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Behind the Tracks – Part II

Behind the Tracks - Part II by Bob DiGiacomo

Welcome to the second installment of Behind the tracks. In part I I recounted the story of how I met Jesse Zimmerman, the inspiration for Gone But Not Forgotten. In part II I would like to tell you about the origin of The Beginning and Going Home.
Back in the mid 2000’s I was working as a bassist on cruise ships. In those days the main theater was not utilized very much so us musicians used to go in there to practice. One persons’s practice session quickly turned into a jam session as more of us showed up. During one of the jams I had an idea for a chord progression, but the drummer was feeling the phrase in a different way than I did. We stopped so I could try to explain to him where I wanted the phrase to start, but I was’t able to explain it in a way that he could feel it. He said to me, “Dude, write a melody for the progression that shows me how you want it.” So that’s exactly what I did. The result you hear is The Beginning.
I was so inspired by my results with The Beginning that I wrote another song right away. By this point I had been out on ships for a while and was beginning to feel a bit homesick. Going Home represented the excitement and relief you feel when you are finally returning home after a long journey.
Both of these songs were recorded live on the ship. Of course, there are no recording studios on ships. The theater proved to be a good spot to record, but during the day it was sometimes occupied by bingo, dance classes, or meetings. In addition to that, every time the ship set sail the engines vibrated the entire theater and made a lot of noise. As you can imagine this is not exactly conducive to recording. The only time we could have several hours to ourselves with no interruptions and no noise was late at night on Wednesdays. The engine noise didn’t start until we set sail around 3:30 a.m.
On top of that I had to round up the musicians after their normal gig which meant heading them off before they could get sucked into the bar.
“Hey we are recording tonight, remember?”
“Uh, oh yeah, uh, I’ll be there after I have a couple of drinks.”
Good thing those six packs of Coronas were so cheap on the ship. They made excellent bait to get my thirsty brethren back on the stage where I needed them. That meant we got into the theater around midnight. Setting up, positioning mics, and setting levels took about an hour so we actually pressed record around 1 a.m. That gave us about 2-2.5 hours to really get into the groove and get some good takes. Keep in mind that at this point I only had two mics to work with so if someone made a mistake or the bass was too loud (very likely, haha) there were no overdubs. We simply went back and played the whole song again as a band. If we couldn’t get good takes we would have to wait until next Wednesday. I remember getting to bed that night around 5 in the morning.
Luckily for me the musicians were excellent and we recorded 2-3 takes of each song and the last one of each was just about perfect. I have to give credit to Kuba Kujawa on guitar, Emmet VanEtten on drums, and T.A. Williams on keyboards. Not only did these guys learn my songs in about ten minutes flat, but they listened to each other intently, played sensitively when called for and rocked full out when it was time to rock out. Perhaps it’s overly self-deprecating, but apart from writing them, I just played the bass on these two tunes.
So that is the story of the late night recording session in the middle of the ocean that gave me two of the best performances I have ever recorded. I wish I could go back and record 20 more songs like that. But lightning never strikes twice. I am lucky to have captured all that we did.

Credit Image: https://unsplash.com/@bobburk3

Errol and Fidel: Winners at The New York Musical Festival

Got some great news last night. Errol and Fidel, the musical I was involved in, cleaned up at the awards ceremony for the New York Musical Festival. Among others, it won for Best Musical. Check out the musical director’s post below for more details. What a pleasure it was to work on this.

