"Delta Blues" (Steve Marchena & Nancy MacCallum, 2019)
Over the course of 2015, vocalist Nancy MacCallum and I put together a program, showcasing of Robert Johnson's Complete Works. In early 2016, we performed that program live twice. My approach to Robert Johnson's style was to assimilate his approach to Open A, Open E, Drop D, and Standard Guitar tunings, then to focus on his chord voicing, slide guitar style, and underlying rhythmic patterns. Where Robert Johnson employed the use of a thumb pick with his right hand, I adapted his style to a flat-picking approach.
While preparing to debut this canon live, we recorded our rehearsals, including multiple takes of all 29 compositions. In 2019, immediately after completing my Interdisciplinary Music Studies Degree, returned to those rehearsal recordings and selected 12 out of the 29 tunes to create a cohesive album, then began applying some of the new production skills I'd just learned.
Very happy to release this album! Nancy is always a joy to collaborate with, and Robert Johnson's style is something I have studied for over three decades. Many of my projects have offered the opportunity to hint at this Delta Blues Style, but up until this release, there was never such a complete representation of my interpretation of Robert Johnson's style and technique.
THE BACK BAY GUITAR TRIO (The Back Bay Guitar Trio, 2003)
In early 2002, I formed The Back Bay Guitar Trio with two of my former teachers: David Newsam and John Mason. Within a year, we had rehearsed and memorized over two hours of classical guitar chamber music and began concertizing across New England. Our performance at The Boston Hatch Shell that summer will forever be one of my fondest memories.
After performing at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, we decided that we would record our first album there. The acoustics were favorable and the natural reverberation of the room was particularly clean and beautiful. We hired Dana White to engineer the sessions and spent a weekend recording there. Dana set up twelve different microphones throughout the room, then mixed and balanced the sound, resulting in a rich and harmonious blend of clarity with natural reverberation. Those sessions yielded the first twelve tracks of our first album over the course of just two days.
Also present while we were recording was Cassie Betro, who used chalk to create the artwork on the album cover. Drawing with chalk makes sound that is audible on playback, so she applied the chalk to the canvas while we were tuning our guitars between takes, then manipulated the chalk that was already on the canvas while we were rolling.
We rounded out the album with seven additional tracks of our solo guitar performances. I hired Dave O'Malley to record and engineer my interpretations of “Cajita de Musica” and “Bolero”, tracks 15 and 16, respectively.
HOT CLUB DE BOSTON (Hot Club de Boston, 2019)
Adam McOwen and I have been close friends since performing a run of “Always Patsy Cline” shows together in 2004. Since then, we’ve gigged a lot, done a bit of touring, and recorded as sidemen together on a few of the same albums, including Valerie Sneade’s “Let Me Be Strong” (2004), and Michelle Currie’s “Simply Red” (2017).
In the spring of 2017, Adam and I went into the studio a couple times, and recorded a collection of duo arrangements that we had been performing. Then in the summer of 2017, we teamed up with virtuoso accordion player, Joe Papandrea, and formed “Hot Club de Boston”.
Joe contributed brilliant new trio arrangements of “Turkish Rondo”, “Flambee”, “Les Feuilles Mortes”, and “Musette For A Magpie” and, after a little over a year of rehearing and performing, we recorded this album, featuring six tracks with Joe on accordion, Adam on violin, and me on gypsy jazz guitar.
This album also includes four of the duo tracks that Adam and I had recorded in 2017, featuring Adam on mandolin on “Whiskey For Breakfast” and “Flat World”, and tenor guitar on “Ain’t A Bump In The Road”. I played some harmonica on “Danza Car” and “Ain’t A Bump In The Road”, mandolin on “Whiskey For Breakfast”, and ukulele on “Flat World”.
On top of that, Adam recorded live vocals on “Ain’t A Bump In The Road” and “Beer Bottle Mama”.
Mixed by Tony Porter. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
THE JOURNEY (The Back Bay Guitar Trio, 2008)
David Newsam, John Mason and I spent the Fall of 2006 recording the ambitious follow-up to The Back Bay Guitar Trio’s self-titled debut album. In contrast to our first record, where most of the tracking was completed in just two days, we devoted several months to recording the new repertoire, which is generally more sophisticated and demanding than that of our previous effort.
