Air Craft

 

 another band to listen to.

Notes from Producer, Doug McKeehan

Going back to the mid 1980’s Bruce Bowers and I first collaborated to form the group Air Craft.  As a pianist/synthesist I found the orchestral string textures of violinist T. Bruce Bowers to be a perfect complement to my keyboard work. I was a classical and jazz guy, and had spent time in India studying the music there. Bruce came from Texas, more roots and rock oriented, with considerable skills, both in his playing and his technical electronic wizardry. We were early adapters in midi sequencing (Commodore 64’s!) and released one album, So Near, So Far, on Catero Records.

Air Craft was the last band signed to legendary recording engineer Fred Catero’s eponymously named label. Fred, best known for his work recording such artists as Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, and classical sessions for Columbia Records, founded his label with the motto “If it’s commercial, it’s probably on the radio. If it’s good, it’s on Catero”. This optimistic philosophy led to a number of wonderful and artistic records, but an unscrupulous distributor forced Fred out of the record business and back into the studio. Air Craft’s record, “So Near, So Far was left orphaned and received little promotion or attention.

Flash forward 30 years. Bruce had moved from northern California to Wisconsin many years earlier, but we stayed in touch, discussing a reunion concert and possibly a new recording project.  We played together again in 2015 and set the wheels in motion for this new project.  Shortly after this Bruce was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer that wound up making his finishing this album as a player and co-producer impossible. Although extremely ill and unable to play effectively, Bruce was involved and extraordinarily supportive right up until the end. I was able to enlist a couple of exceptional violinists, Mads Tolling and Matt Szemela, to finish the tracks Bruce was unable to play. Bruce was able to hear these tracks and was enthusiastic about them before he passed on, March, 2020.  Many thanks to Yazmin Bowers, Bruce’s daughter, for helping me obtain the last work Bruce had been unable to complete due to his illness. The final track, Divergent Path, recorded in 1987, showcases Bruce’s talents as a player and recording engineer from our earlier collaboration. This new album, Divergent Path, is dedicated to T. Bruce, a cherished brother and musical warrior who brought a lot of love to his craft, shaping waves of air into patterns that reach our ears and touch our hearts.

Just a few words about our sound and who we might be trying to reach here.  Music at its essence is about communication, a communication that reaches out on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level. For me, good music touches all four of these categories. Bruce and I, in our discussions, wanted to make music that was accessible, challenging, and reflective of our diverse musical backgrounds. How to categorize this? When we started working in the mid ‘80’s “New Age” was a musical genre that was gaining a bit of attention. No one really knew what direction it might take. Andreas Vollenweider won a Grammy the first year the category was introduced in 1987; Yusef Lateef won the next year in 1988, Peter Gabriel in 1990. It seemed this might be a category open to experimentation, an opportunity to create music that crossed genres. Air Craft's objective was to create music that was complex yet melodic and accessible, showcasing a level of playing at each instrument rarely found in typical "New Age" music. Fred Catero was interested in using Air Craft to enter this new market.

Well "New Age" has since taken on a few associations over the years, not all of them positive. I'm pretty sure Air Craft's music would not meet the preconception of 'new age' that many listeners might have, but if we go to Wikipedia we find a description of the genre from journalist Steven Rea, "music that is acousitic, electronic, jazzy, folky and incorporates classical and pop elements, Eastern and Latin influences, exotic instrumentation and environmental sound effects." That's pretty much the kitchen sink definition, and here we offer you our kitchen sink.I actually prefer Duke Ellington's basic genre categorization of music, "There's only two kinds of music, good music, and the other kind." We hope listeners will find our offerings to be of the first kind even though this is not a genre presented on Spotify.

Jack Dorsey, Doug McKeehan, T. Bruce Bowers, Myron Dove

                                         (1985 photo)

Some comments from the critics....

"Sometimes you forget just how good music was back in 1985, so good that albums like "So Near, So Far" somehow got overlooked.  But the reissue of this recording revelas a band with impeccaboe chops and gorgeous compositions, especially the title track, which was later covered by Ancient Future and "Opening (First Step - Vision)". The meeting of Doug McKeehan's rich keyboard textures and T. Bruce Bowers' violin takes me back to the days that pointed toward the future."

                                                                         John Dilberto, Host of Echoes

Listening to 'So Near, So Far" is like unearthing a buried treasure.  Recorded some 30 years ago and recently re-released, the album is a veritable time capsule of highly detailed compositions and virtuoso performances that blend elements of contemporary instrumental, jazz fusion, and new age music.  Far from sounding dated, the album holds up well, with no hint that it was not just recorded recently.  The music is adventurous, often exhilerating, and as compelling today as it was when it was first released. 

                                                                           Michael Diamond, Music and Media Focus

"Sparkling and tuneful - a refreshing look back at a more freewheeling era in music.  I especially appreciated the rhythmic vitality of pieces that use odd time signatures without relying on drums.  I missed Air Craft the first time around, and I'm glad I've discovered it now."

                                                                          Jim Aiken, former Senior Editor, Keyboard Magazine