from KEYBOARD MAGAZINE, July 2010: Review of Ed Alstrom, Gettin’ Organized! Ed Alstrom cooks up a tasty tonewheel storm on his latest release. Alstrom has performed with everyone from Herbie Hancock to Blood Sweat & Tears, and has been the weekend organist at Yankee Stadium since 2004. Trained exclusively as an organist (unlike many keyboardists), the New Jersey native navigates the mighty B-3 with an ease that belies its myriad possibilities. One listen to his hearty Hammond work on this grooving set, and you’ll understand what the buzz is all about (Haywire, edalstrom.com) - Jon Regen
from Green Arrow Radio.com: After one listen through, I have come to one conclusion thus far: HOTT!! And now after several listens and some radio airplay, this album is easily a mainstay in my programming as it enters and exits sets of all kinds of music with a fluidity that isn't easy to find. The album is very 'backyard on a summer's day' playful, and downright groovin' at times that you cannot help but shake the very things shakeable and sometimes breakable. There are many moods to the album within the grooves…Starting off with melodies rich in reflection and guitar licks (Charlie Jones) hotter than a Bar-B-Q pit, drum beats (Don Guinta) like a sidewinder snakes heartbeat, and there are some highly ORGANic dashes that are equal parts soul refreshing and body moving and at times making the blues feel a little happy. For me the style of "Booganova" is something I have loved for so long but never knew the word that went with the sound; in many moments on this album I am reminded that the reason I like musicians like Ed Alstrom is that they keep on re-defining the sounds I recognize pieces of, and turn them into a whole new thang. I believe this album has the power to do that for more people than me. - Walt Mister Gnu, www.greenarrowradio.com from the NEWARK STAR-LEDGER, May 21, 2010 by Zan Stewart
Ed Alstrom plays a romping-stomping-to-soulful brand of Hammond organ. Listen to his new “Gettin’ Organ*ized!” CD (Haywire) and you hear a fellow who gets all kinds of engaging sounds, who relishes digging into the blues and who likes melodies that make your foot tap.
A Paterson native and resident, Alstrom, 52, started organ around age 5. He’s played with many jazz, pop, funk and Broadway bands, and has a bachelor’s degree in classical organ from Westminster Choir College in Princeton (now part of Rider University). Of course, he’s big on his instrument.
“The Hammond is a remarkable instrument that can create sounds that nothing else can replicate,” says Alstrom, whose website is edalstrom.com. “Nothing’s ever been like it, nothing ever will be.”
Alstrom will present a CD-release party Friday at Trumpets in Montclair. He also plays New York Yankees weekend home games at Yankee Stadium, as he will May 29 to 30, when the Yanks host the Cleveland Indians.
Introduced to the organ by his father, who played recreationally, Alstrom calls himself a throwback to an earlier era: the 1940s-1960s, when names like Lenny Dee and Ethel Smith were pop organ royalty.
“Those organists used the whole instrument. Their aim was to replicate the sound of an orchestra,” says Alstrom, who lives with his wife of 24 years, Maxine — also a keyboardist and a teacher at the Academy of Performing Arts in Paterson — and their 16-year-old daughter. (Another daughter is a senior at the University of Scranton.)
“I love to go back and get the old sounds, sounds few people get now,” Alstrom says.
At Trumpets, Alstrom will team with his partners on the CD: guitarist Charlie Jones and drummer Don Guinta.
“These guys are not demure, they play with a lot of urgency,” says the organist.
On tap will be tunes off the album, which include nine of the leader’s originals.
“This is stuff that is accessible, where we can just cut loose and blow,” he says.
Among the numbers are the crisp blues shuffle, “Smoker’s Hack”; the old organ hit “Cumana,” which Alstrom calls “a flashy showoff piece with a lot of energy”; blues great Champion Jack Dupree’s “Out of My Name,” with a gravelly Alstrom vocal; and “Drop Dead Love,” a Jones “straight-up bebop tune.”
