When I was a kid, I played trumpet briefly and took a few piano lessons. I sang in the boys’ chorus in high school and later in several choirs.
My brother was a jazz DJ in New Jersey when I was in my teens, and it was on his late-night radio show that I first heard John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, Jim Hall, Paul Desmond, Charlie Parker, the MJQ, and the rest of the jazz pantheon.
I started college as an architecture major, but dropped out to play with an acid-rock band called Mariah. I drove the truck and occasionally sat in on second rhythm guitar. The band played mostly benefit concerts, to raise money for radical political causes in Berkeley and the Bay Area.
Moving home to New York, I signed up for an improvisation class at the New School. John Cage had just stepped down as the instructor and turned the class over to German piano and vibes player, Karl Berger, who had come to the US with Don Cherry’s all-star international group. I studied with legendary guitarist Chuck Wayne, but I also took up the vibraphone, which I’d been drawn to since I first heard the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Karl and his wife, the singer Ingrid Sertso, invited me to stay with them in Germany. I spent some time on the European ‘free jazz’ scene and got to sit in with some notable European avant-garde groups, with Don Cherry and a whole community of way-out German players. I found myself at jazz festivals all over Germany, including Berlin, and in Belgium, Holland and Italy.
Returning to the States, I attended Berklee College of Music for 5 semesters in a row, and studied briefly with vibraphone legends Gary Burton and David Samuels.
I then spent six years studying, teaching, and working as an administrator at the very influential Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, NY. Hundreds of musicians from all over the world came together there in the 1970’s and 80’s, to study and perform with noted players and composers from the worlds of jazz, contemporary classical, Indian, African, Brazilian, electronic, and other musics. As a member of the CMS Music Universe Orchestra in its various incarnations over a period of 30 years, I’ve performed under the direction of Karl Berger, Dave Holland, Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, Lee Konitz, Ed Blackwell, Oliver Lake, the late Don Cherry, and contemporary composers Gunther Schuller and Frederic Rzewski. I experienced their leading-edge approaches to performance, conducting, and notation. I performed with the Music Universe Orchestra at Carnegie Recital Hall, Naropa University, the Smithsonian Institution and NYC’s Riverside Church, and in Canada and Europe. By this time the vibraphone had become my instrument, and I sold my guitar in a parking lot to pay for heating oil for my cabin in Woodstock.
Self-taught Composer, Starting With Dance Collaboration
In 1975 I was hired to play piano for dance classes. During this period I began to write music. I co-founded the Woodstock Music and Dance Ensemble-- seven musicians and four dancers - which was the vehicle for my early compositions. Later, I wrote for the Laredo Dance Company of London, a multi-national company.
In the 1980’s I focused on writing for my quintet, and through the 1990’s, the book of compositions expanded. I developed a contrapuntal style and the band developed a signature sound.
Since the 1990's, I've been collaborating with Roger 'The Jester' Reed, a unique comic performer of the old school – a jester, a fool, in the traditional European sense. We formed a group (Jazz+Jest) that combines my quintet (or sextet or septet, as the case may be) with Roger’s clowning, juggling, mime, and spontaneous antics. He is also a talented musician who plays everything from tuba to kitchen utensils. Until you’ve heard us accompany Roger’s interpretation of Ave Maria played on the turkey baster, you haven’t lived.
My CD, October, features the large, all-acoustic chamber jazz ensemble that I've been writing for over the past several years, with oboe, bassoon, French horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, cell, violin, piano, vibes, bass and drums. Out of this concept, the Miniature Orchestra was born.
In September of 2004, October won the award for “Best Made for Surround Title” at the third annual Surround Music Awards (beating the Rolling Stones!).
I spent 5+ years as host of a mega-eclectic weekly radio program in Massachusetts called 'Beauty and the Beat', with on-air interviews with Ahmad Jamal, Jimmy Cobb, Marvin Stamm, John Pizzarelli, Peter Primamore, Jeremy Yudkin and many more.
I continue to write and occasionally perform my music, which echoes 1950's rock 'n' roll, jazz, minimalism, contemporary "serious" music, and traditions from around the world.
I earn my living as a visual designer in print and on the web [windhorsecreative.com].