John’s brilliant arrangements of solo classical piano repertoire, “First Arabesque” by Claude Debussy and “Intermezzo in A Major” by Johannes Brahms, are prominently featured on this album and showcase David’s mastery of both seven and ten string guitars.
Michael Figueiredo’s ingenious symphonic adaptation of Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kije Suit Op. 60” includes a virtuosic piccolo solo re-scored for my guitar. With it’s pyrotechnic scale runs and percussive rhythmic motifs, that solo forced me to re-think the fundamentals of classical guitar technique.
Other favorite highlights include slide guitar on George Gershwin’s “Prelude #2” and harmonica on Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo ala Turk”.
This is the album we were promoting while touring Germany in 2009, and is the last record I made with John and David. Artwork by Mary Scibetta Buergin. Edited by Tony Porter. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
CLASSIC GUITAR DREAMS (Steve Marchena and Friends, 2012)
During the Christmas 2010/New Year 2011 season, I began working on the follow up to “Solo Classical Guitar 2009”. Tony Porter optimized the studio environment, achieving a superior sound to the previous release. Following those initial sessions, 2011 turned out to be very busy, and I didn't devote the necessary time to editing and producing those recordings.
On November 19, 2011, I became very sick and was hospitalized with peritonitis. My colon perforated and burst. Missed a national tour and concert at Carnegie Hall. The priest came to visit me because they didn’t know if I was going to survive or not.
Disproving the old adage, “No one ever regrets not spending more time at the office when they are on their death bed”, I was mortified that life might be over before reaching my full musical potential. I cursed myself for not having worked harder and in a more intense, disciplined and productive fashion. Thinking about legacy, I considered many excellent (and previously unreleased) recordings, and began planning “Classic Guitar Dreams” while still in the hospital.
In 2001, Dana White recorded guitar and piano repertoire by composer Anton Diabelli, featuring Faith C. Marchena (my mom), on piano. In 2002, Kevin Nelson engineered Ed Able’s “Works for Strings, Guitars and Piano”, showcasing duets and trios with violin and viola featuring Daniela and David Rubinstein. Previously unreleased live recordings from the early 2000’s included Ed’s composition, “Steve’s Request” and “Furusato”, a flute and guitar duo with Hiroko Kajimoto. Between the first and second surgeries in 2012, Terry Grissino and I recorded melodies by Mozart and Beethoven, arranged for clarinet and guitar. And, of course, there were those solo recordings from Christmas 2010/New Year 2011.
I compiled this album, which features highlights from these previously unreleased and out-of-print classical guitar recordings. Photography by Terry Grissino. Graphic Design by Cassie Betro. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
SOLO CLASSICAL GUITAR (Steve Marchena, 2009)
The story behind this album highlights two of my eccentricities, the first of which is: I take everything literally and, upon agreeing to do something, will fight relentlessly to follow through with all plans and promises on schedule.
For example, I remember vividly a conversation from 2007 with two other guitarists, where we all agreed that we were going to release solo albums. Once I said I would do that, this album was set in stone.
The second eccentricity is: I consider music to be really important, and value it above everything else in life, especially social norms and accepted practices. There are so many things that I plan to accomplish, but alas, there is limited time. So, what I do is: think outside of the box.
Most people look at the holidays as a time to relax and connect with the people around them socially, but I look at the holidays as a time to set up microphones and connect with the people around me by recording a new album. As I’m usually too busy with performance and education to focus on recording, I devoted the Christmas 2007/New Year 2008 season to this solo album.
After setting up all of the equipment on the first day, I then worked exclusively on tracking for two weeks without interruption. I focused on my most demanding solo classical guitar repertoire, including “Leyenda” and “Granada” by Issac Albeniz, both of which I have early childhood memories of my mother performing so beautifully on classical piano. Other challenging pieces include Fernando Sor’s “Magic Flute Variations”, based on a theme by Mozart, and all three movements of “La Catedral” by Agustin Barrios. In addition, I re-recorded my classical arrangement of “Sakura Variations”, and slide guitar arrangement of “Wake Up Mama”.
