Old friends, new music come together for 'Tropicante'

Juneau guitarist teams up with Portland pianist on new CD

Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2001

J uneau guitarist Curt Terrall has brought a bit of South America to Alaska this winter.

Terrall shares his passion for Latin music on "Tropicante," a new CD of original music he produced and recorded with Mark Jeleniewski. Jeleniewski, a pianist in Portland, Ore., and Terrall have been friends since the early 1970s when the two were bandmates in Harmony Road, a Portland rock group.

Jeleniewski has recorded five CDs, some highlighting his own compositions for solo piano and others featuring jazz standards and recorded with Northwest jazz musicians. Thanks to his 30year career in the Northwest music scene he was able to bring in a host of Latin and jazz players to contribute to "Tropicante."

That includes Graham Lear, who played kit drums with Carlos Santana for 12 years and saxophonist and flutist Michael Bard, formerly of Stan Kenton's orchestra.

Terrall moved to Juneau in the late 1970s and has been a familiar face on the local music scene, performing as a solo fingerstyle guitarist and with the Latin band Salsa Borealis.

Terrall's love of Latin music was born in Colombia. Terrall lives aboard a boat and in 1992 he and his partner, Donna Perrin, sailed out of Juneau for Panama and the Caribbean. The two-year trip stretched to almost five years - Terrall lived in Colombia for a year and spent about eight months in Panama.

"It was the Colombian musicians who turned me on to Latin music and more Latin, jazzy styles than folk styles," Terrall said.

He soaked up music from Guatemala to Mexico and formed lasting friendships with musicians. He continues to make annual trips to Mexico and Central America and has brought Mexican guitarist Julio Cabrera to Juneau.

Jeleniewski knew of his friend's love for Latin music, and called Terrall this spring with an offer. Jeleniewski had been contacted by a record distribution company, Lifedance, to produce a CD featuring Latin music. Was Terrall interested?

Terrall sat down and composed five tunes in the weeks that followed, all smooth, melodic, Latin-flavored guitar instrumentals.

"I was going through my old tunes after Mark and I had our talk about doing the album," Terrall said. "I found a few, but I was getting inspired to write. When I was sending down the demos, most were new tunes right out of the guitar."

"Tropicante" is Terrall's first CD and he composed seven tunes on the recording. All but one of the 11 tracks are instrumentals.

"I always write solo guitar stuff," Terrall said. "It was fun writing tunes where I didn't have to put everything into a solo guitar piece. I'd hear a melody in my head and put other instruments to it."

Flute, coronet, saxophone, and flugelhorn share those melody lines with Terrall's Spanish guitar. Jeleniewski's piano is prominent as well, smoothly segueing from background to forefront and trading the melody with Terrall and the others.

The CD was built around the guitar and piano. Jeleniewski listened to Terrall's rough demo recordings, composed piano parts and worked out arrangements. The two worked out details over the phone and Terrall flew down in August to record.

Terrall said he performs three of the tunes on the CD as solo guitar pieces, but most of the music is band-oriented and doesn't translate well to solo performing. He'd like to bring Jeleniewski to Juneau and team up with a few local players to perform the music someday.

"Tropicante" is available at The Bear's Lair in the Senate Building and at Capital Records.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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