Drummer, percussionist, composer
In the last few years, Alexandra Gerhard-García has established a loyal following in Germany, performing innovative percussion both in her own efforts and with her band, the Garcia Orchestra. Although her music mostly tends toward jazz, it is infused with the Latin influences of her heritage, as well as with strong rock and funk undertones to create a sound that is uniquely hers.
Alexandra Gerhard-García was born on October 8, 1974, in Cologne, Germany. She grew up in Cologne, but she was strongly influenced by the sounds of Venezuela, the country of her mother’s birth. Music was a part of Gerhard-García’s life from the beginning. Her father, Wolfgang Gerhard, is a successful music producer and guitarist who made a name for himself playing flamenco guitar in the 1980s. He is perhaps best known for his Jazz Meets Flamenco release, which he recorded with noted saxophone player Heiner Wiberny. The album was nominated for the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (German Record Award) for jazz.
Gerhard-García played music throughout her childhood. At first she focused on the guitar, her father’s instrument of choice, and also learned to play the piano. But it was the drums that inspired the budding musician most, and starting with a small drum set constructed especially for children, Gerhard-García began to spend more and more time in the recording studio her father had built in the basement of their house. As musicians came and went on recording sessions, she paid special attention to the drummers, experimenting with making sounds on their drums. By the time she was 12 or 13 years old, Gerhard-García began to take drumming lessons, studying with a teacher who was primarily a piano player, not a drummer. But it was enough to start Gerhard-García on the path she was to follow as an adult.
In spite of her passion for music, Gerhard-García planned to become a doctor most of the way through her college education. Then, with a year to go before graduation, she found that she could no longer ignore the pull that music had exerted on her throughout her early years. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Gerhard-García went on to study musicology at the University of Cologne. The program proved too academic for her, however, and she realized she needed a more hands-on approach to music and the music business. Accordingly, she spend her free time performing, singing in a choir, and playing her drums.
Gerhard-García’s drumming career suffered a setback in 1997 when she was involved in a motorcycle accident. “After that,” she said on her website, “my life changed.” Several ligaments in one shoulder were torn, preventing her from playing the drums. Rehabilitation involved starting over, retraining herself to play, step by painful step. But it put her priorities in focus; academia, she realized definitively, was not for her.
Born on October 8, 1974, in Cologne, Germany.
Released first album, Eternal, on the Canastero label, 1998; formed the Garcia Orchestra, 2000; released Crossroads with the Garcia Orchestra, 2001.
Addresses: Office —Alexandra Gerhard-García, Holly-pad Studio, Starenweg 17, 50259 Pulheim, Germany. Website —Alexandra Gerhard-García Official Website: http://www.alexggarcia.com.
She left the university and enrolled in classes at the Drummers Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany. After several months of training there, she moved to New York City, where she continued her training at the Drummers Collective.
Only a year after her accident, in 1998, Gerhard-García released her first album, Eternal. Released on the Canastero label, the album features Gerhard-García on eight tracks of Latin-inspired jazz. Unusual for any album, the release features the drummer, Gerhard-García, as the main attraction. The work also distinguishes itself in the broad range of musical styles it encompasses. The Latin-inspired “Pandara” lays down an infectious dance beat accompanied by smoky vocals and acoustic guitar. The pop feeling of “Pandara” is offset by the all-out flamenco-styled “Carmen (Bulerias),” complete with the rapid percussion of a dancer’s feet. This cut also features Gerhard-García in a drum solo that All Music Guide’s Larry Belanger termed “impressive.” “Escape from Oakland” is pure jazz, while “Infected” combines electric guitar and vir-tuosic drumming to create a hard rock sound. The well-rounded album finishes with a unique rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” sung with only Gerhard-García’s drumming for accompaniment. Belanger called this last track “an ace performance that deserves international attention for originality in a contagious and charismatic style seldom found on a recorded piece.”
Eternal also drew praise from Drum! magazine, which featured Gerhard-García in its “New Blood” column, saying that she “ornaments every transition with blistering single-stroke rolls and ghost-notes.” Further, said Drum!, “She’s a contender.”
By 2000 Gerhard-García had formed a band, called the Garcia Orchestra. Featured musicians are Jost Edel-hoff on electric guitar, Andrey Muratov on keyboards, Achim Schröter on saxophone, and Christoph Wolff on electric bass. Edelhoff was well known to German-speaking jazz aficionados for his popular series of articles in the German-language magazine Gitarre & Bass. Muratov, an émigré from Russia, studied piano at Leningrad’s (now St. Petersburg) music conservatory before moving to Germany, where he met Gerhard-García when they played gigs together with other bands. Schröter and Wolff have both been accomplished musicians for many years, each playing a wide range of styles, from classical to big band to rock, and their styles lend themselves perfectly to Gerhard-García’s eclectic sensibilities.
In 2000 Gerhard-García and her band went to work on an album called Crossroads, which features a vibrant jazz and rock fusion sound with Latin and funk influences. Unlike on Eternal, Gerhard-García composed all of the music for this album. Particularly striking is the track “Kwaheri (Farewell),” a purely percussive piece that showcases Gerhard-García at her best. “Tears” features mournful lead vocals from Christina Meller with Gerhard-García on backup vocals. The opening track, “Deep Blue,” features as its centerpiece a guitar and saxophone duet. Crossroads was released in 2001 under the name of Gerhard-García’s band, the Garcia Orchestra, on the Canastero label.
In addition to its studio work, the Garcia Orchestra has played regularly in jazz festivals, including the 12th Jazznacht Huerth, Jazz Rally Düsseldorf, the Hessen-jazz-Festival Idstein, and the Buergertreff Ingolstadt, which has also featured such notable performers as Bill Evans, Billy Cobham, and the Yellowjackets.
Besides playing drums and composing music, Gerhard-García gives private drumming lessons and runs a recording studio in Pulheim, Germany, with Garcia Orchestra sound engineer Ingo Stolley. In addition to playing in her own band, she has also sat in with the Rodrigo Tobar band and with La Fiesta, Maipú, Alex Oriental Experience, and many other bands.
Eternal, Canastero, 1998.
(With the Garcia Orchestra) Crossroads, Canastero, 2001.
Drum!, April 1999.
“Alexandra Gerhard-García,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 1, 2002).
“Alexandra Gerhard-García—Crossroads,” MP3.com, http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/cds/88/88645.html (November 6, 2002).
“Eternal,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 1, 2002).
“Garcia Orchestra—Band,” Garcia Orchestra, http://www.garciaorchestra.de/go3engl/jostengl.html (November 6, 2002).
“Hollypad-Studio—die Story,” Hollypad Studio, http://mitglied.lycos.de/fosforito/story.html (November 6, 2002).
Additional information was obtained from an interview with Alexandra Gerhard-García in November of 2002.
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