Edited by Tony Porter. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering. Graphic Design by Rich Slezak.
MUSIC FOR TWO GUITARS AND MORE (John Mason and Steve Marchena, 2003)
After graduating from Berklee in December 2000, and before forming The Back Bay Guitar Trio in early 2002, I spent 2001 performing in a classical guitar duo with John Mason. In addition to performing music from my senior recital, we assimilated, performed and recorded new works and arrangements by Able, Bartok, Schubert, and a host of other composers.
Once again, we hired Dana White from Specialized Mastering to record these concerts, and we also began documenting the new repertoire through studio recordings.
After that year of recording and concertizing, we compiled the strongest material, which included our first recordings as a trio with David Newsam, as well as a new live recording of "March" with Penny Larson.
This album also marked the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration with my favorite visual artist in the world, Cassie Betro. She brilliantly captured the spirit of our music with her artwork on the album's front cover.
"Music For Two Guitars And More" was the first of three albums I released in 2003.
SUNDAY SOUNDS SPECIAL (Boston Classical Guitar Society/The Back Bay Guitar Trio, 2007)
Over the past sixteen years, I have performed annually as a part of The Boston Classical Guitar Society’s “Sunday Sounds Special” concert series. The first couple years featured my classical guitar duo with John Mason. From 2002-2009, we were joined by David Newsam, performing as The Back Bay Guitar Trio. I have since continued presenting solo classical and jazz guitar programs there as part of the ongoing series.
Two selections from The BBGT’s self titled 2003 release are featured on this album: Franz Schubert’s “Landler” and Fernando Sor’s “Allegro”, tracks four and five on this compilation, respectively.
An original composition by David Newsam, “Un Abrazo”, appears on track eight. Sharon Wayne, who replaced me in The Back Bay Guitar Trio in 2010, is featured on this album performing Niccolo Paganini’s “Cantabile for Violin and Guitar in D major” with violinist Jennifer Schiller on track six.
Other highlights are performances by The Providence Mandolin Orchestra, Aaron Larget-Caplan’s interpretations of “Romanza” and “Sevilla” and Frank Wallace’s “Suite in B Minor”. Special Thanks go to George W. Ward and Dennis Corcoran from The BCGS for their efforts in scheduling, organizing and overseeing this concert series each year. This album, released in 2007, commemorates the first 10 years of the Hingham Concert Series.
THE LAST LAUGH (Risk At Birth, 2019)
While recording our self-titled 2000 release, Risk At Birth continued writing and performing new material. After the group’s dissolution shortly after that album was released, the underlying beats for this new material remained dormant for on Dave Clayton’s Groovebox for over 15 years. In 2015, I began tracking guitars over those beats, and with the help of Dave Clayton, Tony Porter, Vinny Cirigliano, Jason Silverman, Dan Jacobs, Terry Grissino, Adam McOwen, Justin Gray, Oryn The Rebel, Nancy MacCallum, and Nate Verberkmoes, completed this album. Mixed by Tony Porter, and mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
OUT OF THIS WORLD (Hypaspace, 2015)
Featuring Penny Larson on drums and Chris Urban on bass, this fourth and final release by Hypaspace is our masterpiece in terms of musicianship, composition and sound quality. Shortly after returning from “The Space Machine Tour” in late 2008, Hypaspace went on two-year hiatus. After reuniting for our tenth anniversary concert in late 2010, we began planning this follow-up to our self-titled third album.
In late 2011, while in the midst of pre-production, I became very sick (for details, see “Discography Challenge, Day Eighteen”). By the time I began tracking guitars in 2013, my life had fundamentally changed. I quit alcohol, tobacco and drugs via the self-development approach, “Aggressive Positivity”. I began demanding much more from myself, and expecting much more from my colleagues, students and audiences. Some people consider me a workaholic and/or perfectionist, but if that is what it takes to raise musicianship to the next level, sign me up. This is the first album I ever recorded sober from start to finish, and it is the best representation of my electric guitar work to date.
