ONE ALTERNATIVE
Air Sculpture
(One Alternative Records)

 

On their bio they cite The Beatles, but more significantly, acoustic jazz groups like Oregon, Bela Fleck, and on the rock side Zappa and the original Dixie Dregs. On their seventh album, the group known as One Alternative continue their musical journey with a CD/DVD double disc entitled Air Sculpture. Sure, there’s the jazzy Oregon groove in play—probably thanks to the pastoral oboe / English horn sound of group co-founder Jill Haley—but there’s also a pure and peaceful, jazzy groove that also brings to mind neoclassical master Jean Pierre Rampal for example. Key to the One Alternative sound is Mark Oppenlander on guitars, bass and percussion as well as Ms. Haley, who both receive support from David Bozenhard (guitars), Tony Deangelis (drums) and several other excellent players who really enliven the sound. The Zappa influence surfaces with a cover of Frank's 1969 Hot Rats classic, “Son Of Mr. Green Genes" while there’s also a cover of the 1977 Weather Report classic “Birdland”. One of the great acoustic jazz albums of 2011, Air Sculpture is an album to enjoy time and again. The ten studio tracks on disc one are balanced out by a pair of bonus live tracks from 2010 while the DVD half of the set features group cofounder Oppenlander narrating a pictoral history of One Alternative along with live performances of the group from 2010 and 1997. www.OneAlternative.com


mwe3.com presents an interview with
MARK OPPENLANDER of One Alternative


mwe3: After years of touring and recording with One Alternative, what led to the release in 2011 of the CD Air Sculpture, which also includes the first ever One Alternative DVD?

MO: One Alternative has performed a great deal in the Philadelphia tri-state area but never got around to doing a proper tour. Our music however has toured the world. Along with the US we have received a good amount of airplay in Japan and Spain.

After our last recording called Pendulum (2003), I was exhausted and had no idea if we would have it in us to do another recording. By 2007 Jill and I compiled enough music to consider another recording. The Air Sculpture project started in earnest in 2007.

mwe3: Can you say something about the Air Sculpture DVD included with the new One Alternative CD? What led you to make the DVD and who was involved in the writing of the story, filming and production of the DVD?

MO: With 6 recordings behind us and an uncertain market to sell CD's I was thinking of what could be done to make this release more enticing to a potential buyer. Vinyl came to mind but even though that market is growing again it would have been prohibitive to make a record album. I then thought of One Alternative's long history and the fact that I have saved just about every photo and document of all of our work in the past 29 years. Making a documentary would help to preserve the One Alternative history and it might spur interest in people to check out the music.

The process of making the documentary went like this: I started by going through all the scrapbooks. Then I began to write up a narrative that would coincide with the photos, numerous letters and announcements that had been collected. I then set up a video camera and narrated the story. Up to that point I worked totally on my own. I needed professional help to put all this together so I got in touch with my good friend, Erik Freeland who owns Springhouse Films (www.springhousefilms.com). He agreed to help me assemble the video I had made with added images and recorded music. We made a nice piece of work in the style of Ken Burns. It took us about 70 hours to complete the whole DVD project of making the documentary and adding the 1997 & 2010 group performances.

mwe3: How has the One Alternative group sound changed over the years and how has the recording philosophy of the group evolved as well? Also can you say something about the chemistry between you and the other group members including co-founder Jill Haley?

MO: The great thing about the One Alternative sound is that it is a cohesive body of work that spans from the our first recording (Greenlawn released in 1985) till today. The initial goal was to create and play really good instrumental music and that goal has stayed intact. We still play some of the very early work because it has some wonderful musical ideas that to this day feel fresh and alive.

Jill, Frank McDermott and I started the trio One Alternative in the spring of 1983. Frank and I were classical guitar majors at Temple University and had much of the same tastes musically. We both grew up on rock and fusion music. He was a much better writer than me, so I worked hard at catching up. Jill came in through a different window. She was purely classical in her music training. Up to that point she interpreted rather than creating from scratch. But boy did she start off with a creative jolt when she added a melody to something Frank and I worked out on guitars previously. The piece titled “Underwater” is the result of a purely collaborative effort between the three of us. Frank left the group in 1985 to pursue a master's degree in composition at Temple. By that time, Jill and I wrote more prolifically so we carried on. Over the years we have worked with four other great guitar players but the writing of the music was basically Jill and me. We are now the core of One Alternative.

mwe3: How did you become attracted to playing the guitar and what were your early musical studies like and do you still practice guitar?

