Tiny Town Satellite of Pasadena, CA – Those wizened Tiny Towners who remember pianist and composer David Arnay fleshing out the eclectic sounds of Ithaca's notorious Zobo Funn Band – alongside guitar great David Torn back in the day, will welcome the release of Arnay's latest work "8" (Studio N, 2013), now available at the Ithaca Guitar Works in DeWitt Mall.
Co-produced by Arnay and Michael Lizarraga, "8" employs a unique tracking concept. Opening with a solo piano rendition of "Caravan" the album adds a new instrument on each track up to the closing octet "Dream Groove." With Peter Erskine on drums and a cast of A-list L.A. musicians, the album provides a compelling, evolutionary listening experience.
A scrapple from the Big Apple, Arnay spent his formative professional years right here in Tiny Town. But in 1994, jazz woodwind legend Bennie Maupin tapped Arnay for spot in the former's new quintet and a new world of performance opened up for Arnay. "Playing with Bennie brought me to one of the coolest branches of the jazz family tree," Arnay says. "He really helped me to listen more carefully, to leave more space and respect silence. A true mentor." With Alphonso Johnson on bass, the group thrived, performed regularly and, as explorative members of groups will, moved on to create new evolving ensembles.
In 1997 Arnay released "Daddy's Groove," his first CD as a leader, for Band Together records. The disc featured woodwind performances by Maupin and Bob Sheppard, with drummer Peter Erskine and bassists Alphonso Johnson and Dave Carpenter. "Daddy's Groove" received national distribution and strong reviews.
In 2001, Arnay performed all keyboard tracks on guitarist Phil Upchurch's CD "Tell the Truth" (Evidence, 2001), which earned three stars in Downbeat. Upchurch is known as a versatile trans-genre artist; in Arnay's playing and writing Upchurch recognized a player with complementary chordal, spatial and melodic sensibilities.
Arnay's second CD release as leader was the self-produced trio project, "Blues... And Then Some" (Studio N, 2003). With drummer Dave Tull and bassist Larry Steen, the album presented eight original compositions along with fresh arrangements of "In A Sentimental Mood," "Isfahan," and "Have You Met Miss Jones." The CD remains in regular rotation in Los Angeles (KKJZ) and Seattle (KPLU).
Padding his performance portfolio, Arnay also played guitar and keyboards for the original Los Angeles production of the Broadway hit musical RENT, starring Neil Patrick Harris, in more than 250 performances. Self-taught since childhood on guitar, bass and drums, the paths he finds on these other instruments are vital to his compositional process, he says.
After completing the master's degree program at the USC/Thornton School of Music in 1999, Arnay was invited to join the USC faculty. His USC colleagues include jazz and pop masters Bob Mintzer, Alan Pasqua, Ndugu Chancler, Patrice Rushen, Peter Erskine and Alphonso Johnson. As a teacher, introducing newcomers from classical lines to the jazz tradition and approach is especially rewarding, he says. "When a classically trained player discovers that s/he doesn't need to rely on written music, it's like watching an entirely other creature being born."
Arnay performs constantly in L.A. as a soloist, leader of his own jazz group, and as a well-booked sideman. He's been in residence at the luxe supper club Parkway Grill in Pasadena since 1989. He continues to cross boundaries, performing in a broad spectrum of styles. His music is energetic and accessible, rooted in the jazz mainstream, charged with eclectic influences. After performing in Germany, Italy, Spain, Finland and Japan, he is eager to reach the international jazz audience with his latest sonic explorations.