Cookie on Piano? When the Past Becomes the Future

Before I was an audio engineer I was a full time musician and music teacher. I had aspirations for a career composing soundtracks, playing jazz and performing in orchestral situations. When I started the studio, it was really to have a place to make recordings for ‘the band’ — isn’t that why everyone builds a studio?

It wasn’t overnight that we became a full time studio and I gave up the band in favor of being an audio engineer. And every now and then, someone comes up with a recording I made during those “musician” days.

Apparently, last month they were all found. I forgot about them myself. 🙂 The first situation came up a few weeks ago.

I was introduced to Mitch and Jordan by a good friend at a streaming company who thought we might have an interesting connection.  Mitch had a radio show and was dj’ing using vinyl records.  Jordan owned a record store.  Within the first few minutes of our zoom call, Jordan held up an album that stunned me.  It was Sonny Simmons and Barbara Donald… my first album where I played piano. Sonny was a friend of John Coltrane and was all that and more on the saxophone.  Through that relationship I learned a LOT about the jazz culture, attitude, force of music and ended up with John Coltrane’s magical bamboo flute.  That flute was a little like Cinderella’s slippers.  I only met one person who could play it besides Sonny (read my tribute here ).

The album was a live gig and I didn’t know we were recording. Anyway.. I’m not proud of my playing on that one. I couldn’t tell you the name of the album, but I can say that the joy of remembering those crazy musician days filled my heart.

But more so… the idea that total strangers from the Midwest finding the album was both scary and joyful. We had an instant bond. The next 2 hours of conversation were some of the most fun times I’ve had in years. This is just the beginning with Mitch and Jordan.

A few weeks later, I was contacted by a fellow in search of an album I recorded 30 years ago with an old bandmate I hadn’t talked to in decades. The bandmate was Terry. I was given Terry’s email address only recently when Dino recently passed last month (we were all in a band together). The fellow in search of Terry’s album had heard it once on “Music from the Hearts of Space” in the early 90’s and has been looking for it ever since. He found my studio address and wrote to me about it.

I put the fellow in touch wtih Terry for the disc. All of this is leading up to a reunion with the old bandmates. Amazing.

Later that week, the fellow wrote to me again with a photo of a 45 vinyl called “Sleepwalk”. He asked, “Is this you, too?”… OMG, yes it was… Monster Girls. Back in the mid 80’s we had a minor local radio hit with the B side. Sleepwalk was the longest 3 minute song you’ll ever hear. Took 3 months to record hundreds of tracks to an 8 track tape recorder, then mix it with triggered midi. You couldn’t wait for it to end… it never seemed to end.

But, it needed a B side… so in one day, we came up with a spoof called “Let’s talk about ME”… a very funny song with lyrics and rap by Vicky, I composed the music. Of course, Dino was involved and this spoof became a minor hit. I”m not sure I can even find a copy to digitize. LOL….

After decades of going unknown as a musician or composer, suddenly Dino and Sonny are looking over me to not forget those early years. Friends may leave the planet to another world, but they are never gone. I guess music isn’t sand castles after all.

—Cookie Marenco