In terms of production, this is the most flattering guitar tone I’ve ever attained. To make analogous comparison to Pink Floyd’s discography, where the thick and varied orchestrations of our self-titled third album harken to “The Wall”, the production on this release more closely resembles that of “Animals”, with specific instrumentation that doesn't vary much from one track to the next. Rather than introducing new instruments on each track, the power trio sound is featured prominently throughout the album.
I did, however, revisit the “Mini-Marshall” technique, having achieved great results on Hypaspace’s self-titled album, as well as Superbug’s “The Buzzzzz” and “Closer To The Brain”. Acoustic textures are persistent, yet almost subliminal. Throughout the album, steel string acoustic guitar is voiced in over one hundred unique configurations of tuning and partial capo deployment, all customized to each chord-of-the-moment throughout each composition. Mandolin is also present on every track.
We are very grateful for the masterful, synergetic and proactive collaboration between mixing engineer Tony Porter at Porter Sound Lab, and mastering engineer, Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
CLOSER TO THE BRAIN (Superbug, 2011)
Superbug’s sophomore release features Vincent Peters Cirigliano, Tony Porter, Kevin Hammer and Chris Urban. This album showcases the pinnacle of my body of work as "rock guitarist disfunctionally functioning in an original hard rock band with a vocalist". It is also notably my final recorded output before becoming an almost completely different person.
Highlights include: “Mindsight”, which is featured in two contrasting music videos, one live action and one claymation. “Air Raid” is a Van-Haleneque improvisational solo electric guitar instrumental. Both “Volcano” and “John Unlocked” surpass the group’s previous compositional accomplishments. Also included are re-mixes of six out of the seven “Buzzzzz” tracks, this time featuring alternative synthesizer-based orchestrations.
Of all the CD release parties I’ve been involved in over the years, this one was the coolest. In addition to staging our new material, we performed “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd in it’s entirety, all while screening “The Wizard Of Oz” in a venue filled with smoke and lasers.
I vividly remember our photo session for this album. Tony, an avid rock climber, brought us all to a narrow ledge adorned in beautiful graffiti. To my best recollection, the ledge was about ten inches in depth, slippery, and approximately forty feet above a quarry of jagged rocks. A lot of trust is captured in those photographs. If any member had bumped into another member while we were shooting, we all would have fallen to certain death. I think you can see in our eyes how petrified we were. All of us except for Tony.
Artwork by Darian Eck and Fat Ram. Photography by Keith Wasserman. Recorded and Mixed at Taylor Barefoot Studio in Brighton, MA. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
HYPASPACE (Hypaspace, 2008)
The band Hypaspace, featuring Penny Larson on Drums and Chris Urban on Bass, released a total of four albums over the course of fifteen years. In terms of scope and orchestration, this self-titled album is the most ambitious of those four. Where the first two albums captured the early live sound of the band, our third album represents the full integration of the recording studio as a musical instrument in it’s own right.
The recording is densely layered and employs unique combinations of instrumentation that are customized for each individual track. One of the signature studio techniques on this album involves overdubbing distorted electric guitar parts through a battery-powered “Mini Marshall”, which is miked up with an SM-57 microphone, adding high-end sizzle to the thick layers of larger amplifiers. That particular technique is very effective and I have repeated it on almost every electric guitar album since. In addition to the wide variety of electric and acoustic guitars, I also recorded harmonica and mandolin for flavor, depth and contrast on certain tracks.
For certain, the greatest and most defining characteristic of this album is our large and star-studded cast of friends and colleagues who graciously and generously contributed their musicianship to it. Terry Grissino doubles important guitar melodies with clarinet on “Chemistry” and “Church”. Faith C. Marchena plays grand piano in both an ensemble and solo context on the aforementioned “Church”, and contributes ominous organ block chords to “Jupiter”. On “Saturn”, Kevin Hammer layers synthesizer and Chris Walsh adds hand percussion. Paul Oneil’s vocalizations, which are featured prominently on “Neptune”, are harkened on “Saturn”. “Yee Haw” integrates a live recording of our audience at an early concert at Somerville’s famed Skybar. “Party In Norwood” is a sonic tapestry tracked at a welcome home party.
