13 is an unlucky number, but for the ten-track, self-titled NeoRhythms album, this doesn’t hold true. Stephen Lalama began tracking the music he wrote for the album in 2003; thirteen years later, he’s releasing it.
In retrospect, the CD’s first track “Long Time Coming” seems a prophetic title. “I went through some personal life changes,” says Lalama, “and the project was parked for many years. At the time, the style of music that we recorded was loosing ground in popularity, so I didn’t feel the timing was right…I just brought all of the recordings back to the surface 2 years ago.”
Last week, in a bare-raftered room, with box fan running, the five NeoRhythms—Craig Tangen (vocals), Todd Beck (keyboards), Tim Scribner (bass and backing vocals), Brian Engen (drums), and Lalama (guitars, mandolin, percussion, and backing vocals)—rehearsed Lalama’s hard-driving songs for a live debut at Wescott Orchard that took place this past Saturday.
Fred Wescott, who rips off a guitar solo on the catchy “Mr. Misunderstood,” says Lalama “weaves in and out of genres and welds them into a tasteful delivery.”
Lalama is a transplant from Chicago, and he’s owned a Rochester music store, now called Avalon Music, for sixteen years. Lalama describes the album as “groove-oriented, throw-back R and B” and says, “The focus is based on rhythm.”
The elapsed time between initial and recent tracking has created some time-warping performances. For instance, on “One Love,” Tangen’s voice, echoing from more than a decade ago, is paired with Kasey Kuker’s recent track to transform the song into an “Unforgettable-esque” duet.
Kuker, known for singing with Nite Shift, is just one of the well-known local musicians gracing the project. The CD includes stanchions of the local blues scene like guitarist Charlie “Sugar Chuck” Lacy who currently plays with The Gopher Tones. “[Lalama] always adds lots of nice harmonic twists and turns that tickle your ear without ever losing the essence of the blues,” says Lacy.
A regional jazz hero for at least the last 30 years, John Paulson, who leads bands and has performed with greats like Mel Torme, plays tenor sax on several tracks. “It goes back to my roots. The first professional bands I played in were R and B bands. I can relate to it,” says Paulson.
The project also includes guest performances by musicians who have left the area since the project’s 2013 inception. For instance, Bill Chelf, the former pianist for the local band Two O’Clock Jump plays on “Blind Side.” Chelf has recorded with artists like James Moody and even appeared with Tim Harden at the original Woodstock music festival.
“We tracked everything in the basement of my house. I wanted to keep the recordings pure with very little studio tricks,” says Lalama. Though he says he’s lost count, Lalama has put at least 800 hours of work into the CD. Lalama, always humble, has one simple, important goal for the CD: “If I can get others to enjoy it, I would be honored.”
- On Friday Sept. 16th, the NeoRhythms will be performing a live show as part of the 25th anniversary celebration for Brother’s Bar and Grill. At the show, you’ll have a chance to buy their new CD and hear live performances of Lalama’s original songs.
- Learn more about the NeoRhythms at https://www.facebook.com/NeoRythms-461985723987320/?fref=ts
- Hear some of Lalama’s original music at https://www.reverbnation.com/neorythums