And in the website of the Festival:

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS AND ORCHESTRATIONS
Winner: Doug Oberhamer, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY
Winner: Justin Boccitto, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Randy Blair, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
George Psomas, ERROL AND FIDEL
Nattalyee Randall, THE GOREE ALL-GIRL STRING BAND

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS:
Janet Aldrich, BEN, VIRGINIA, AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)
Sydia Cedeño, ERROL AND FIDEL
Ian Ferrell, GENERATION ME
Julia Nightingale, GENERATION ME
Anabella Ronson-Benenati, GENERATION ME
PJ Griffith, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
Harriet D. Foy, MOTHERFREAKINGHOOD! (MATERNAL DISCRETION ADVISED)
Tara Martinez, NIGHT TIDE
Sharon Sachs, NUMBERS NERDS
Carrie Berk, PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES
Zoe Wilson, PLAY LIKE A WINNER

SHOW-SCORE BEST OF FEST: PRODUCTION
ERROL AND FIDEL

Check the full info at:

http://www.playbill.com/article/2017-new-york-musical-festival-awards-for-excellence-announced

Behind the tracks – Part I

 

Image for the article Behind the Tracks by Bob DiGiacomo

Because my music has no lyrics, the motivation behind each song sometimes may not be obvious to the listener. But that doesn’t mean that the songs are devoid of meaning. On the contrary, I write instrumental music because for me it carries a deeper and more personal message than any lyrics that I could write. In this series of blog posts I want to give you a little background information that will help to illuminate each tune and show you how it came about.

“Gone But Not Forgotten”

This song is a tribute to my departed friend Jesse Zimmerman. When I first started working for Robert Honablue THI Studios was still called Royal Blue Studios. Early in my time there Jessie and Valencia Overton walked through the door looking for someone who knew about analog tape. He sure came to the right place. Despite getting on in years Jesse was still enthusiastic about recording his music and hopeful about what the future might bring. He became my first client at the studio.
Fast forward a bit and Jesse must have recognized something in me. He was no longer just a client. He asked me to arrange and produce his music. Jesse and I had bonded over our love of 70’s era Philadelphia soul. It was a no brainer, I jumped at the chance. Over the course of working together we became good friends. Sometimes I felt as if Jesse was my biggest fan. After producing two songs he had written I decided to try my hand at writing a song specifically for him. I knew he loved strings sections and horn sections so those were definitely going to play a central role.
We were still in the middle of the process of trading demo files and working out the melody when Jesse had a sudden heart attack and passed away. I was shocked and saddened. Unfortunately, none of the demos I had were salvageable but I refused to let this song die on the vine, so I tore it down and built it back up. Without vocals it was too slow so I sped it up and then I needed to write a new melody for it. Once the structure was firmly in place I spent quite a lot of time working out full horn and string arrangements. When I play this track for people they usually say “wow, this sounds like the 70’s!” That is the perfect response because that is exactly what Jesse was going for. In the end I know Jesse would love this track.
Gone But Not Forgotten also includes the longest list of collaborators I have ever had. Although I sent tracks to each of them so they could overdub their parts individually, I like to think of them as my band. The following people all contributed greatly to what I consider to be one of my best tracks I have ever written.
John Doing – Drums, Adam Ahuja – Piano, Katy Gunn – Violins, Adam Maalouf – Cello, Dan Puccio with the Sweet & Low Horns – horn section, Mark Morgan – additional Trumpets, Robert Honablue – mastering, Jesse Zimmerman – inspiration.

Image Credit: https://unsplash.com/@nathananderson

Errol and Fidel, the Musical

After a successful album release at the end of June, my latest endeavor is playing bass for an up and coming musical called Errol and Fidel. It will be part of the 2017 New York Musical Festival. We had two excellent rehearsals over the last two days and these performances are going to be a lot of fun. Check out the images for more details.

One adventure, two heroes. Something’s gotta give.
Cuba, 1958: Revolution is in the air! In his final year Errol Flynn has one last adventure. The dashing star of so many Hollywood blockbusters yearns to be a real hero, and Fidel Castro fits the bill. What Fidel craves is fame, and who better than Errol to show him how? At the height of the revolution an explosive encounter beckons – fueled by envy, lust, and vanity – with a mysterious woman calling the tune. Or could the CIA really be pulling the strings? Who knew revolution could be so much fun?

 

More info:

http://www.nymf.org/festival/2017-events/errol-and-fidel/