Kevin Nelson, who often performed live with Hypaspace, contributes walking electric bass lines to “Calculus”, and is joined by David Clayton on Groovebox during both the introduction and interlude of “Neptune”. “Three Cats” features improvised guitar solos by Michael Figueiredo, Daniel Harvey and Joe Feloni, foreshadowing the meowing melodies of our three adorable house cats at that time: Benji, Tiger and Vicky. “Yee Haw” showcases a countrified electric guitar duel with John Mason and “Calculus” features saxophone by Paul Gatewood and Jazz Guitar by David Newsam.
Engineered and Mixed by Tony Porter at Taylor Barefoot Studio in Allston, MA. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering. Artwork and Design by Cassie Betro. Although the caliber of my guitar performance on the fourth album is superior, this album showcased my most ambitious and elaborate arranging to date.
THE BUZZZ (Superbug, 2009)
In late 2008, the bands Hypaspace and Sandal Machine Foot embarked together on “The Space Machine Tour”. We travelled as far south as North Carolina, and as far west as Michigan, playing eighteen concerts of original music over the course of twenty days, while living in an RV. We truly had the time of our lives. Unfortunately, within months of our return, both groups disbanded.
In order to honor the commitments of both bands to our upcoming 2009 summer tour, I joined forces with Vincent Peters Cirigliano (of Sandal Machine Foot) and Chris Urban (of Hypaspace). Together we enlisted Tony Porter and Chris Gallivan, forming the hard rock quintet, Superbug.
In just six months time, we successfully composed, recorded, released and toured in support of “The Buzzzzz”. Artwork by Vincent Cirigliano. Engineered and Mastered by Tony Porter. Recorded at Taylor Barefoot Studio in Brighton, MA.
ROCK GUITAR DREAMS (PLP/ Superbug/ Risk At Birth, 2015)
While hospitalized in 2011 I realized that I needed to dramatically intensify my contribution to this world, while the window of time is still open. In addition to planning new music, I considered legacy and began planning the release of many excellent (and previously unreleased) recordings.
The album “Classic Guitar Dreams”, released in 2012, documents my approach to ensemble classical guitar styles over the course of ten years. After that album’s release, my friend-for-life and longtime collaborator, Paul Oneil, urged me to do the same with ensemble rock guitar styles recorded over the course of twelve years. There are many reasons it was important to me to release this material.
In 1998, Risk At Birth, featuring Paul O’Neil, Paul Collins and David Clayton, recorded several previously unreleased demos in the industrial metal style. The early track “Step Aside”, mixed by Dana White and remastered here, is prototypical of the hard rock direction I pursed for the following twelve years.
In 2003, PLP, featuring Paul O’Neil, Penny Larson and Chris Urban, recorded our first and only EP with engineer Matt Cole. This group was effectively Hypaspace, with the addition of an amazing vocalist. It was these recordings that inspired Paul to contact me about putting this album together. “One Shot”, “Crazy Cantor”, “Can’t Get It Back” and “Self Portrait” all appear here.
In 2009, Superbug featuring Vincent Peters Cirigliano, Tony Porter, Chris Gallivan and Chris Urban, recorded our first demo showcasing the tracks “Altered” and “Club 550”, engineered by Tony Porter. We went on to rerecord “Altered” for “The Buzzzzz”, and then remix it for “Closer To The Brain”. “Club 550” shares both chord progression and tempo with “Unforgettables” from the Hypaspace album “Out Of This World”.
In 2011, Superbug featuring new member Kevin Hammer, began recording our follow up to “Closer To The Brain” with the tracks “Viral” and “All That Is”. I had abandoned the whammy pedal at this point, and instead contributed harmonica and guitar killswitch manipulation to “All That Is”. If you listen closely to the guitar solo in “Viral”, from 4:08-4:13, you’ll hear me quoting Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. I had a premonition that my life was about to change.
Speaking of premonitions: the cover artwork is by My Mother, Patricia Marchena. In 1974, a week before she died, she painted her self portrait. Her face is blue and there is a figure to her side reaching out to her. I thought it was fitting to compile some of her unreleased artwork with some of my unreleased music, and release them together.
