Live at Osher Salon
This album is the culmination of a journey that began in 1996 as I left the confines of Metropolitan Beltway Bandits to leap into the sublime world of expression. The Fates had placed me aboard the SS Independence in Hawaii after hearing my murmurations. Upon glancing at the colossal cruise ship docked in the harbor of San Diego, I professed a desire to sail. Months later, I was perambulating the wooden decks that Hitchcock and Grace Kelly had once strolled. The South Pacific became my home while I discovered the limitations I would to overcome to achieve my dream. Music called me at a young age, as I sat upon my grandmother's Hammond organ and fell in love with the sounds and rhythms we would create there together. I had no formal training. In primary school, I joined the school band as an Alto Saxophone player. There was a music teacher that led the band, Mrs. Nechenko. She wore over-sized glasses that reminded me of Jackie O and banged upon the piano with great force, as to overcome the cacophony of 30 students deemed necessary. She did not play the sax, but one was necessary for the concert band. I chose the alto, as I had fallen in love with the sax sound after hearing Richie Cannata's solo on Billy Joel's ' It's Still Rock and Roll to Me'. I stood in front of my parents mirror trying to play, looking cool, but not really playing music. The concert recital came and as the piece we performed ended I kept playing afterwards, unaware that the notes I was playing were a measure behind everyone else. Embarrassed and without instruction, a subject that would surface again and again in my musical life, I quit the sax. A thrift store nylon string guitar brought home to me by my mother soon afterwards was the first instrument I owned and loved. I began playing and fell in love with it immediately. My first impression of the instrument was how difficult it was to play mechanically. I could not also equate the music I heard and understood around me with that instrument and how it was possible to make the sounds come out of it so freely. I wanted to create that. I wanted to know how it was done, what the secret was behind the form, the delivery and where it came from. Music is everywhere - within and outside of you. You can channel it, copy it or embellish it. You must love it with all of your heart to succeed at it. The problem was finding out how to channel it. My determination to learn was unstoppable. In Middle School, I began taking lessons with a teacher that was as uninspiring as he was memorable. I found that the Led Zeppelin book of music I studied from and recordings taught me more than I received in the classes. I quickly quit. I was proficient enough on the guitar to thoroughly enjoy myself with a few friends in a band that covered Black Sabbath and Zeppelin songs in, appropriately, a church basement. One day the drummer's father, the Preacher, at his home after rehearsals asked me to show him how to play barre chords. I was 12 and was amazed that a grown up needed my advice on anything. I felt quite accomplished teaching him what I knew and that I could do something a grown up could not. I played music and harbored the dream deeply inside to become a working musician, but after years of playing, I had not not achieved what I wanted to due to limits in my knowledge about music and the guitar. This became painfully clear to me when in San Diego, I met a community of Brazilian musicians that blew my mind with their playing level and the new styles of music - Bossa Nova, MPB, Samba - All of this culture that poured out from them when they danced and sang their way through life was exciting to me. I was light years behind them in my abilities and decided to visit Rio to drink from the fountain. It was 2000. I visited the Itajaí music festival and studied Samba and Chorro. I struggled hard with the sight reading and syncopated rhythms. The director walked onto the stage during our small ensemble performance, pointed at the music and berated me while I tried to read and play. It was disheartening. It made me study more intensely. I wanted to know everything there was to know about harmony, composition, performance, theory, and improvisation. I had only scratched the surface and the outer layer peeled off to reveal a Grand Canyon of epic possibilities. The velvet coffin that is San Diego would not confine me. I looked North, to San Francisco as I pondered the pursuit of musical education. I was invited to reside in a Victorian house by a friend from High School. I had become enamored with the scenery and history of San Francisco. It was the city that rose form the ashes to claim it's place in history. It's unsurpassed beauty and enclave of Bohemian minded people was a welcoming and conducive environment for my study. I quickly found many other guitarists that were pursuing their goals in music. I first attended San Francisco City College as a computer programming and guitar student. I already had a degree in Business from the University of Delaware and could focus on courses that sincerely interested me. The head of the department of music was a rather square character whose basic method of instruction was to lecture the class on 'upper and lower neighbors' and then let the group have a go at the Bb Blues. He would play a chorus on his silver colored trumpet then retreat to the back of the classroom where his office was located away from the cacophony. Despite attending every class, I had failed to learn a thing about Jazz or playing the guitar. I knew I was lacking proper instruction. In the computer programming course I was enrolled in, I had caught the attention of the teacher one day who noticed the