By Jeb Wright
Bob Giannotti has the name of a guy in a progressive rock band, but instead of dwelling in a far off, romantic Italian castle in a mysterious land, Bob resides in Connecticut.
One may say that Connecticut is not a hot bed of Prog Rock, but Bob is trying to change that. He is well on his way, as his debut album (after some 40 plus years in the business of music) has been released.
Fans of Pink Floyd, earlier Genesis, Yes and Jethro Tull need to give this release a listen. I know, I know… all reviews of a newly discovered Prog recording say that… this time, however it is true!
Giannotti is the ‘real deal.’ He has the chops, the God-given talent and the work ethic to create a masterpiece… oh, wait, he already did. The Great Unknown is more than just a solid work worthy of mention on Classic Rock Revisited. No, this is a true Prog Rock Master Work from a guy who cut his teeth playing with an iconic but little known band, called Jasper Wrath, back in the 1970;s .
Just listen to this track list once, and you will walk away a fan. I highly recommend this album, as it is true Progressive music that tips its hat to the greats, but forges its own path ahead.
Read on to discover more about the mysterious musical effort behind this masterwork in… Connecticut.
Jeb: Giannotti was a long time coming. Before we even discuss the new album, tell me about the band you had, I believe in the 1970s, called Jasper Wrath.
Bob: Jasper Wrath was the collaboration between Jeff Cannata (drums), Mike Soldan (keyboards), and myself (guitar & flute). We were young, very ambitious, and like-minded in our musical direction, a style that was unusual for the day, especially in Connecticut. We later added Phil Stone on bass to complete the lineup.
With some original material, a cool light show and a lot of big amps we were ready to get out there. After a short, but very intense time, we roughly recorded three demos, went to New York and left copies at various record labels and studios. With interest from San Francisco based MGM records, we signed our first recording contract and six months later we recorded the Jasper Wrath album at Phil Ramones A&R studio in N.Y. The album is still well respected today.
Jeb: The band was kind of like a Yes-style band. Tell me about Jeff Cannata and Jimmy Christian.
Bob: It did have some Yes tendencies later, but early on it was more like a King Crimson/Moody Blues influenced band, with big chorus, four part harmony and lots of changes. Like the bands of the day, each group had its own style, and that was what we strived to accomplish.
Jeff is multi talented drummer and creative writer who was the driving force behind Jasper Wrath. He's now the owner/engineer of Oxford Circus Studio here in Connecticut. He has five CD's under Cannata - Arc Angel and his latest release "Harlequins of Light" is on Frontier Record Label.
Jimmy Christian was the voice and guitar from the later incarnation of Jasper Wrath. He moved on to front the band "House of Lords" which continues today.
Jeb: So, between then and now a lot of time has passed, and this is your first album. So, what the heck took so long?
Bob: When I left Jasper Wrath, to be with my family, I continued to write and play locally with Mike Soldan and George Clini. I decided to purchase a Teac 3340s, 4 track recorder. I laid down a number of pieces, but soon realized I needed more tracks and a lot more equipment; I got discouraged. So I then spent precious time pursuing my other passion, black and white photography and darkroom. Some of the photos I incorporated with the CD pkg. I also played on some of Cannata's CDs, but it wasn't until I started performing as a solo act that I realized my need to seriously record some of my music. With technology the way it is today, it was possible to achieve what I wanted. I built my studio and went to work.
Jeb: I will say this: your album is very well done. The music is superb and the craftsmanship is wonderful. The artwork is great. The songs... wow man… How long did it take from start to finish?
Bob: From the time I completed my studio, and of course it's never complete, it took between three and four years. Although at least half the material was already written, it wasn't fully realized. And then the fun began. Ha-ha. It better not take that long for the next one.
Jeb: How did you get into progressive music? What was your musical pathway that led to this album?
Bob: I was finding that most pop and rock music doesn't seem to have much depth. I like to be challenged as a listener. Progressive music with its unpredictability and emotional impact naturally turned out to be my choice. My brain has been locked ever since.
Jeb: Tell me about what instruments you play and who are the rest of people in the band, and what they bring to the table?
Bob: Well Jeb, it's pretty much a solo album. George Clini and Mike Soldan played drums on four of the tracks. Soldan played the piano solo. Nicole Tanner sang the medieval piece, "A World Away," along with the four amazing young voices of Natalie Tanner, Jack Tanner, Ryan Graveline and Collin Graveline. I played guitars, flute, bass, keyboards, percussion and some drums.
