“Released at Last” is a fitting title for Sebastopol resident Gary Weiner’s first album, which was released on May 27, his 70th birthday.
Sebastopol Center for the Arts will host Weiner with his full band in celebration of the release, on Saturday, June 1.
Why did Weiner, who’s been playing music most of his life, wait so long to put out an album?
“I waited because I never had the resources to do it,” he said. “When I was playing music full time, between age 27 to 30, you couldn’t record an album easily.”
Weiner, who makes his living as a mediator, has lived in Sonoma County on and off since 1973, splitting his time between Sebastopol and the Bay Area.
About five years ago, Weiner decided he wanted to get back into singing again.
“I figured, well, I’m going to be 70 in a couple of years. And I've always wanted to do an album. And I’ve got all these ideas now,” Weiner said.
He worked with three-time Grammy-nominated producer Warren Dennis Kahn at Banquet Studios to co-produce the album. Before they started recording, Kahn gave Weiner some advice.
“You got to get the cats. You got to get real players who are full professionals, who can come into a studio, and in an hour, give you beautiful, usable material,” Weiner said, quoting Kahn.
So that’s what he did. The album features a number of musicians, like guitarist Nina Gerber, bassist Kai Eckhart and pianist Frank Martin. Rising jazz artists Ab Menon, Chaco Amazé Peckham, Jesse Shantor, Libby Cuffie and Ricky Lomelli are also on the record.
Some of Weiner’s family members are on several songs as well, including his son Ben Weiner on drums and vocals, with Ben’s mother Julie Lester on backup vocals.
Weiner handles the lead vocals and also plays guitar.
The album consists of seven tracks, including Bob Dylan hits like “The Times They Are A’Changin’” and “Blowin’ In The Wind” and what Weiner considers his “signature” song, “I Shall Be Released.” Other melodies that are given a fresh spin include the jazz standard “Blue Moon,” the show tune “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the folk song “San Francisco Bay Blues.”
“Where We Both Belong” was written in 1976 by Weiner’s friend Larry Heiman, and Weiner dedicated the song to his father and mother, Albert and Phyllis Weiner.
Inside the album is a story about Weiner’s father, who had Parkinson’s disease. Two months before his father died at age 95, Weiner shared a video he made with pictures of his mother at age 15 that his father took when they met.
Weiner went to visit his parents to show them the video, and his father was in a wheelchair, so his mother couldn’t really sit next to him. Weiner used a laptop, told his mom to move next to his dad, and halfway into it, his dad’s hand began to tremble.
“He reached over, took my mother’s hand, put it in his lap and for the remainder of watching the video their hands were trembling together,” Weiner said.
Through the album recording process, Weiner said he learned a tremendous amount about what is doable. This included what he could do with his voice, things he had never tried before, and how to properly use a studio.
Weiner said the best part of all was his relationship with Kahn, moving from hiring him to be the co-producer to growing into a real friendship.
“Now we’re friends and we do stuff outside of the music thing. We have dinner; we go for walks and stuff. And that's been a really wonderful thing,” Weiner said.
There will be a release party for Weiner’s new album on Saturday, June 1, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Sebastopol Center for the Arts, 282 S. High St. Tickets for the event are $15 if purchased in advance, $20 on the day of the show, $10 for students or free for anyone age 10 or younger. For more information, visit sebarts.org.