Al Conti Bridges Between Smooth Jazz, World Fusion and New Age Music
Scheherazade is both the name of the narrator of the legendary age-old tales "One-Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights" as well as the title of composer and instrumentalist Al Conti's latest album which quickly hit #1 on the international New Age Reporter airplay charts.
Scheherazade (pronounced sheh-hair-uh-zahd) is Conti's third album and contains ten original world-fusion tunes that musically tell the storyteller's story. The famous tales originated throughout Persia, Arabia and India more than 1, 100 years ago, and Conti gives the music a Middle Eastern ambience utilizing the sounds of exotic instruments (hurdy gurdy, udu, sitar, tablas and tribal drums), but making the music appealing to modern audiences by also incorporating piano, violin, cello and acoustic guitar.
Al Conti's music can be purchased online via links from his website (alconti.net), from retail sites including CDbaby.com and amazon.com, or at various digital download locations such as iTunes and Napster. Selections from the top airplay CD Scheherazade can be heard on hundreds of over-the-air radio stations and shows around the world as well as on satellite and cable-distributed channels including Sirius/XM, Music Choice, Muzak and Canada's Galaxie/CBC.
Conti is a composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist who plays piano, acoustic guitar, violin, electronic keyboards and percussion. Conti has traveled widely and has lived in South America, Europe and the United States. As an actor, he has appeared on television shows including the daytime drama "As The World Turns, " in films, in numerous radio and television commercials, and on-stage in theatre productions in New York City, Philadelphia, Tampa and Buenos Aires. Born and raised in Argentina, Conti comes from a family of artists with notoriety in many fields. Conti, who has composed music all his life, put out his first album, Shadows, in 2006, and released his second, Poeta, in 2007.
Regarding the Scheherazade album, Conti says, "I grew up with the 'Arabian Nights' stories. Many of them have become famous all over the world: 'Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, ' 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, ' 'Sinbad The Sailor.' But I was always captivated by Scheherazade, the woman who was telling the tales. Her story is just as fascinating as the ones she tells."
According to the legend, there was an Arabian sultan or king named "Shahryar, " who was betrayed by his first wife, so he swore to never again be hurt by love. He vowed to marry a new bride every night only to lead each one to execution in the morning which eventually decimated the population of young women in the kingdom. Finally Scheherazade ("Daughter of the City") offered herself as the next bride and traveled to the palace ("Desert Nights") to marry the king. Following a night filled with passion ("Seven Veils to Midnight"), Scheherazade unveils her plan. Her sister "Dunyazad" enters the king's chamber to bid them goodnight and suggests Scheherazade tell a story before they sleep. The king agrees and "A Thousand Tales" begin. Scheherazade weaves a captivating tale that entrances the king, but she stops before the end. The king, desperate to hear the ending, lets her live another day. Scheherazade starts a new story each night and leaves the outcome unspoken in order to prolong her own life, save the young women of the kingdom, teach the king lessons, and slowly soften his heart.
During the day, Scheherazade finds a quiet place ("Palace Gardens") to devise her next tale, while the king attends to his duties, ruling his kingdom which is rich in resources and trade ("Gold and Spices"). After several years, Scheherazade's tales touch the king to such an extent that he realizes he loves her ("Heart Triumphant") and he officially recognizes her as his queen. Scheherazade – through her strength, courage and cleverness - becomes the heroine of a timeless tale ("Eternal Majesty").
To capture the characters, locations and storyline, Conti not only used his musical abilities, but also utilized his expertise as an actor with two decades experience on stage and screen. "As an actor, I often listened to particular musical selections to help generate an emotional feeling for a scene."
Al Conti's childhood was full of artistic expression. His grandfather was a concert pianist, Al's mother was a professional ballerina, and his father is an architect, published poet and university professor. Al's family tree also includes the famous Argentinean writer Miguél Cané. Although Al's family was living in Argentina, their heritage is Italian and German. Because of that diverse cultural background, Conti speaks English, Spanish and Italian. When Al was three years old, he announced to his parents that he wanted to be an actor. At a very young age Al began listening to his family's vast collection of music. When he was four his family would play a game where they asked for a particular recording and Al would find the correct piece and put it on the stereo. At age six he began teaching himself how to play piano and guitar. Finally, when he was eight, his parents allowed him to begin acting lessons which led to his first stage roles in Argentina.
Al spent a year in Italy getting to know his mother's relatives there, but permanently moved to the United States when he was 17 years old. When he was 20, he got an agent and began a professional acting career that he maintained through 2004. In Argentina and in the United States, Al had the opportunity to perform in numerous theatrical stage productions including plays such as "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, " "Andre's Mother, " "Poor Richard" and "Lonely Planet."
"In addition to acting, music was always a major part of my life, " Conti explains. "Whether it's someone else's music or my own, I hear music in my head constantly. I began to get serious about composing in the early Nineties. A few years ago I had a near-death experience that was life-altering for me. It wasn't long after that I switched careers to music fulltime and started recording."
When asked about musicians who have inspired him, Al laughs and says, "I could go on all day. I have enjoyed music from all over the world in all different styles since I was a child. I never stop listening. I was very influenced by classical music when I was young and I have always enjoyed Chopin, Vivaldi and the softer Mozart pieces. I also grew up listening to tangos and Argentinean pop music. Early music that struck a chord in me would be acts like ABBA, The Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Georgio Moroder and Nina Hagen. I like everything from French opera to film music. In fact, an amazing piece is the main theme from the horror film 'Poltergeist' by Jerry Goldsmith. Also impressive is Takeo Watanabe, a Japanese composer of music for children's animated films. More recently I have admired music by Lorenna McKennitt, Yanni and Christopher Spheeris."
In addition to his music career, Conti is committed to supporting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (leukemia.org), Alzheimer's Association (alz.org) and Until There's a Cure (until.org) which combats the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Al joined Kevin Bacon, Jessica Alba and Shelley Morrison ("Will & Grace") in lending his name to the Until There's a Cure foundation to help raise awareness and funds for research. "If you have ever had a friend or family member fighting one of these diseases, then you know why it is so important for all of us to show our support."
According to Conti, "Creating the album Scheherazade was an arduous experience. There is a lot of thought, planning and experimentation that goes into creating the arrangements. What keeps me going is the feeling that the eventual listeners are already right there beside me while I am recording. So I can only thank each and every listener for walking with me through this artistic adventure and encouraging me to create more.”
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