guitar case I was carrying. He told me that his father was a musician, yet he had not one ounce of musicality in his body. He tried to be a musician but there was no way he could. He looked at me and told me to look around his class and see that I did not fit in. He was right. Everyone in that class looked like Bill Gates. Glasses with the white tape holding them together, book bags stuffed like Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. I was in nerd heaven and was the Black Sheep. He demanded that I leave his class and follow the path of music. He told me I had a special gift that not every person has. He was right. I thought a larger school would have a better music program and San Francisco State at initially appeared to have a better program. My first day of instruction in Classical guitar was one I had dreamed about. Now, I would finally have a real teacher who was going to show me the way. I entered the small studio room of my teacher and the only framed photo on the wall was my teacher, circa 1980, playing next to Andres Segovia! This guy had studied with him? Wow! My teacher looked at the amazement on my face and told me that the photo was from a master class he had taken with Segovia in New York, a long time ago. In the same breath, he went on to tell me that he was now a restaurant owner in Napa, teaching was a part-time endeavor, he had maintained his position at the University for 20 years and that his playing was not what it was at the time of the photo. I immediately sensed that I was not in the right place. He played a very short excerpt of a Romantic piece, quickly handed me the guitar and began lecturing me on technique. I was not inspired, but at least I had material to work on that would put me in the right direction. During my time at State, I had taken an interest in Afro Cuban music, joined an ensemble playing that music and decided to visit Cuba to learn from the masters. It would be a fateful trip. I applied for permission to travel to the island through the State Department's office of Foreign Assets Control. The Clinton era policies towards Cuba were still in effect, and travel was relatively easy to accomplish. I nevertheless found it bizarre to explain my interest in Afro Cuban music and culture and ask my government for permission to travel abroad. I would soon know the suffocating feeling of not being able to travel that every Cuban under Castro felt at that time and still now, in 2011, 51 years after the 'triumph' of the revolution. After obtaining approval and permissions from several administrators and teachers, I was on my way. I knew no one, only that I would begin my studies at ISA, the Institute for Superior Arte in Havana. It was 2004. The conservatory in Havana was formerly a country club for the elite before the revolution. It was taken by the state and converted to a national school for the arts in 1976. It instructs the country's finest musicians, dancers and artists. I auditioned and was accepted into a Summer program for guitar. When I first arrived at the school, I was overcome by the appalling conditions - no running water in the bathrooms, dilapidated buildings, awful turquoise green walls, no seats in classrooms, lack of working air conditioning, complete informality of administration and dormitories that were more akin to prison cells. All of it mattered the least to me, because as I took all of that in, my ears were being filled with the most wonderful music I had ever heard in my life. I was surrounded by the world's finest musicians and I was fortunate to share in those moments with them. As I played with them, I forgot about everything else and let go. I was learning to fly for the first time and it was beautiful. Every day was an adventure - exploring Havana, practicing from sun up until night fall, stopping only to eat and watch each other perform. It was like being in a big family where everyone supported you and cared about your progress. I made trips between semesters during my studies in America, but the real learning was in Cuba. I decided to enter the San Francisco Conservatory the following year. I continued traveling and studying in Cuba - I was improving remarkably fast. Once at the Conservatory, I watched Maestro Victor Pellegrini, conduct a master class. The teachers I was studying with petitioned on my behalf that he take me as a student. He was reluctant. He did not enjoy teaching. He heard me play and agreed. I was overjoyed. I had been told he was the best player in Argentina and after hearing him play in that class, I was convinced. A child prodigy from Rosario, Argentina, Victor began performing in public at the age of 12 and had caught the attention of Spanish composer Federico Torroba, who was on tour conducting his zarzuela operas during the 1960's in Argentina. Victor quickly was introduced to Andres Segovia and began taking private instruction with the Grand Maestro. Maestro Pellegrini invited me to study with him in Morelia, Mexico at the Conservatory of the Roses, the first of it's kind in the Americas (1743) and in 2006 I left the SF Conservatory to dedicate my studies with him. He is a virtuoso from the old country, Italian in heritage and manner, a respected and unforgiving teacher, created by his years of study with the notoriously harsh Segovia. His powerful and dramatic playing is unmatched by any guitarist I have seen perform - Williams, Barrueco nor Russell matches his intensity. On numerous occasions, I invited the Maestro to perform in the US, but he had no interest in the American market or audience. He is the darling of South America and Europe, performing and judging many Guitar Festivals, and that is where he abides.