AL DEGREGORIS BIO
No matter how talented he is and how high profile the company he keeps, Al DeGregoris knows that stardom as an indie artist in the contemporary urban jazz world takes time. Judging from the clever and creative time-oriented titles of his albums, including his latest Time and a Half, he’s finding unique ways of measuring his development as an artist and resulting success each time out. The multi-talented composer, pianist and keyboardist launched his recording career in 2008 with Three Before Midnight, followed up with Times and Travels (2012) and, on his last release in 2014, reminded his fans that everything promising will be fulfilled All in Good Time. That album, featuring key contributions from contemporary jazz greats Chuck Loeb, Jimmy Haslip and Eric Marienthal, featured the single “Sunnyside”, which earned DeGregoris his biggest airplay charting to date, rising to #28 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz National Airplay chart.
While showcasing more of his melodic composing style and talents as a skilled jazz keyboardist and improviser, All In Good Time also launched two powerful collaborations, with artist/producers Nils and Jeff Lorber, which have taken DeGregoris to new levels of his artistry both musically and sonically. Time and a Half features seven tracks helmed by Nils - who adds his trademark electric guitar to each - and three by Lorber, who ups DeGregoris’ game considerably with some of his legendary percussive old school keyboard vibes.
Nils’ and Lorber’s collaborations with the keyboardist have once again resulted in a powerhouse recording that runs the stylistic gamut between full of cool, free-flowing R&B/jazz, punchy, adventurous jazz fusion and high octane funk jams, including a joyful, brass fired romp through Sly Stone’s “Everyday People.” Nils told DeGregoris to only do a classic R&B cover if he could bring something new to it – and the keyboardist’s spirited, jazzy approach and dynamic re-harmonization of the tune (which only has two basic chords) transcends that challenge. “I’ve always loved Sly and I thought ‘Everyday People’ was a good message to send out there considering the state of things in the world right now,” DeGregoris says.
“I love working with both Nils and Jeff, as both bring very different concepts and inspiration to my crafts as a composer, performer and artist,” he adds. “Nils’ ideas in the studio are very smooth and radio friendly and I like the way he plays guitar, produces and thinks once we start into a new song. On the flip side, Jeff’s got that fusion background and has a harder edge, writing melodies with more aggressive rhythms and bite. He’ll take my ideas into a whole new adventurous direction. It’s also cool to work with a fellow keyboard player, and we speak to each other in a different language than I would communicate with a guitar player like Nils.
“I love having so much variety,” DeGregoris continues, “and my goal on Time and a Half was to bridge these two styles together with what I can add to them, while also providing the continuity of my voice as a performer throughout. Working with Nils and Jeff has made me grow as a writer and player, and all of that development has an impact on the way I approach my albums and live performances.”
Since the release of All in Good Time, and driven by the popularity of its single “Sunnyside”, DeGregoris has had some exciting new opportunities to open for some of the genre’s most elite artists. He opened for Jazz Funk Soul (the trio of Lorber, Everette Harp and Chuck Loeb), at the Madison Theatre in NY, and later opened there for Loeb and Eric Marienthal; he has also opened at the Garden City Hotel for Chieli Minucci and Special EFX. His regular band includes many NYC jazz stalwarts, including drummers Joel Rosenblatt and Lionel Cordew, keyboardist Chris Geith and bassist Ron Jenkins. Nils has joined him when he’s available. DeGregoris will soon be using his electronic keytar during his live performances.
The keyboardist has a long history of live performances playing everything from classic rock to standards—dating back to his days as a music major at Hofstra University and later when he was enrolled in law school. In 2001, he and guitarist Joe “The Man” Bivona formed the smooth jazz group Deja Blue and performed for several years at numerous venues and festivals in NYC and on Long Island. These included BB King’s Blues Club and Grille, The Peconic Bay Winery, Ospry’s Dominion Winery, Town of North Hempstead Concert Under the Stars Series and the Nassau County Noontime Concert Series.