4004 (Hypaspace, 2003)
Immediately following my graduation from Berklee in December 2000, I formed the instrumental rock group Hypaspace with Penny Larson and Chris Urban. By July 2001, we had released an album of original music and toured British Columbia and Alberta in support.
That album (titled “Emergence”), was engineered by Dana White and featured John Mason on two tracks (“Midnight” and “11 PM”). We sold out of CDs on tour and "Emergence" never saw a second pressing in its original form.
In early 2003, Hypaspace recorded a second album of original material. Pairing these new recordings with the out-of-print "Emergence", we compiled the epic 72-minute album “4004”, which was released in late 2003. We chose that title because 2001+2003=4004.
I was playing an Aria Pro II solid body electric guitar at the time and was focused on the exploration of both time-shifting and pitch-shifting guitar effects.
Though edited, this album does not feature any studio overdubbing techniques. What you hear is the live sound of the band at that time.
Rich Slezak provided the futuristic graphic design for the album.
RISK AT BIRTH (Risk At Birth, 2000)
The industrial metal group, Risk At Birth, featuring Paul Oneil and Paul Collins on vocals and David Clayton on groove box. Following a series of self-produced demos in 1998 and 1999, we recorded our self-titled album in the summer of 1999, and finally released it in the spring of 2000. This was all happening during my 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th semesters at Berklee.
Looking back, while this is VERY angry music, there is also a very fun vibe to all the reckless aggression. Although guitar solos were not in style at this time, I made sure to play a bunch of them anyway. Artistic vision trumps fashion every day of the week. Most of this album was recorded with a G&L ASAT Classic through a Marshall JCM 900. Expertly mixed and mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
1991 (Sex And Witchcraft, 1991)
Oh, to be nineteen years old again! From 1986-1989, I had played in a lot of bands, but 1990 was the year that I started listening to Led Zeppelin bootlegs habitually, and brainstorming my teenage plan for world domination.
My favorite bootleg at one point was Copenhagen, Denmark, July 23, 1979. A friend of mine lent me this show on a cassette labeled “Danish Pageboys Get It On”. Page had a different kind of style than you would hear in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Some of his youthful crispness had given way to a new sound, at once both abstract and lyrical. To call it sloppy is to misunderstand what art really is.
My favorite moment on that bootleg was the second guitar solo in “No Quarter”. Jimmy plays a 3 string pull-off-bend combination that would be right at home at the end of some kind of cliched southern rock rave up, but he FLAILS at the strings with a whipping motion while smoothly sweeping the wah pedal from warm to bright and back again, all delivered with dynamics and soul.
At the time, I didn’t understand how he was making that sound, and in a nod to Marvel Comics, labeled that sound “The Galactus Lick”. What I realized is that this sound existed on a couple levels: a physical level and something beyond what is physical. So I labeled his playing “Sex and Witchcraft”.
All throughout 1990, I was rehearsing with Penny Larson, by the middle of the year, with Ben Cable, and by the end of the year, with Paul O’Neil. As I turned 20 years old, we played a couple gigs around Boston, then recording this demo tape, then took the show on the road. Being 20 years old was AWESOME. What was recorded on this demo tape has influenced everything else I’ve ever done. Recorded at “The Lanes” in Allston, MA.
NOT A DESTINATION (Evaded, 2019)
In addition to Superbug and Talztop, Kevin Hammer and I collaborated on Evaded’s sophomore album. I tracked all of the lead guitar on this record, the bulk of which was recorded while I was concurrently enrolled in Steve Vai’s class through Berklee Online. You can definitely hear Vai’s influence on this album, maybe more than any other album I’ve ever played on. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
ONE TRICK HEART (Vinny Cirigliano, 2015)
In the spring of 2014, I suffered a ruptured tendon and was forced to cancel more than half of the performances scheduled over the course of six months while the tendon healed. It was during this dark chapter of my life that Vincent Peters Cirigliano invited me to play on his upcoming EP. Studying harmonica intensely at the time, I tracked blues harp in lieu of guitar on "Sit Still".
Once the finger had healed, I began practicing, tracking and performing with an unprecedented vengeance. “One Trick Heart” showcases an intricate arpeggio figure, composed by Vinny, and scored for guitar.
