Air Craft

 

 another band to listen to.

Air Craft is a Northern California band formed in the mid 1980's by keyboardist Doug McKeehan and violinist/music effects designer T. Bruce Bowers.  They released one album, "So Near, So Far"  in 1985 on Catero/Fantasy Records. The band is regrouping in 2015 for some reunion concerts in the Bay area, both to reprise their old material and to showcase some new.  

The core of the Air Craft sound is the meeting of pianist/synthesist McKeehan's compositions with the orchestral string textures of Bowers to create large, lush tone poems that draw from jazz, classical, and rock influences, a music hard to categorize and quite unique.  The album "So Near, So Far"  is stylistically diverse, with a flow to the music's order that suggests a journey, a searching jouney of self discovery alluded to by the title.  The compositions are complex, yet melodic and accessible, and show off a level of virtuosity at each instrument rarely found in typical 'New Age' music.  Rounding out the band's sound are the  versatile drummer and percussionist Jack Dorsey and veteran bassist, Myron Dove. 

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

                                         (1985 photo)

Re-mastered to celebrate the 30th anniversary vinyl release of "So Near, So Far" on Catero/Fantasy Records, the new CD features a bonus track, "The Healer", not found on the original LP.  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.  "So Near, So Far" was left orphaned and never received that attention it deserved.  

Doug McKeehan began playing piano at a young age, was in his first band at 14 and continued with classical training at Oberlin College and Kent State University.  Over the course of three extended trips to India he studied with notable Indian music teachers Pandits Ram Narayan and A.G. Bhattacharya.  He has been playing jazz in the Bay Area for the past 30 years, performing at venues such as Yoshi's, the Herbst Theater, and Grace Cathedral.  Composing credits include several musical theater, independent film and television pieces and music performed live for the Diablo Ballet's production Jazz Fever.  He is a long standing member of the award winning world fusion group Ancient Future and as a producer has found a niche in the 'world music' genre, producing albums for the noted Pakistani vocalist Shafqat Ali Khan and Chinese gu zheng virtuoso Zhao Hui.  Doug lives in Oakland, CA and continues to play all kinds of music, from jazz to r&b and rock, with occasional forays into classical and opera (with City Opera SF.)

IT. Bruce Bowers, born in San Antonion Texas, has been playing violin professionally since high school He has written over 20 film and television scores including Emmy nominated "Beneath the North Atlantic". He has performed with well known musicians of many different styles, including Queen Ida, Taj Mahal, the Dixie Dregs, and Ronnie Cox.  Also an electronics design engineer, he developed the first computer controlled audio effects system, the ProFX while working at Sequential Cirtuits in Silicon Valley.  Using this effects system, T. Bruce is able to create large orchestral sounds  playing his solo violin.  He was a founding member of the Lake Superior Big Top Chataqua Blue Canvas Orchestra in Washburn, Wisconsin, where he currently resides.  

Jack Dorsey, a native New Yorker, has been playing drums on the Bay Area scene for over 30 years, working with musicians across a wide spectrum rom jazz/blues singers Jimmy Witherspoon, Etta Jones, and Denise Perrier to the r&b of Randy Crawford, Bobby Freeman, and Buddy Miles , the zydeco of violinist Doug Kershaw, and jazz from John Handy and Johnny Griffen to Paul Horn.  Also an educator committed to passing the jazz tradition on to the next generation, he has done extensive work with the San Francisco Symphony's Adventures in Music program, bringing music into the public schools. 

Myron Dove grew up in a military family that moved around a bit, from Alaska to the Bay Area to Southern CA. The house was always filled with music and Myron started playing early, first on clarinet then moving to guitar and bass in his teens. Since moving back to the Bay Area in his early 20's he's played with a stellar array of musicians, beginning with bluesman Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown and on to artists such as Santana, Stevie Winwood, Al Jarreau, and Robben Ford.  He has also explored playing with world artists such as Sukhawat  Ali Khan, Ashwyn Batish, and Chinese instrumentalist Zhao Hui.  In addition to his work as a performance and session bassist,, he is also in demand as recording engineer and producer. He is currently working on an album of his own material that is scheduled to be released later this year.

Some sound clips from 'So Near, So Far':

Opening track, we call it 'Opening'. Spacious and a little 'new agey'', don't hold it against us..

just a piano and violin having fun....

a little darker and more serious here.....

Fast and a little magical......

keep pushing on the journey......

where are we going anyway?

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

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