As for that prime part-time gig, Alstrom has been working weekends at Yankee Stadium for seven years; Paul Cartier is on during the week. Alstrom scored the post by successfully auditioning for Eddie Layton, the longtime Yanks organist who retired in 2003.
Aside from a brief pre-game set, where he might play a jazz tune like Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite,” Alstrom pretty much follows procedure.
He always plays a version of “Happy Birthday” after the sixth inning, and lays into “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.
Alstrom says his job, elsewhere, is basically to “pump the crowd up,” especially when the Bombers have men on base. He employs such favorite ditties as “Boom Boom,” which most of us know as “Charge,” and the first phrase of “Mexican Hat Dance.”
“I’m a lifelong Yankees fan, so this job is a dream come true,” he says.
Yankee Stadium organist from Montville starts second gig at Morristown church By Jeff Diamant/The Star-Ledger November 19, 2009, 7:00AM
For six years, Ed Alstrom has performed regularly for 50,000-plus as organist in one of the nation's highest-profile venues - Yankee Stadium, during weekend baseball games. Now, he's got a second gig where the crowds usually top out at about 200: the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown.
Ed Alstrom, the weekend organist at Yankee Stadium since 2004, has taken a job at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown.
New Jersey native and accomplished jazz musician, Alstrom, of Pine Brook, began his job at Redeemer on Nov. 1, a week after his organ music accompanied the Yankees' clinching victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Championship Series, and four days after he played for Game 1 of the World Series, when the Phillies beat the Yankees.
It's a rare mix of the ethereal and the hardball worlds but Alstrom said there aren't that many jobs for organists: You have to be flexible and you have to hustle, he says.
"I was looking, the church was looking, and we liked each other and we agreed on it," said Alstrom, 52, adding that he found the job posting on Craigslist in September. "I'm a freelancer who stockpiles work when and where I can get it, regardless of where it is. I'm fortunate in that I can do a lot of different things."
His Yankee Stadium experience dates to 2004, but his church experience is far deeper. He trained as a church organist at Westminster Choir College in Princeton and has more than 30 years of experience at churches across northern New Jersey - Upper Ridgewood Community Church, Holy Spirit Lutheran in Verona and, most recently, Presbyterian Church in West Caldwell. Alstrom said organ music has been magical to him most of his life. He recalls hearing the Yankee Stadium organ as a child in the late 1960s, when Eddie Layton, a legendary figure to frequent Yankee Stadium visitors, was just starting the job he would hold at the keyboard for most of the next 37 years, until he retired in 2003.
Alstrom auditioned for Layton in March 2004. "There was snow on the field, we were in parkas," he said. "I sat at the Yankee Stadium organ with Eddie Layton at the doorway requesting songs. He asked for 'New York, New York' and the national anthem and the Canadian national athem and 'Happy Birthday' and 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game.'" His favorite memory, he said, was playing the final game at the old Yankee Stadium, on Sept. 21, 2008. "I actually ... played 'Goodnight, Sweetheart,'" he said.
Alstrom says organ music at the Stadium may seem spontaneous but it is really tightly directed and scripted. "It's a regular production up there," he said. "I generally only play when the Yanks are batting, and it depends if there's a rally going."
The two jobs - and Altstrom's versatility - offer tantalizing possibilies. He can go from "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on a Saturday evening in the Bronx to playing church standards straight, such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and "There Shall a Star From Jacob" the next morning.
Alstrom has a new jazz organ CD being released next month, "Gettin' Organ-ized." It is his third, after "The Record People Are Coming" and "Acid Cabaret."
Asked if he's ever been tempted to break into jazz, Sinatra or baseball music during church services, he said, "I don't tend to genre-hop up there. I do some spiffy cords that dress things up harmonically, and they (members of Church of the Redeemer) may construe it as jazz, but it's not intended that way."