Jeb: What prog albums influence you the most as an artist?
Bob: The album that changed my musical direction forever was King Crimson's "Court of the Crimson King." It was the mellotron and the bigness of the sound. Haunting. Other major influences were: Early Genesis w/ Peter Gabriel along with Steve Hackett's guitar that was always melodic and tasteful. Early Moody Blues concept albums with mellotron and lots of harmony. Pink Floyd's haunting beauty. And of course, Tull and Yes, but also the romantic side of classical music, Celtic music and dramatic movie scores. That just about sums it up.
Jeb: Prog is such a complex genre that it is hard not to more than wear influences on your sleeve. You tip the hat, but this is a unique listening experience. Did you worry about making this as original as you could?
Bob: You know I tried not to sound like anyone else, but I realized if I let what I feel come out, my early influences will probably be in there somewhere. I just knew what I didn't want to sound like, and that allowed me to be me. Ha Ha, I guess...
Jeb: Why did you call this The Great Unknown? Is there a secret meaning?
Bob: The answer to that question is........ Unknown. Sorry, couldn't resist. No secret meaning, it sounded mysterious and I like a little mystery. The Unknown is really about the future, for better or worse. In that song it's making it for the better. For the most part I like my lyrics to be positive and uplifting. Too much negativity out there.
Jeb: Each of the seven songs work apart from each other, but in a true type of progressive feel, they all weave together. Is this a concept album, or are these stand alone pieces?
Bob: It was never intended to be a concept album, although Sacred Ground fits perfectly coming off The Great Unknown. That said, because the theme of all seven pieces were written from the same perspective, they do seem to fit. The track order had to be in that sequence to make it work.
Jeb: To make something like this work there are things to do beyond the writing and composing. You have to be aware that you need to be a music weaver as well and tie up loose ends... almost what a novelist does. Was this difficult?
Bob: Music weaver----I like that----sounds like a new song. Actually it's fun to figure out how to get from one part to the next and still make it feel right. It can be a challenge sometimes but if you stay with it, it will eventually tell you what needs to be there. And you'll know it when it feels right and complete.
Jeb: What was your musical vision making this album?
I just wanted to make interesting music. Somewhat complex but still comfortable to listen to. I can get bored easily so I always try to have something to look forward to in each piece. Something that builds or takes you to a new place. I also like layers or parts that play against each other. You have a choice of parts to listen to.
Jeb: When you were done and listened back, as much as a fan and a composer, what did you feel?
Bob: I have to tell you, it felt really great to finally listen to and hold the completed project. A realized vision.
Jeb: Rock is a tough sell in the USA. Progressive Rock is even more difficult. How do you deal with having such a complete album of work and trying to get it out to the masses?
Bob: I am aware, especially here in America, that most people hear music but rarely ever LISTEN to it. This was going to be a problem if I wanted to reach more than a small audience. So I said “what the hell" just do what you want, maybe someone will like it. The heck with it. If you try to do what you imagine others would like to hear, you can never personally be satisfied with it.
Jeb: Even though this was a huge undertaking, what is next? Are there more songs ready to go?
Bob: Yea, already started a new piece, "Wave of Chance." I also have some older work, along with one long piece, “Rampart's Balloon" that's calling to be resurrected. I also plan to do another medieval sounding track for Nicole to sing. Of course I plan to continue along in the same direction. Can't help it...
Jeb: The cover is amazing. I love the work of Ioannis. He has a way of putting an emotional web that perfectly conveys the emotion of the music.
Bob: Ioannis. What can I say? He hit the nail perfectly on the head with the cover.
Jeb: Did you and Ioannis talk about the cover? Did you go back and forth? How important was it to you that the art represent the music?
Bob: Sure, he knew the cover was an extremely important part of the CD for me. We met a number of times. Played him a few of the tracks and he came up with some pretty cool ideas. When he heard Voyage we decided to add an old sailing ship to it. The colors were perfect, the layout and font all worked together. I loved it. And as you said earlier, he has the ability to understand the music and portray its emotion. He is definitely a prog head.
Jeb: Last one... Ever dream of a flute battle live on-stage with Ian Anderson?
Bob: Well Jeb, I'm laughing… NO! Ian has my deepest respect. Throughout his career he evolved to be the master of the rock flute and more.
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