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NY Music Series: Decoster is Walking in the Sun

New NYC Region CD Releases #1

This is my first installment of a series of CD reviews that I am doing on local New York City area artists. Here in the TriState area there are so many really talented original bands and singer-songwriters. Unfortunately many gifted artists aren’t heard by the mainstream. My purpose in this series to share some of this great music. Walking in the Sun by Paul Decoster, released in December 2016, is one such album that is worth listening to.

Walking in the Sun is a short EP, only five songs, but is finely crafted. The opening track, “I Don’t Really” is a smooth jazz number with the subtlety of Steely Dan. It’s a little jazzy and has that groove. Decoster is a wonderful vocalist. We were on a bill together and one woman said “he sings like an angel.” He’s not a bad writer too.

Most of the album is pop with an 80s flavor. 80s pop is one most least favorite genres personally, but Decoster digs below the surface lyrically and musically with a mature style that makes for good attentive listening. When Decoster handles run of the mill subject matter (.e.g you broke my heart, I love you), he chooses his words deliberately, freeing himself from the cliches. Every measure of Decoster’s music has musicality in it. “Got the Music in Me” for example is not the kind of song you need Cliff’s notes to understand but can get you up and dance without insulting your intelligence.

When I asked him who are his influences, he replied, “I have a great many influences conscious and subconscious: Sting, The Police, Bryan Adams, Lionel Richie, The Spinners, Todd Rundgren, XTC, King’s X, Nick Lowe, Jeff Lynne, Chic, Teddy Pendergrass, Joe Walsh to name a few.”

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Decoster is classically trained and these elements can be heard in the tracks “Human Race” and “If I Didn’t Care.” Nice melodies that flow in and out of verse and chorus. The title track, “Walking in the Sun,” is fluid and reminds me of something Rush would do in their later period but with a completely different vocal style than Geddy Lee. When I first heard Decoster play live a few years ago I likened his writing to bands like Triumph and mighty 1980’s power ballad bands. But as I sit and listen to him on record I found a lot more to listen for.

Decoster on classical music: “My favorite classical composers are Samuel Barber, Debussy, and Ralph Vaughn-Williams, especially his choral work. Again, the influences are vast and cannot all be fitted to one page.”

“Human Race” shows a little of the spiritual side of Decoster. When I ask him about if some of his songs were spiritual he answered, “I do write about spiritual songs: I do write about flawed individuals who seek spirituality and redemption. I also write fun songs about people meeting for the first time.” Decoster is able to find the equilibrium between getting a little deep and not being too heavy while keeping it fun.

To see him live, and I’ve seen him play live many times, he is able to fill high profile venues from The Bitter End in the Village to The Shrine in Harlem with a pretty good crowd. He even has played in China at the Wanch Club in Hong Kong and the Yuyintang Club in Shanghai. The last I saw him at the Bitter En,d Decoster’s classical influences snuck out when he did this wonderful acoustic guitar solo with a Spanish accent. He studied spanish guitar. Most of the time when he plays live he is backed only by percussionist Rich Kulsar yet they are able get a full sound with their ingenuity.

The Walking in the Sun album was recorded and engineered by Fleza Doza at Brooklyn Native Studio. Doza is a very gifted solo artist (multi instrumentalist and great vocalist which I happen to have played with in High School).  Doza really takes his time on projects; he’s like the Michelangelo of sound and very hands on.

Decoster has a long list of up and coming shows in the New York area. He is playing Silvana’s in Harlem on September 17th, a featured showcase at The Greenhouse Cafe in Brooklyn on September 21st, and has a gig at the Peekskill Coffee House on September 29th in Peekskill, New York. Then he plays on 30th he plays  Rock the Casba in Saugerties, New York.

 

Brooklyn native, Frederick Gubitosi, is a musician, artist, songwriter, and music journalist. Alumnus of Pratt Institute and Brooklyn College, the former teacher writes as an insider to world of music and the humanities. In the '90s he had two solo painting exhibits in NYC and was involved in a performance art group which merged live music, improv theater and multimedia. In 1995 he participated in Philadelphia's first performance of John Zorn's "Cobra" as a musician. In 2005 he wrote, directed, and created the musical score for his comic play, "Love, the Happy Disease." He now participates in events for Brooklyn's Creators Collective making improvised music for modern dancers.

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