Terry Perkins, who was on the church search committee that selected Alstrom, said she was attracted to Alstrom's versatilty. "He does beautiful jazz and contemporary. He's got a very, very eclectic background," Perkins said. "He's a composer in his own right. He has a wealth of experience being an organist in churches, so he knows the drill, but he's also very accomplished with people."
Alstrom's hiring has sparked excitement on the listserv of the Newark Episcopal Diocese, where even the bishop, Mark Beckwith - a Boston Red Sox fan - has contributed, writing, "It is with great (and perhaps reluctant) charity that I (an ardent Red Sox fan) welcome the Yankees' organist, Ed Alstrom, into our diocese."
BACKSTAGE Center Stage, February 28, 2003
The 18th Annual Bistro Awards— And the Winner Is… By Sherry Eaker I can't think of a better way to kick off Cabaret Month than to announce the 2003 Back Stage Bistro Awards. And, to do that in this week's issue, where the cover story focuses on one of the key elements of cabaret singing: learning how to interpret the lyric and music of a song in order to make the song your own.
That's what a successful cabaret performer does, and you can be sure it was one of the main criteria that "Bistro Bits" columnists David Finkle and John Hoglund used when choosing this year's Bistro recipients. The two Back Stage critics covered a lot of cabaret stomping ground this year, and their decisions are based on their own club experiences and the Bistro Award guidelines, set up originally by Bob Harrington, Back Stage's first cabaret columnist, when he first began presenting the awards in 1985.
As I do every year, here's a rundown of the Bistro guidelines:
The Bistro Awards recognize achievement in a wide variety of categories—from outstanding performances to outstanding accomplishments and contributions by members of the cabaret community. They are by no means limited in nature. New categories can easily be drawn up each year as they best describe the recipients (new this year is Outstanding International Artists), and categories can be dropped as well.
The object is not to choose the "best" anything-of-the-year, but to recognize and congratulate the accomplishments of those who have done something special during the year—in this case, during 2002.
The Back Stage Bistro may recognize performers who are newly arrived on the scene (Outstanding Cabaret Debut); it may acknowledge a performer who has shown growth in his or her art during the past few years (this applies to a number of our awards this year, but especially to our newly established award—read on). It also recognizes those who have spent their entire careers dedicated to the art (our Bob Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award).
The Bistro is a one-time honor—in a single category. If previous winners weren't excluded from consideration each year, the awards would be glutted with their names—each winner would most likely have to be reconsidered annually because of the high quality of work he or she does. So, if you feel that a name has been omitted in a particular category when you're looking over the list of winners that follows, it's most likely because that person is a previous winner. On the other hand, if you see a performer's name and recognize that name as a former Bistro recipient, it's because that person previously received his or her award in a different category. There are 810 winners listed in our "Bistro Hall of Fame," not including this year's winners. (To see the Bistro Hall of Fame list, click here.)
So, without further ado, here are the winners of the 2003 Back Stage Bistro Awards for Outstanding Excellence in Cabaret:
... Singer/Songwriter/Instrumentalist: Ed Alstrom for "Acid Cabaret" at Don't Tell Mama and Danny's Skylight Room...
Winners of the 2003 Bistro Awards will be celebrated at a private black-tie party hosted by Back Stage.
Congratulations to you all! _____________________________________________
BARBARA & SCOTT SIEGEL on THEATERMANIA.COM: Acid Cabaret at Danny's showed off the bright and bluesy performance style of Ed Alstrom, who commands the stage from the piano bench. He's funny, charismatic, one of the flashiest pianists in town, and he possesses a mesmerizing voice that's one part gravel and one part port wine. The show was built around songs of Alstrom's own composition -- some of which are dark and dangerously funny -- plus other politically incorrect numbers. Alstrom is a scintillating entertainer.
