(TSM Productions)


Testing the limits of instrumental rock fusion for over fifteen years now, guitarist Vic Samalot released an excellent overview of his band Rare Blend late in 2009. The fourteen track Sessions is an action-packed musical extravaganza featuring Samalot and company recording in a variety of settings. Superbly recorded, the CD is filled with a number of Rare Blend tracks from stage and studio and there’s also several additional tracks featuring Rare Blend in soundtrack mode performing dynamic hard-hitting instrumental tracks crafted as film backing tracks. Acclaimed by fans of jazz-rock fusion and progressive instrumental rock, Rare Blend have over the years shared bills or opened stages for musical giants including David Sanborn, Kevin Eubanks, Ozric Tentacles, Blood, Sweat & Tears and others. On Sessions, a number of players back up Samalot including long time Rare Blend keyboardist / second guitarist and co-composer Bobbi Holt, drummer Ivan George and bassist Jeff Scott. Whether performing one take live cuts, in the moment jam-fusion instrumentals or some rocking, atmospheric film music, the Cleveland based Rare Blend moves into 2010 as one of America’s most adventurous instrumental fusion groups. www.rareblend.net

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Musical Background

I started playing guitars when I was 16 / 17 years old. For me it was all about Aerosmith, KISS, Led Zeppelin, among others and their music inspired me to pickup a guitar. At 19 I took lessons for about 5 years, learned how to read and grasp some theory but mainly just dove in to playing with my favorite groups on LP back then. I can still hear the needle scratching’. However, I also started explore other guitar players and different genres of music and found myself really getting into instrumental fusion and jazz-rock stylings. Very unique and cutting edge which appealed to me and after years of being involved with cover groups, I finally decided to strike out on my own and write my own music.

So, Rare Blend was officially formed in 1993 with my long time collaborator and keyboardist Bobbi Holt who was originally the singer in a mutual cover band. She took up keys to compliment some of the covers we were doing at the time but felt the same way I did about taking a original stab at music. We believed that the relationship between guitar and keyboards invited textures and colors that lie at the heart of progressive instrumental music and oddly this was honed by the two of us being hired to write music for small budget film and video projects here in Cleveland through a local production company. Eventually we accumulated enough material that spilled over into our debut CD entitled Cinefusion (released in 1995), we realized that we were doing what we wanted to play all along… “original progressive jam fusion”. We never looked back.

New CD

SESSIONS is our most ambitious and 5th CD to date with Rare Blend. Bobbi and I wanted to do something a bit different with this album by highlighting the band’s improvisational skills and taking previously recorded material (our faves) and capture it all in a live setting either on stage or in studio. No overdubbing was allowed!

The musicians involved with
Vic Samalot – Electric Guitar
Bobbi Holt – Keyboards
Jeff Scott – Bass Guitar
Ivan George – Drums
Vince Broncaccio – Drums (we added 2 improvisational tracks with Vince playing drums from recordings taken in 2006)
Phil Quidort – Trumpet (“Market Square”)

The recordings took place in a variety of settings and venues during 2008 not only in Cleveland, but also in Cincinnati and Baltimore MD.

We broke up the album layout into 3 journeys….
Live recordings from Stage – Studio – Film.

Stage: pretty straightforward, these tracks were captured at gigs. Most notably from the Crooked River Groove taping, Orion Studios concert in Baltimore MD, and a really cool local event called Open Air Market Square here in Cleveland.

Studio: improvisations at my Odyssey Studio, during rehearsals. Hit record and started jamming.

Film: these tracks were captured during our performances to screenings of silent films. A project launched by Bobbi in 2007 called “Bridging The Gap”, she believed that Rare Blend music would compliment a film and had always wanted to gel the 2 mediums and present it as a “live” screening and musical performance. The tracks included were performed to the 1925 silent Phantom of the Opera at the Fairfield Arts Center in Fairfield Ohio outside of Cincinnati, and an outdoor screening of the 1929 silent Metropolis at Coventry P.E.A.C.E Park in Cleveland Hts., Ohio.

To accomplish this (with exception of Hipster Spinster, March To Orion, and Mystic Jam), we used a KORG D1600 record deck, at gigs and in-studio recording as much as we could at each venue we performed. Miking was simply 2 Carvin overheads and a Shure Beta 52 kick drum mic for drums, direct line out for keys and bass guitar, and mic’d my guitar amp using a Shure SM57. That’s it! Plain and simple.

Again the goal was to capture live recordings and highlight the art of improvisation. I think we achieved the next evolutionary step of Rare Blend. As a guitar player, this personally made me stretch my playing by having to think “in the moment” and ”out of the box” simultaneously. This definitely takes any musician’s game to the next level. Even the previously released material captured for this CD has some twists and turns not on the original albums.

After all recording for the
SESSIONS project was completed, the next adventure was taking the majority of 2009 to sit and listen to hours and hours of material to pick the best tracks and the begin arduous task of mixing. To our surprise, we were amazed at the quality from such a simple tracking method. This made the mixing and mastering process easier than expected although I definitely ate, slept, and breathed with a pair of headphones for a couple of months.

In the end, the final mixes were mastered sent to the plant in November of 2009 and was on schedule for a December release date. Mission accomplished!!

Favorite Guitars

My gear consists of…PRS-SE Custom electric guitar, Ibanez RG70 electric guitar, Alvarez acoustic guitar, Peavey Valve King series amp, Line 6 Pod with a Tech 21 guitar cabinet. T.C. Electronic Nova Delay Pedal, Boss effects, Digitech Digital Delay Pedals, Bad Horsie Wah. D’Addario strings.

All the aforementioned gear was used on
SESSIONS including a Yamaha Silent nylon string acoustic/electric guitar that appears on the track “Neon Noodle”.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed playing and owning (stories which could fill another interview down the road), a Gibson Les Paul and a BC Rich Mockingbird. Be still my heart….

Musical Influences

Another question that could fill an entire interview but here are a few…

Players: Carlos Santana, Phil Keaggy, Jeff Beck, Andy Summers, Joe Satriani. and Neil Schon.

Groups: Yes, Return To Forever, Jean Luc Ponty, Dixie Dregs, Rush, Led Zeppelin, even early Spyro Gyra.

Albums: Moonflower (Santana), and Blow By Blow (Jeff Beck).

Upcoming Plans

Primarily promote the
SESSIONS CD and continue to introduce the improvisational side to audiences here locally and beyond. We’ve got our irons in the fire and are putting shows (music only and film/music presentations), together as we speak. As always, we ask folks to visit our music sites, buy our music, and sign up on our mailing list so we can keep them up to speed. Can’t say it enough… Many thanks to all who support Rare Blend and progressive jam fusion music!

Web Site

The Rare Blend web site is: www.rareblend.net
Email is: music@rareblend.net


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