San Francisco - Greetings From The San Francisco Chapter Board: Gino Robair

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Gino Robair - Composer/Instrumentalist/Producer

San Francisco Advisor

What’s the best part about the San Francisco music scene?

I like the fact that the musicians in this town are less territorial than in other cities.  They’re willing to share ideas and collaborate, even across genres. It’s been a feature of the San Francisco scene for decades and stretches back into the jazz era.

What are your favorite performance venues in San Francisco?

I’m inspired by the return of the “house concert” concept, which serves as the best alternative to playing small bars and clubs. The atmosphere in a house concert is often far more conducive to music making, because the focus is entirely on the performer, with the socializing being done before and after each set. And usually there are snacks and drinks for the audience, making it a far more relaxing, party-like atmosphere for the attendees.  

How/When did you get your start?

My piano teacher in 8th grade drafted me into playing percussion in his church—timpani to accompany the organ during holidays and drum set with the various choirs. That led to work with other churches and eventually community orchestras.

At the same time, I had a 4-track tape recorder and would use it to record the choirs and whatever other work I could get. I was very interested in making records at that stage.

What was the most interesting experience you’ve had while working?

Doing improvisation workshops with opera singers and musicians in Milan, Italy. These were musicians of the highest caliber who had never improvised before, yet after a few days of work, they were comfortable improvising and found it to be a natural form of expression.

Who is the most interesting person you’ve worked with and why?

There are two: Anthony Braxton and Tom Waits. Both artists know exactly what they want, but are open-minded when it comes to getting to the final results. But what I enjoy most is that they value musicality over virtuosity, and they challenge you in ways that bring out unique performances.

Who is someone you would like to work with and why?

Neil Young! I love the emotion in his music and how direct his songs are. And I like the fact that he is not afraid to rework the arrangements of his hits when he takes them on the road.

What is your favorite piece of equipment and why?

I love working with modular analog synthesizers—vintage and modern. The sound is so rich and the palette so broad that I can still find sounds I’ve never heard before. I’m particularly fond of Buchla instruments.