the state’s best slide guitarists, and his
drummer Dave Ambrosy, from East Brunswick and North Brunswick
The VooDUDES were playing New Orleans and other music indigenous to
southwest Louisiana before anyone else on the New Jersey/New York
club scene. Recorded in a studio in Howell Township before a live
audience, and very well mixed and mastered, this CD is a good
of what their live shows are like.
The VooDUDES, Box 1413, Highland Park 08904; 732-249-5892;
Other recent arrivals at the U.S. 1 offices:
A hard rocking quartet from Princeton Junction, not for the faint
of heart. If you like your rock ‘n’ roll loud and raucous, this is
the band for you. Well-produced and well-mixed.
Wet Duck Records, Box 774, Princeton Junction 08550.
quartet from Holmdel has got its act together. Nice melodies, creative
lyrics, good harmonies, and an all important sense of dynamics as
ensemble players. Also, very unpretentious computer-generated art
on the front cover and photo of the band members on inside lyrics
booklet. Recorded at the Lincroft home studio of Bob Butterfield,
drummer for B.B. & The Stingers!
Granian, Box 26, Holmdel 07733; www.granian.com.
urban group harmony, or doo-wop, may take a shining to this band.
The group’s holiday concert is December 18 at Odette’s. Good standards
from Irving Berlin, "What’ll I Do" and Cole Porter, "What
Is This Thing Called Love?" But also more modern fare like "I
Can’t Make You Love Me" and "What I Like About You."
Tansit, Box 173, Pennington 08534; 800-598-4465, ext. 140;
Corrections or additions?
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