NOTABLE LIVE PERFORMANCES
BB King’s Blues Club and Grille – New York, NY
Madison Theatre - Rockville Centre, NY (opening for Funk/Jazz/Soul -
Lorber, Loeb & Harp)
Peconic Bay Winery – Peconic, NY
Osprey’s Dominion Winery – Peconic, NY
World Yacht - New York, NY
The Plaza Hotel - New York, NY
Concert Under the Stars - Manhassett, NY
Nassau County Noontime Concert Series – East Meadow, NY
The Rainbow Room - New York, NY
The Waldorf Astoria Hotel - New York, NY
The Fifth Avenue Hotel - New York, NY
The Meadowlands Hilton - Meadowlands, NJ
NY State Concert Series - Captree State Park, NY
The Water Club - New York, NY
Concert Under the Stars – Albertson, NY
Zinc Bar – New York, NY
While Time and a Half is action packed with infectious tunes that showcase DeGregoris’ emotionally resonant melodies and jazzy flair, the track that will linger on everyone’s mind and blow up radio is the Nils-produced re-imagining of Sly Stone’s “Everyday People”. It’s a party on fire, a lively affair full of snazzy, horns, joyful affirmations, propulsive energy, fascinating harmonics and a grooving piano melody that may ultimately turn the funk anthem into a contemporary jazz standard. There are additional delights from the Nils sessions, including the light funk opener “South Shore,” which features DeGregoris’ piano dancing over an easy rolling groove; the elegant, free flowing “It’s Time,” whose ivory melody breezes over a lush, dreamy atmosphere; “Mac’s Groove,” propelled by a blend of lush, elegant piano, the punchy lead sax of urban jazz great Steve Cole, a simmering horn section and sensual atmospheres; and a festive, summery and optimistic declaration that there can be “No Holding Back.”
The Lorber tracks begin with the perfectly titled “Further Out,” which, as DeGregoris says, “reflects Jeff’s way of moving to different harmonic places you wouldn’t expect the music to go.” It’s bright, percussive, funky fusion, with tight thick grooves, exciting retro-keyboard work by DeGregoris (on Wurlitzer and Rhodes) and the roaring sax of another genre great (who has also toured with Paul Simon and The Rolling Stones), Andy Snitzer. Also on board are guitarist Michael Thompson and drummer Gary Novak. The other Lorber-helmed gems include the graceful romantic piano ballad “All Over The Place” and the bubbly, synth-techno fired fusion romp “Abacabba,” whose wild, unpredictable jumps in rhythm and offbeat structure inspired its unique title. “Instead of using numbers to describe the length of branches or marks on the ruler, let’s call the shortest lengths “a”, the next longest “b”, then “c”, and so on,” DeGregoris explains. “The pattern then becomes “Abacaba-Dabacaba!” This word sounds very much like the magician’s phrase “abracadabra”, and indeed there are seemingly magical properties about this pattern. This pattern develops very simply and quickly grows out of control.”
FROM THE BEGINNING
A naturally gifted multi-instrumentalist, Al DeGregoris started playing piano at age four, saxophone at six, wrote his first song and formed his first band at seven and performed his first paying gig when he was 13. While studying with notable Long Island musicians Charlie Hoffman, Esq. and Gerard De Angelo, Al continued to perform at local functions honing his performance skills with the help of his cousins “The King’s Men.” While continuing to perform professionally, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Merchandising and a Juris Doctor at Hofstra University. During his college years, he performed with the Hofstra Jazz Repertory Company under the direction of Emeritus Professor Herbert A. Deutsch (co-creator of the Moog Synthesizer)—and also studied classical piano.
The keyboardist later began experimenting with recording technology and built several studios ranging from two to eight tracks, ultimately designing, building and operating Star Mix Recording Studios, Ltd., a commercial 48-track analog recording facility, which was featured on the inside cover of MIX MAGAZINE’S Northeast Studio Directory Issue. During that time, Al composed, arranged and produced several dance and pop tracks with various vocal artists and wrote several commercial jingles including the score for a Guess Sportswear television commercial. Over the years, he has also performed at some of NYC’s hottest spots, including The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, The Plaza Hotel, The Rainbow Room, The Tower Suite, The River Café and The Water Club. DeGregoris’ songwriting accolades include being a winner in the American Song Festival Contest; a two time Billboard Magazine World Song Contest Top 500 winner; John Lennon World Song Contest Top 5 winner; and Norwegian Cruise Lines Star Seeker winner.
“If his last album – and first teaming with the emphatic one-two production punch of Nils and Jeff Lorber – All in Good Time was Al DeGregoris’ emergence into the big leagues of contemporary urban jazz, Time and a Half finds the keyboardist on his way to becoming the genre’s Babe Ruth. Continuing the playful metaphor of the album’s title, he works double and triple time with his collaborators on every last detail to ensure a multi-faceted sonic experience from start to finish. There’s lushness, sensual flow, easy grooves, rambunctious piano melodies, fiery horns and exciting contributions from guest saxmen Steve Cole and Andy Snitzer. While working with Nils cements DeGregoris’ ability to rework classics into fresh, contemporary concepts and will ensure several return visits to the radio charts, it’s his more adventurous journeys with Lorber that really demonstrate his ability to go beyond the usual parameters of urban jazz and make memorable statements hinting at a vibrant future for the genre.” – Jonathan Widran, Music Journalist