Valrock Music Presents: Part 2 The Debut of Valerie Romanoff and Vitamin V, and the Release of the New CD, “Healing Music for Massage, Meditation and Transformation”
Today I am getting to look at all of the photographs taken during the show weekend in Sedona. There were photos taken at the performance, at the rehearsals, at the video shoot, at the dinners and parties, and at the band’s jeep tour and hike in the red rocks. It is exciting to relive all the incredible events of the trip.
If you haven’t read the first article in this series, you can go to, “Valrock Music Presents- Part 1.”
Next I am going to name everyone who was involved in this project, and give a brief description of what they did. First, the Vitamin V band!
Tony Aiello- tenor sax, soprano sax, steel flute, piccolo, lead vocals, background vocals
Tony has been a dear friend and collaborator for over 25 years. He has been part of all of my musical endeavors, and we have performed together at hundreds of events. He has been an integral member of the Starlight Orchestras family, the Starlight Experience, and now Vitamin V! We have written and recorded songs together and are having fun as we continue new projects. Once I decided to have a live performance for my CD Release party, I asked Tony to join me in Sedona, and was thrilled when he said yes!
Tom Rossi- djembe, congas, percussion, guitar, bansuri flute, vocals
I have known Tom for over 10 years through the transformational music connection and the healing arts world, and have eagerly looked forward to working together. This opportunity came when I brought the “Healing Music for Massage, Meditation and Transformation” project to him for mixing. Not only did he mix and master the project, but he added percussion and flutes, and tutored me on advanced recording techniques using a Logic-based system. After the completion of the CD, I asked Tom to co-write my new song “Rachel’s Knoll,” which we recorded in his studio, and he added guitars, bass, percussion and background vocals. (You can hear the song on www.valrockmusic.com and soon we will be posting a music video.) I was delighted to ask Tom to help me recreate the “Healing Music” material with a live ensemble, and to join me in Sedona for the CD Release show. Tom’s talent is endless, as he composes, produces, plays all sorts of African percussion instruments, kora, kalimba, guitar, bass, flutes, clarinet.
Russell Graham- keyboard, synth, programming, guitar, vocals
Russell is such a multi-talented guy that I don’t even know where to begin listing what he did to help me execute the show. When I decided to have this type of performance, I did not stop to wonder how I would manage all of the technical elements; recreating the many intricate sounds and samples for keyboard and guitar, preparing and modifying the tracks, routing the signals for proper monitoring, concepts that most people are not even aware of. Russell excels at everything he does, he is the nicest guy around, and this weekend was a shining example of why he is such a sought-after musician/musical director/arranger/producer. I am still trying to figure out how to thank him!
Claire Finley- bass, vocals
Last year I went to a club in Boston where many Berklee students performed. From the moment she took the stage, Claire energized the room with her powerful groove and her magnetic stage presence. I was determined to find an opportunity to work with her, and soon contacted her with some gigs in New York. When I decided to create this Vitamin V project, I called Claire to ask if she would consider coming to Sedona with me, and her enthusiastic (and trademark) “Heck, Yeah!” said it all. In a very short time, Claire has become a valued member of the V family. We had such a great time together on the road, and we can’t wait to do it again!
David Thomas- drums, drums, drums!
Another great story! I was visiting friends in the British Virgin Islands a mere few weeks ago, and they took me to a club where a local band was playing. How rare that you really notice a musician at the sound check! But we were there early, and we were having a rum punch while the band was setting up, and I was really excited by the beats coming off the stage. I looked up, and there was this drummer, just grooving away up there, making all these great sounds. As I looked up, I had an image of us performing together, playing some very funked out number. (Actually, the image was of Prince’s music video for the song “Cream,” and I was picturing us doing a similar kind of groove and a similar kind of performance.) After an entire night of watching the band play, I was very taken with the whole rhythm section, and especially David, the drummer. Later in the night, I sat in with the band (Quito and the Edge), and played guitar on a Bob Marley tune. The next day I traveled back to New York, wondering how I would get in touch with that great drummer. When I got home, there was an email from him in my inbox. I guess it was meant to be. I told him about my CD Release show in Arizona, and he said he would come! One of my new songs “Let’s Choose Love” has a reggae beat, which, among all the other styles, is David’s specialty, and was written with him in mind.
