The Gena Rowlands Band

The Gena Rowlands Band is a Bob Massey joint.

I met Bob in 2001 or so, attending the Punk Not Rock salons in Arlington VA (at the notorious Kansas Street House). Billed as chamber music for punk rockers (i.e. more adventurous and homegrown than just going to hear folks play the great masterworks), it wasn’t long before I had a few pieces played. I re-arranged a piece I wrote in college first, then tried my hand at something new (“requiem”, the first piece I wrote outside of college), then went so far as to present a sketch of a work in progress. Shortly thereafter, the salon series faded.

When I started going to PnR salons, I had pretty much given up on playing and writing music. But PnR was better than anything I did in school, because these people were just there out of sheer interest and curiosity. If anything, the only thing they shared was a love of rock music and at least a passing interest in contemporary “chamber” music. I don’t know that I was drawn to the punk aspect of it so much as the “real” aspect of it – this wasn’t something you did because it was in books or syllabi, you did it because you wanted to.

From there, Bob asked me to play some organ on his first GRB record, La Merde Et Les Etoiles. From there, he asked if I could accompany him in a live GRB show at the Black Cat, for which I learned all the piano parts on the record. At subsequent shows, I dragged along my organ (even though there was never enough room for it, the organ was usually played while leaning vertically against the wall). From there, somehow, Bob, Jean Cook, and I were a nucleus of GRB from its first release through the opera.

Flesh And Spirits (2007)

Flesh and Spirits cover

This was the first record that I did with GRB as an actual member of the group. Bob, Eric Axelson, and Vin Novara and I worked out most of the tunes from sketches Bob brought back from the west coast. Jean joined us via overdubs in the studio. This came together quickly but mostly organized, with the only scrambling around “Mercy” and “These Windows On The World” (the former being a song that Bob and Jean and I often ended with live (generally ad-libbing the vocal harmonies, with only Bob playing) and the latter being an all-Bob effort).

I will say that that record is interesting insofar as it’s a mix of old-school GRB style new-school GRB style, which was trying to be more “pop” (though in retrospect I don’t think we were necessarily capable of coming anywhere near “pop,” and that’s probably a good thing). We spent a lot of energy on the opera, and just getting this record done felt like a triumph.

This album was originally released by Lujo Records, but it’s available through iTunes.