Monday, October 12, 2009

Ad Libitum With Alex Rybeck

It’s been entirely too long since we’ve invited one of our talented cohorts to participate in our favorite questionnaire on topics musical, so after searching far and wide for just the right person to reintroduce this feature we settled on Alex Rybeck. Actually, the search wasn’t all that far or wide; I just looked across the world’s tiniest dressing room and thought “AHA!”. It has been my great good fortune to spend the better part of the last two weeks singing with Alex during Jason Graae’s stint at the Metropolitan Room. Alex has many attributes most highly prized by The Redheads: he’s a composer, pianist, arranger, and hysterically funny. Anyone who can compose a song called Sybil Why’d You Have to Split ranks high on our list of great party guests. We aren’t the only ones who crave his company. Faith Prince, Tommy Tune, Marni Nixon, Lee Roy Reams, and two of our previous Ad Libitum guests, Anne Hampton Callaway and Jason Graae, have all had the privilege of working with Alex. His latest project, Liz Callaway’s album Passage of Time, will be released October 20th, and he and Miss C will be celebrating with five shows at NYC’s Metropolitan Room October 20th – 25th. Until you can meet him in the flesh, we hope you enjoy him in the blog….

What is your current State of Mind?
More or less awake.

What was the first song you ever performed in public?
I have no idea. I am 52 years old and my memory isn't so hot. But I began playing the piano at an early age and wasn't shy when asked to play for family or company or at school assemblies. Around the age of 6, I began taking lessons and learned all those cute little pieces one learns for annual recitals. But I also composed and played by ear, and from an early age I enjoyed showing off with medleys from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, MARY POPPINS and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, or with whatever piece I'd just written. I especially loved taking requests! Clearly, from a tender age, I was destined to play in piano bars.(Too bad I never thought about passing around a tip bowl when I was six.)

What was the first musical act you ever saw in person?
First musician I ever heard was my dad playing the piano at home. He wasn't a pro, but he played very, very well, and watching him make music sparked my own interest. Hearing Artur Rubinstein playing Chopin in recital at Constitution Hall was an early memorable experience. First operas I attended were CARMEN and MADAMA BUTTERFLY. That scary Death Theme in CARMEN really got to me and appealed to my morbid nature.The first NY musical I saw was YOU'RE A GOOD MAN,CHARLIE BROWN (Off Bway), because my fifth grade teacher had played us the cast album in class.I begged my folks to see it, and so we made the trip from DC and saw it.First NYC nightclub act I saw after moving to NYC (circa 1980) was Karen Mason and Brian Lasser. MOLTO influential.

What is your idea of perfect musical happiness?
As a listener, hearing Dionne Warwick (esp.circa 1964-1975) singing those great Bacharach-David ballads. Burt playing/conducting his own music. Artur Rubinstein playing the Grieg A Minor Concerto. Thelma Houston singing Jimmy Webb ("Sunshower" album). Lehar's THE LAND OF SMILES sung by Margit Schramm and Rudolf Schock.The best of Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, Petula Clark, Laura Nyro, Dusty Springfield, Sergio Mendes, Karen Carpenter, Eva Cassidy, Luther Vandross... Billie Holiday. Esther Satterfield singing "Lullabye for Nancy Carol". The first notes of the Overture to PROMISES, PROMISES. Streisand's last note of "A Piece of Sky". "Multitudes of Amy's" and "Too Many Mornings" by Sondheim... Francis Poulenc! (2nd Movement of his Concerto for Two Pianos). Black Gospel! (one orgasmic example being Susan Quintyne and The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir performing "For Ev'ry Mountain"). The canon led by the boy soprano toward the end of Bernstein's MASS... The score to (film musical) "Young Girls of Rochefort" (Michel Legrand)...Obviously, too many treasures to name.As a composer: being in "the zone"... following a melodic or harmonic sequence in the moment of birthing it, and hitting upon something fresh and emotionally "right".As a pianist/arranger: working with great talents like Liz and Ann Hampton Callaway, or Karen Mason, for whom playing is like flying into a limitless sky. Any time I get the chance to play "The Story Goes On" for Liz is about as good as it gets -- the combination of a great song and the perfect voice to sing it never fails.And finally: being in the recording studio, hearing one's own music (be it an original song or an orchestration) come alive, and then being able to savor it afterward and share it with others.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of musical misery?
Hearing something you love and care about get massacred.

Name three composers you love and with whom you’d like to collaborate:
Burt Bacharach, Stephen Sondheim, Poulenc. (But I love so many more: Ravel. Bach. Stravinsky. Puccini. Lehar. Harvey Schmidt. Cy Coleman. John Kander. Jimmy Webb. Stephen Schwartz. Jule Styne. Margeurite Monnot. Gershwin. Arlen. Bernstein. Ellington. Jobim! Holland-Dozier-Holland! Brian Lasser... The list goes on and on.)

Four lyricists I would love to collaborate with: Lindy Robbins, David Zippel, Sheldon Harnick, Carol Hall. (Among others)

What virtue do you consider essential for every musician?
Staying open to possibilities.

What Profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Author. Illustrator. Filmmaker/film scorer. Broadway dance arranger.Witch doctor.

What profession would you not like to attempt? Toll booth collector. Policeman. Nursery school teacher. Nursing home janitor.

What is your greatest extravagance?
flying to Australia to visit someone (although at the time I would have said it was a necessity).

Who are your real life heroes?
people (past and present) who set examples of how to be decent, kind, fair, wise, compassionate, generous, funny, creative, free-thinking, risk-taking. Especially people who have overcome hardships.My personal heroes include family members, friends, colleagues, teachers, as well as folks I've never met but who inspired me by their words and/or deeds or works of art they left behind.

Where do you see yourself artistically in twelve years?
If I'm still around, I would hope to be doing what I am doing now, because I am doing what I love.

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