For “Second Wind”, I contributed lead guitar hooks in the style of Steve Vai. Also notable on that track is the inclusion of a sample from “Party In Norwood”, which originally appeared on Hypaspace’s 2008 self-titled album.
On “Randy Redemption”, I reprised the lead guitar style from “Second Wind”, applying a more improvisational and less compositional approach. “Randy Redemption” also showcases my first recorded example of the “Electro Harmonix B9 Organ Machine Pedal”, coupled with EBow, prominently featured at the end of the track.
Additional Guitar and Bass by Matt Hain. Additional Bass by Chris Urban. Additional Guitars by Scott Dufault. Violin by Parama Chattopadhyay. Produced and Engineered by Tony Porter at Porter Soundlab. Mastered by Dana White at Specialized Mastering.
CLASSICAL PIANO MUSIC VOLUME ONE (Faith C. Marchena, 2001)
Upon completion of her master's degree at The New England Conservatory Of Music in 1950, Faith C. Marchena recorded 5 solo piano works directly to vinyl acetate. These recording were made in real time, with no breaks between performances.
49 years later, in the summer of 1999, Dana White at Specialized Mastering engineering her next recording session, where she recorded 9 more solo piano works, including a new interpretation of the Brahms Intermezzo Opus 119, Number 3. Going into my final semesters at Berklee at the time, had to wait until after graduation to produce and edit this complete collection spanning the 1950 and 1999 recordings. As soon as I graduated, I got to work on this album, which was released in the spring of 2001. I have only produced two albums that I didn't actually play on, and this was the first of those two.
I love my entire discography, but there ARE favorites. This album is clearly at the top of the list! The aspiration to master my instrument on this level continues to drive me to practice, and reject the current state of my musicianship, night and day.
FORGOTTEN SONG (Red Ed And The Undead, 2009)
Released two years after the self-titled debut album by Red Ed and The Undead, this sophomore outing showcases a more polished and layered sound than the first.
Because Ed Able’s compositional style demonstrates greater complexity and texture on this album, I contributed more in the way of improvisational motivic development and devoted less energy to the creation of impressionistic sonic tapestries, where the tracks themselves were already richly layered and percolating with syncopation.
“Believing in Love” features a recapitulation of the harmonic pitch bending techniques of Vai and Beck, similar to what I played on “Til The Morning Comes” from the first record. “Is It Enough” showcases dueling guitar solos with Steven Gouette (Lead Guitarist for Danny Klein’s Full House). “I’m Not” is a vehicle for slide guitar, and along with “451” features the manipulation of natural harmonics and trills from a motivic perspective.
Additional guitars by George Dussault and Bill Reed. Drums by Austin Andrews. Artwork and Design by Bryan Mack. Photography by Steve Gouette. Mastered by George Dussault.
RED ED AND THE UNDEAD (Red Ed And The Undead, 2007)
After exploring traditional and contemporary classical music styles for several years at the turn of the century, Ed Able redirected his focus to the composition of melancholy pop music, as evidenced on this, Red Ed and The Undead’s self-titled debut album.
I was honored to be invited to play on this record, and had a lot of fun pushing the boundaries and parameters of contribution. I remember spontaneously re-tuning and preparing my guitar into unique configurations while tracking, in the search of interesting sounds.
“Perfect Stranger” and “Why Argue” both turned out to be excellent vehicles for EBow. “Dream Within A Dream” features the application of Motown and Surf guitar techniques. “How Much Longer” blends mandolin-style tremolo picking with countrified melodies. “Til The Morning Comes” is the earliest recorded example to document my assimilation of the harmonic pitch bending techniques pioneered by Steve Vai and Jeff Beck.
Steven Gouette (Lead Guitarist for Danny Klein’s Full House) also contributed guitars to this album. Drums by Peter Abdou. Mixed and mastered by George Dussault. Artwork and design by Cassie Betro.
LIVE IN THE FALL OF 2000 (John Mason and Steve Marchena, 2001)
Majoring in Guitar Performance at Berklee College Of Music from 1997-2000 was the best decision of my life. I will be forever grateful to the Guitar Departments at both Berklee and The Boston Conservatory, especially Jon Finn, David Newsam and Bill Buonocore, all of whom I studied privately with during my final semesters there.
