For the young Jimmy Crew, trips to the maternal grandparents’ home meant hours of exploring a vintage player piano. The numerous piano rolls featuring the music of Sousa, Foster, and others were enough to keep anyone interested, but removing the various panels, exposing the insides of the beast, was equally enthralling. An older cousin could sight read from the hymnal. She taught him “Heart and Soul” but made him promise not to play it. Eventually the parents ponied up for a piano of their own and lessons ensued with an old-school European conservatory-trained instructor. At the same time Jimmy joined the Raleigh Boy Choir, and a year later took up clarinet in the school band. Over the next twelve years a solid foundation was laid in classical music.
Records were scarce in the Crew household, but there were a few gems: Sgt. Pepper, Let It Be, The Jungle Book, The Sound of Music, The Clancy Brothers, and Chubby Checker received repeated play. (And the phonograph was disassembled and reassembled many times over.) By the end of high school, Jimmy (now Jim) began getting invitations to play with bands, and although he knew next to nothing about playing popular music, he was able to fake it well enough (and sing) to get asked back. Junky keyboards, drums, amps, and guitars were acquired, opened up, and put back together. Sometimes they worked. The drummer in one band showed Jim the blues scale and introduced him to 70s jazz fusion; classical music would never hold the same fascination.
At UNC-Chapel Hill Jim continued piano studies, and began the long and arduous transformation from a note-reading classical musician to an improvising jazzer. Graduate studies at the University of North Texas followed, and then the plunge into the real world as a working musician. There is nothing like playing music five days and nights a week in a local scene to hone one’s chops. Clubs, festivals, theater, dance classes, weddings, malls were the norm, and an arsenal of instruments by Moog, Hammond, Rhodes, and various keyboards de jour was amassed throughout the 80s and 90s. By the mid 90s technology enabled the mere mortal to make decent quality recordings at home, and Jim’s ongoing commitment to composing and arranging led to commissions for dance and theater. A roommate and friend from UNT (now in Hollywood) began asking for scores for film trailers. The Triangle Area of North Carolina, a hotbed for new technologies, birthed numerous computer game companies, and Jim found himself on the cutting edge of a new form of entertainment and artistic expression. From writing and producing music in his home studio to recording soundtracks with live orchestras in Los Angleles, San Francisco (Skywalker Sound), and Seattle, Jim has cobbled together a career that could not have been imagined when began his musical journey.
Nonetheless, the pure joy of creating music with living, breathing musicians has no equal. With Ecco La Musica, Jim has found like-minded collaborators with whom he plans to make music for many years to come. Long live live music!