TIME OUT NY Critics' Picks for the week of August 8-15, 2002 "Too Darn Hot? This singer-songwriter's got the coolest show in town, bringing jazz, bebop, and standards together in a savvy mix. You'll kick yourself if you miss this show."
VILLAGE VOICE says: "If this guy rises to the laid-back yet intense heights in person that he rises to with his new ACID CABARET CD, he will definintely be worth the time. With light voice and jazz-tinged playing, he delivers some of his own amusing compositions and does nifty things to songs like "This Nearly Was Mine" and "On The Street Where You Live" (David Finkle)
BACKSTAGE MAGAZINE, 'Bistro Bits', September 06, 2002 Three Not Yet Ready, But One's a Go by David Finkle
When Trent Armand Kendall moves to the beat, he looks like an undulating turtle. It's wonderful to watch, especially considering the resonant tones he's emitting. Taking a night off from "Into the Woods" duties, he was energy itself at the Duplex a month back throughout a rhythm-and-blues-oriented act that, with support from four musicians and four back-up singers, sounded at times as if it were about to burst the room's seams. Kendall is such an ingratiating performer that it was a jolt when he announced during his joyous proceedings, "This is not a cabaret. I'm not going to cure the world's problems doing show tunes."
What has cabaret done to deserve such a putdown? Perhaps the environ seems limited in scope at times, particularly to drop-bys who don't know the scene well enough to question dated perceptions. But cabaret today does more than routinely celebrate the Great American Songbook and shouldn't be advertised in ossified terms, particularly to audiences whom someone like Trent Armand (pronounced are-MAHND) Kendall attracts. These potential regulars should be informed immediately that Kendall fits into the broadening definition of "cabaret" as snugly as do Julie Wilson, Barbara Carroll, or Ed Ahlstrom (sic) (see below)...
An opened-armed welcome to Ed Ahlstrom, who has a round face, is attached to his flat black hat, and grinds out old and new songs with dynamite in his fingers and pebbles in his voice. Calling himself-and blank-expressioned co-conspirators Jeff Ganz on bass and Don Guinta on drums-Acid Cabaret, he signals that he means to singe the air when performing. As much a boite novice as Lynn Kearney, Ed Ahlstrom has backed enough famous spotlight grabbers to knock your neon socks off; he's played in bars, too. Luckily, he seems to have absorbed the basics, because fronting a cabaret group for the first time, he's surprisingly free. If he's not all the way there yet, the rest of the trip shouldn't be bumpy. Moreover, he's naturally funny. For instance, he jokes about having figured that in cabaret, "There aren't a lot of straight married men singing about women," and then does a series of bad-luck-with-the-ladies ditties. Whether his hunch is correct, he gets the laugh. But Ahlstrom's major selling point is he's a music man, both as singer and songwriter. He draws from everywhere, beginning with what would be unlikely in any contemporary program, Sir Arthur Sullivan's and W.S. Gilbert's "If You Give Me Your Attention." He got mine. I also liked how, although his isn't the purest voice around, he got to the emotional depths of "This Nearly Was Mine"(Oscar Hammerstein II/Richard Rodgers), then turned around and cut up on the self-penned "Stupid Day." Add Ahlstrom to the list, headed by Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg, and George Wurzbach, of guys who are absolute musts for anyoneinterested in the idiosyncratic, the creative and the just plain fun.
_____________________________________________ Genre-defying Acid Cabaret to celebrate first CD's debut Friday, June 07, 2002 BY JAY LUSTIG, Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger Staff
There's acid rock and acid jazz. But neither of them have much to do with Acid Cabaret, a trio whose repertoire includes everything from the "My Fair Lady" tune "On the Street Where You Live" to Mountain's classic-rock epic, "Theme From an Imaginary Western," and eccentric originals like the sardonic "Trapped in a Good Marriage" and the invective-filled "Stupid Day." The band's music is all over the place: New Orleans R&B, Chicago blues, rockabilly and mellow lounge jazz, all played so well the musicians could convince you that's all they do. The Acid Cabaret name isn't intended to define the group, but to let listeners know they're in for something that can't be easily summed up. "It's more interesting that way," says singer-songwriter-keyboardist Ed Alstrom."When people see or hear Acid Cabaret, they have some kind of instantaneous reaction. They develop their own mental image of what Acid Cabaret is. And I don't need to ruin that for them."