Anthony Mazzella- guitar
I first heard the amazing sounds of virtuoso Anthony Mazzella at a performance with the Electric Harp Guitar Trio of William Eaton last year in Sedona. It is easy to be entranced by Anthony’s unusual musical ability, as well as his gentle countenance. A mutual friend introduced us, and we stayed in “Facebook contact” over the next year. We casually spoke about working together either in New York or Sedona, yet our performance schedules took us in different directions. When I first started entertaining the idea of doing a show in Sedona, Anthony was first to encourage me and offer his help. Plus, he agreed to perform with me as well.
Although, as you will read in later installments, my plans for the project changed and developed over the next month, Anthony was instrumental in connecting me with other local Sedona musicians as well as resources of all kinds. Anthony and I met for a pre-rehearsal in February, and then he worked with some of the local players familiarizing them with my music before my arrival the week of the show. It was great to perform with him, and I can’t wait for the next time!
Jesse Kalu- bamboo flute
Jesse and the sounds of his handmade bamboo flutes have become a part of the Sedona fabric and landscape. I met Jesse seventeen years ago during the Earth day weekend in Sedona when the peace poll was dedicated up on Rachel’s Knoll, and I have been enjoying his music ever since. Jesse plays the flutes and specializes in emulating the sounds and the spirit of the canyons. I called upon Jesse to play on my new song, “Rachel’s Knoll,” which we recorded in Alexander’s Sedona recording studio several weeks before my show, and I asked him to please be a part of my live performance as well. I knew that he and my dear friend Tao Porchon-Lynch would enjoy being reunited and performing together after all these years, a story that will be in the next section. Jesse adds heart and soul to everything he does, and I was honored to have him as part of my project.
Tao Porchon-Lynch- poetry reading
91 year old Yoga master Tao Porchon-Lynch grew up in India and France, and somehow wound up in White Plains where she would bring enlightenment and the spirit of Yoga to the New York suburban community. And how lucky I have been to know her all these years.
When I was first conceiving the idea of the concert, I was looking for ways to present the transformational music in a live format that would be entertaining as well as practical. I was concerned that the music would be too…mellow, too relaxing, too peaceful to make for an interesting evening. My friend Pat Krause suggested that I might have someone read poetry over one of the musical pieces. That sounded like a good idea, and then I thought that I might ask Tao to come do a Yoga demonstration, as I knew she has been enjoying playing my CD in her Yoga classes for the past few months. I asked Tao if she would consider coming with me to Sedona and doing a series of asanas to the music, to show how well the CD works as a backdrop to Yoga classes. To my delight, she said yes, and then asked if she could read some of her transformational poetry as well. Perfect! It turned out that there was not enough room for her to do the Yoga demonstration, but the poetry reading worked out beautifully! I asked Jesse Kalu if he would play a duet with Tao’s poetry over my piece “Moon, Stars, Om” which was a thrill for both of them, since they had been in Israel together twenty years ago on a group trip, “Yoga for Peace” and had not seen each other since.
It was wonderful to have Tao on the trip with me and as part of the performance, and her addition to the concert was a highlight. Tao and I are about to begin a CD project pairing her metaphysical poetry with my transformational music. A big hug to Joyce Pines who works with Tao and keeps things rolling!
Marty Birrattella- tabla
Marty added a most lovely dimension to the group with his tabla playing. For weeks I had been asking everyone in Sedona to recommend a tabla player, as I had engaged Daniel Paul (who tours with Jai Uttal) to play tabla on the album, and I wanted to add that element to the live show. Everyone I knew was on the look-out for someone in Sedona who could play tabla, and finally Anthony Mazzella came up with Marty, for which I was very grateful!
Gary Ehlenberger- didgeridoo
Up until last year, I had never seen or heard a live didgeridoo. My first encounter with the native Aboriginal instrument was in a “Sound Healing Session” (aka “intonation therapy”) with Annette Kearl in Sedona, where she plays a variety of instruments on and around the body to create overtones which transform and heal. If you have never experienced it, I highly recommend it! After a series of sessions with Annette in the spring of 2009, I began composing and recording what became my “Healing Music” CD. One of the pieces, “Shalmana’s Song” features the didgeridoo, and of course I would need a didg player, someone who was proficient in the technique of circular breathing, for the show in Sedona. Annette recommended Gary Ehlenberger who came with his didgeridoo, and led us in a ten minute version of my musical piece, and did an amazing job of keeping the drone going all that time!