The final exam for a performance major is in the form of a recital. Although this recital is only 60 minutes in duration, preparation of the repertoire begins AT LEAST two years in advance of the downbeat. In the Fall of 2000, I watched as every other aspect of my life fell apart as I focused exclusively and single-mindedly on that recital.
Fortunately, I had the foresight to hire Dana White at Specialized Mastering to record the recital, as well as all of the other concerts leading up to it. This album, which was released in The Fall of 2001, showcases classical and fusion guitar styles and features John Mason on classical guitar and keyboards, Penny Larson on drum set and percussion and Michael Figueiredo on electric bass guitar.
ENDSVILLE (Rev. Bob & The Darkness, 2005)
I spent 2005 playing harmonica in a group called “Rev. Bob and The Darkness” with Bob Matros, Mark White, Mathew Foster and Max Lewis. We performed together regularly and recorded a great debut album that year. Whereas harmonica is not my principle instrument, playing the diatonic harmonica chromatically is a very ambitious endeavor, and playing with Rev. Bob and The Darkness inspired and motivated me to do the focused work of taking my harp chops to the next level. In addition to functioning as half of a horn section with Max on trumpet, I also began to apply contrapuntal techniques to the harmonica, which are still under development to this day. On so many levels, I will forever be grateful for that year and my time with this group.
Also notable was the way we dressed for performances. We all looked like we were from The Old West. I wore a hat, badge and a belt of harmonicas, performing under the monicker “Sheriff Steve”. Though this album falls under the general category of roots music, it has a wide variety of textures, with Christopher Coughlin contributing keys on “Drown Me”, “My Way Home” and “Desert Wind”.
“Intro", "Dead Man Running” and “Sleep When You’re Dead” all prominently feature diatonic harmonica and “She” features chromatic harmonica. This was the group that introduced me to Rich Van Vleet and “The Circus Of The Shattered Monkey”, which I will depict in tomorrow's post. Photography by Sarah Weill and Mastered by Colin Sapp.
LE CIRQUE: THE SOUNDTRACK (Compilation/ Hypaspace, 2005)
In early 2005, Hypaspace (featuring Penny Larson and Chris Urban) joined “The Circus Of The Shattered Monkey”. The Circus was a touring event that travelled up and down the east coast, showcasing a mix of local and national acts. Hypaspace was the Circus house band and, as such, performed on a second stage at each event during change-overs on the main stage. This was an amazing experience, affording us the opportunity to regularly present several sets of original music at each event.
Rich Van Vleet, the show’s creator, would orchestrate a unique experience for each show. In addition to performing as a trio, Hypaspace collaborated with many of the traveling artists on each bill, including Adam Payne, Duncan Wilder Johnson, Ryan Fitzsimmons, Sean Altrui and Bryan McPherson, all of whom are featured on the soundtrack album. In late 2005, we shared the stage with the band “Sandal Machine Foot" (originally featuring Vincent Peters Cirigliano, Matt Hain, Ian Connelly and Jimmy Hill). We would later present “The Space Machine Tour” with SMF, ultimately merging with them and forming the group “Superbug” in 2009.
For the soundtrack album, in addition to compiling previously released tracks by his favorite artists, Rich commissioned the creation of the album’s experimental opening track “Desolation Circus”, featuring Penny Larson, Kevin Nelson and William James Austin (composer of The Partridge Family hit, “C’mon Get Happy”). Hypaspace toured with The Circus for several years while we all learned a lot about life on the road. One time, en route to a concert in Maryland, we hit ridiculous traffic near The George Washington Bridge in the middle of a scorching mid-summer heatwave. It took us over three hours to travel a mere two miles. We had no AC in the vehicle and we barely made it to the downbeat in College Park, MD in time. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger!
This album, released in 2006, features several clips from Hypaspace’s “4004” album. Also notable is that much of Hypaspace’s self titled 2008 release was composed and road tested while touring with The Circus. “Blues For Ari” from the 2008 album, for example, was written in 2006 as entrance music for Ari Sky Walker at a Burlington, VT concert.