MO: I was born to be a drummer and till the age of 7 that's where my musical energies were directed. One day my father was strumming away on a guitar and I expressed an interest to learn so lessons began. I started with a folk teacher and learned music from my favorite group the Beatles. A sharp right turn occurred when she stopped teaching at the store I took lessons at and was replaced by a classical guitar teacher. I learned to read music with him and was a pretty good player by the time I was 11. I then stopped the lessons with him because I wanted to play different styles of music, especially rock. I learned bass guitar from my school's band director in 5th grade and was hooked on that. In 9th grade I took up guitar lessons again, first rock, then jazz. By the time I was thinking of what to do college-wise I went back in my mind to the classical guitar. I took up with my original classical guitar teacher. The next year I auditioned and was accepted at Temple University where I received my bachelor of music in classical guitar performance in 1983.

I still practice daily. I need to keep my chops up and also retain the motor memory of pieces that I play. This is my 44th year playing guitar so it is a committed relationship.

mwe3: What guitars are you playing on the new One Alternative Air Sculpture set and how about other guitars in your collection, including other string instruments and electric guitars too?

MO: I played two classical guitars on Air Sculpture: a 1954 Pietro Gallinotti that has been my main guitar on all seven OA releases, plus a 1986 Manuel Rodriguez. Other guitars used include a 2007 Martin 6-string CSN Special Edition. The 12 string guitar is a Martin 1968 D12-20. A quick appearance was made by my Wechter dobro. The bass parts were played on an Ibanez SR1200. The rest of my guitar collection includes a 1976 Martin D28, used on many OA past recordings, a Takamine S132 classical cutaway, used for live gigs, a Martin DX 12-20 for live gigs, and finally two Fender Telecasters; a 1972 and 2005.

mwe3: As far as musical influences go, I noticed there’s a great cover of Frank Zappa’s “Son Of Mr. Green Genes” on the new One Alternative CD set. How would you describe the Zappa influence on your guitar work and compositional side and what other music influences, compositional and guitar wise, were key to your musical development? Are there other artists or bands One Alternative would like to cover in the future?

MO: For me like many musicians it all started with The Beatles. That's what immersed me into music when I was a child. The next big guitar influence was Jeff Beck with Blow By Blow and Wired. But when I heard the Dixie Dregs at the age of 16 that was it. Steve Morse and the Dregs were my biggest inspiration through the four years of studying classical guitar at Temple University. One Alternative began to form during my Temple years and was modeled musically and conceptually after the Dregs.

I knew of Frank Zappa since I was a youngster. My father played the daylights out of We're Only In It For The Money and Hot Rats. Frank's composing and guitar playing between the years 1969 and 1975 is spot on for me. He had more integrity and creative ability than just about anyone in music. Everything he attempted demanded excellence and was completely original. Frank made music simply because the sounds were in his mind and he wanted to hear it with his ears. He seemed limitless in his creative abilities and was certainly a unique individual.

I must also mention guitarist/pianist/composer Ralph Towner and his group Oregon. They began back in 1970 and are still going strong on a musical level. We titled our fourth recording Yet To Be because Ralph's tune was so special. We also play the Oregon pieces "If" and "Beneath an Evening Sky".

mwe3: What plans does One Alternative have as far as the new album and how about other future plans for the group moving forward?

MO: Air Sculpture took a long time to put together and I believe it is a world class piece of work. So, I am trying my best to get the word out to those who might be interested in this style of music. This interview has been a plus for helping in this little cause along with radio appearances like our 5th Living Room Concert on the Echoes radio program (www.echoes.org).

One Alternative and its music will go on as long as Jill and I feel good about writing and playing the music. There is no plan to give this up in the foreseeable future. I just finished writing a new piece of music that I am very happy with and so the flame still burns for me. Jill is very prolific with her writing, so much so that she releases music on her own label (see more at www.jillhaley.com).

Also, when we play with the full five piece unit, a great deal of fun is had by all. Rob Swanson (bass) and Tony Deangelis (drums) are fabulous musicians and are very easy to work with. The big hurdle is finding the right places to play our music. Understandably venues want to make money when a group is booked and our relatively unknown instrumental music does not cater to large draws in audience attendance. Sometimes I book a space buy paying up front and hope to sell enough tickets to cover expenses. My main goal is to have a good time playing this music and share it with people who are really interested in listening. That is success in my book.


Thanks to Mark Oppenlander @ www.OneAlternative.com

 

 
   
Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by mwe3.com.
Send to
: MWE3.com CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249
E-mail: mwe3nyc@gmail.com
 
 
CD Reviews Feature Reviews & Features Archive Photo Archive Contact MWE3 Home
 

 

Copyright 1999-2012
MWE3.com - All Rights Reserved