The group, also featuring bassist Sue Williams and drummer Don Guinta, has released a self-titled debut album on its Pine Brook-based record company, Haywire Productions (Alstrom's 1996 solo album, "The Record People Are Coming," is also on the label). Sunday's show at Trumpets in Montclair is a CD release party, as is the group's June 30 appearance at an actual cabaret, Judy's Chelsea Cabaret in New York. "I'm certainly going to give the cabaret circuit a whack," says Alstrom, adding that he'll offer a "slightly toned-down version of what we do" at cabaret shows. "We could go in and do a night of standards, and just keep the R&B and rock'n' roll out of the mix. "I think the cabaret acts themselves are getting more diverse. I hear those people covering a lot of '60s tunes, and sprinkling tunes by (jazz-blues eccentric) Mose Allison in there. So I think they're trying to broaden their scope as well, and maybe we can just plug right into there." A native of Ridgewood, Alstrom has done it all, backing Bette Midler, Herbie Hancock, Chuck Berry and Uncle Floyd; playing in wedding bands and bar bands during the week and as a church organiston Sunday, and performing in the Broadway revues, "Leader of the Pack" and "Smokey Joe's Cafe." He is keyboardist and musicaldirector at shows by the veteran R&B and rock'n' roll singer Darlene Love ("He's a Rebel"), and plays in the Jersey-based blues-rock group the Hudson River Rats.
Although he wrote all the original tunes on "Acid Cabaret" and sings lead throughout, he says it should not be considered a solo project. "I don't think I would have gotten us anywhere near where it is if it wasn't for the rhythm section," he says. "I'll come up with a tune I want to do, and they'll snatch it away and cook up something completely different from what I had in mind. And usually better than what I intended." He sees Acid Cabaret as "a permanent name for a continually evolving show." He cites the group's recent appearance at a festival in Montclair dedicated to the late jazz saxophonist John Coltrane. "We decided to put together a set of all types of Coltrane-related music, and stick to that. Not only his tunes, but tunes written by his associates, standards he covered, tributes to him by other guys. I'd like to have more opportunities to do that kind of thing, because it broadens our scope even more."
SHOW BUSINESS WEEKLY - September 6, 2002 The Ed Alstrom Trio - Acid Cabaret At Don't Tell Mama Review by David Hurst
Ed Alstrom and his accomplished jazz trio - Jeff Ganz on bass and Don Guinta on drums - brought their Acid Cabaret show to Don't Tell Mama a few weeks ago for a short run to promote their new CD of the same name, and it proved a highly enjoyable evening.
Alstrom, a veteran pianist/singer/songwriter, has a distinctive voice that is equal parts Joe Jackson, Joe Cocker and Randy Newman. Although the balance seemed problematic the night I attended (I prefer more piano and less drums), and Alstrom had to contend with a microphone stand that had a mind of its own, the Trio's style came shining through with crisp playing and cohesive musicianship. Their set covered a wide range of genres including composers as disparate as Gilbert & Sullivan, Billy Joel, Rodgers & Hart and a healthy dose of Alstrom's own material, which ran the gamut from pop to blues to ballads and story-songs.
I liked Alstrom's charts and admired his clever use of word play in many of his original tunes. Anyone who rhymes "decorum" and "forum" as he does in "Stupid Day" gets my attention, and his arrangement of "This Nearly Was Mine" was startling in its originality and execution. Additionally, Alstrom's technical playing is superb. If you're looking for something fresh and new, Acid Cabaret could easily be for you.