Maira Ortiz is my favorite hair stylist and makeup artist, she has done all of Starlight’s photo and video shoots over the years, as well countless other friends’ and clients’ styling. Every time I recommend Maira, I am a hero, because she makes everyone look like a million!
The same is true of her husband.
Davitte Taveras is a wonderful videographer, video editor and technical wizard. They are both amazing photographers as well. When I approached them to come to Sedona with, I flipped when they said yes! Not only did they do an incredible job, but they were so much fun to be with.
Also “on duty” for show weekend-
Amy Hausman and Joy Whitney Guttenberg, my partner and my daughter, helped me manage the weekend’s events; they helped get the guys from here to there and then back again… renting and driving the cars, arranging the hospitality, making sure everyone was fed, helping me with sound check, selling merch at the show, and giving me overall moral support. I am so glad you were there with me and I love you both! To my son Doug, I know you would have been playing in the show if you weren’t in Israel for the year.
Pat Krause- my dear friend Pat helped me throughout the entire planning process. Based in Sedona, she opened her home to me and my “satellite office.” Between her printer, her network, her coffee maker and kitchen, her telephone, and her living room for our kick-off party, she was instrumental in helping me get rolling. She also did a beautiful introduction at the outset of the show.
Alexander McFee- Alexander shared his most prized guitars with me, as well as other valuable equipment used for my show. He opened his recording studio to me and we tracked Jesse’s flutes for “Rachel’s Knoll.” He has been a most supportive friend.
Annette Kearl- Thanks to Annette for lending us her djembe and arranging for the congas that Tom played. Also, I thank her for all of the Sound Healing sessions she gave my bandmates and friends during that weekend. We were all buzzing and resonating all over town.
Sedona Studio Live- I was so very lucky to have found this venue for my show. Sedona Studio Live is a new performance venue designed to support performing artists and help showcase our crafts. From my first phone-call to the last note of my show, the staff and crew were accommodating and supportive. Special thanks to Jennifer Reddington whose patience and good nature made my experience very special, and to Suzie Schomaker who led the technical crew through three days of rehearsals and technical run-throughs. Thanks to Chris Spheeris for lending a hand, and to Kent and Alex for manning the board. We missed Nathan at the show, but I was sure glad to catch his band’s performance at the Martini Bar on my last night in town.
Thanks to my friend Stephen Loftin who not only worked overtime helping me assemble the press kits for my CDs, but he built an extension to the stage at SSL to accommodate all the extra space needed for my peeps.
Thanks to Boone Dale of Flagstaff for the equipment rental, thanks to the staff at Sky Ranch, The Hampton Inn and Earth Wisdom Jeep Tour for taking such good care of my group, and to Mel Russell for spending so much time taking photographs during the three days we were at SSL. Also, a heartfelt thanks to Susan Lisak of the Enchantment Resort who always finds a way to make it work! I thank you for the peace and solitude I am able to experience while visiting Boynton Canyon.
While I’m on it, I want to acknowledge Alex Salzman, my lifelong friend and collaborator who co-wrote and produced some of the Vitamin V material and helped me prepare the tracks and stems for the show, and to my BFF Debra Barsha who co-wrote “Let’s Choose Love” with me and Tony Aiello. Debra is an amazingly talented composer and musician, and we currently have several projects in the works.
At the show, I met my eleven year old cousin Samantha Blank who lives in Phoenix- who brought my relatives Jane Ash, David and Dana Blank and her younger brother Jake. They, along with my nephew Nick Romanoff from New York, are the youngest fans of Vitamin V, and I thank them for spreading the word to their friends!
A special thank you to my friends who traveled all this way to be a part of the festivities… Lorinda, Bonnie, Debra, Kim, Janice and Lael, and once more the biggest thanks to my darling Joy for all of her love, and to my Amy for all the ways she supports me and how much fun we all have together!
After the show, we had an after-party at the hotel where we all hung out, had drinks, food, got to know each other better. A friend of a friend was giving me her thoughts and comments on the performance, and she said “it is obvious that you surround yourself with the most talented people.” That has a been a common thread throughout all of my endeavors, between the administrative staff at Starlight, the creative team and producers, the musicians, arrangers, and now everyone involved in this new project. I have been so incredibly lucky to work with the most talented, warm, capable, dependable, giving, innovative and creative people. The connection and collaboration between us is what has made this journey so joyful, and I am eternally grateful.
Who knows what’s next? That is the most exciting part!
If you want to read more about the players….