Local musician Alvin Choate is possibly my favorite new discovery so far this year. As a one man wrecking crew banging out these really cool instrumentals, Alvin specializes in what you might call modern jazz, although there are strains of blues, rock, funk and soul all over the place. While he does play the drums and some bass guitar on these tracks, everything else is composed courtesy of a Yamaha keyboard, every note of it captured on some home studio digital recording software.
Recently I did reach out to Alvin to find out a little bit more about his musical journey. He began playing drums at any early age, with one of his initial outfits being a funk band down in Bluefield, WV. As an adult he wound up in Columbus, a conscious decision on his part to develop a larger audience. For the most part this gamble has paid off, as he continues to attract fans and get his name out there as a songwriter and producer. Personally I feel like listening to this stuff gives you a bit of a master’s class in composition, as, while played with a great deal of skill, none of it involves a flurry of notes, really. This allows the music to breathe and to resonate, and as a result you can kind of hear the different pieces of this machinery working together. If you’re listening closely I think it’s tremendously insightful stuff as far as tempo, changes, and layering are all concerned.
But of course, none of that would matter if the songs weren’t highly listenable. Responding to my email almost immediately, Alvin sent me a ton of tracks to listen to, and every bit of it had a great beat and fantastic melodies. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to help him assemble tracks for a compilation album, Diamond in the Night, and below I would like to discuss a few of my favorites:
R.A.C.H.E.T.T. is probably my top track in this collection, at least at the moment. Strutting out of the gate with one of the funkiest intros heard in many a year, the introduction of a cowbell somehow lends an altogether different dimension to the groove – and this is before the wash of keyboards even kicks in.
Meanwhile, Back In The Groove is so smooth I tend to doubt he ever lost it to begin with. Over top of a funky, vaguely tropical bass line, Alvin solos in a few different directions, though always returning to the central melody for a spell.
And then as if to demonstrate his ability to bring it down a notch, there’s The Meaning Of Love, with its dreamy swirl of keys and a sort of muted trumpet sound. This one I would consider a prime example of how throwing on his tracks can really get your imagination working overtime, conjuring up vivid landscapes with every listen.
Trainwreck gets off to a rollicking start, one that wouldn’t seem out of place in a classic rock arena show. You almost expect some distorted riffage to blow a hole in your eardrums any second now, and for someone to shriek “hello, Columbus!” above the din. But as always Alvin takes unexpected detours with the material, right about the time those handclaps kick in.
So this is an overview of some of the different flavors to be found on Diamond in the Night. Many more await the intrepid listener, not to mention bloggers who wish to write about them when a little less exhausted. When energy permits I hope to sit down with Alvin at some point in the near future, or at least get him on the telephone, and pick his brain in depth on this material and his life in music. Until then – and beyond, of course – I would say check out these tracks, as there’s bound to be a little bit of something for any fan of the C-bus music scene.