Music: Marshall Styler
Formerly Fronting Duke Jupiter Rock Band, Now Marshall Styler Creates Soft Contemporary Instrumental Music
Since the beginning of the Nineties, pianist, synthesist and composer Marshall Styler has been quietly, but steadily building a large and loyal following of fans who enjoy gentle, melodic, impressionistic instrumental music.
The music on his latest album, A Face In The Clouds, as with his previous solo recordings, is inspired by both strong human emotions and the Central Texas scenery he finds endlessly fascinating.
The son of a fireman killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11 sees a face in the clouds and feels that his father is watching out for him from the heavens. A ballerina dances across a stream on a bridge in an autumn forest. Good friends and family, who have passed on, leave warm memories.
In the early morning a neighborhood wakes and the city begins to bustle with activity. An old German town in Central Texas is surrounded by orchards, vineyards and wildflowers. An old house on an abandoned road, the late-night rain on a city’s downtown warehouse district, and the view from the top of a dam that separates two picturesque lakes.
These are the varied feelings and imagery that inspired A Face In The Clouds, Styler’s new CD of contemporary instrumental music that is perfect for relaxation, healing, spiritual meditations, yoga, massage and other new age lifestyle activities. Styler’s CDs can be purchased at his website (marshallstyler.com), in many record stores and specialty shops across the United States, through major online outlets (amazon.com or cdbaby.com), and at many web digital download locations (including iTunes and Rhapsody).
Unlike many synth-players who are always searching for the very latest technology, Styler feels he creates a unique sound by using a combination of piano, modern digital keyboards and older classic analog-based synthesizers. “I love the warmth and feel that some of the early synths create, and some of those sounds are only available on that original equipment,” explains Styler.
After saying goodbye to a successful rock’n’roll career where he sold hundreds of thousands of albums and concert tickets with his band Duke Jupiter, Marshall Styler moved to the other end of the musical spectrum and began creating his best-selling soft solo recordings. While his earlier music was inspired first by traditional jazz and then by jam-bands and progressive-rock groups, his current instrumental albums owe a debt to his childhood love of classical music and more recent inspirational new age acts such as Andreas Vollenweider and Deep Forest.
Styler’s earliest musical memories include his grandfather playing ragtime (he was a piano player in vaudeville and movie houses) and his mother listening to classical music all the time when Marshall was growing up in his hometown of Rochester, New York.
“I gravitated toward the piano concertos by Beethoven, Bach and Mozart.” In grade school he played tuba and saxophone, but when he was 12, his father purchased a piano. Marshall took a few lessons, and also immediately began making up his own songs. He also was drawn to jazz Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Jimmy Smith, Erroll Garner and Thelonius Monk. Marshall put his first band together when he was 15 and on weekends they played at the high school or at a downtown coffee shop until 4 a.m.
When the musical “British Invasion” hit in the mid-Sixties, Styler bought an electric piano and switched to playing rock’n’roll. He formed Lincoln Zephyr in 1967, Rochester’s first psychedelic band, and they opened a concert for Jimi Hendrix. “We played a lot of original material that I wrote, did a lot of blues jamming and covered a few things by the Grateful Dead, Cream, Ray Charles and Steve Winwood.”
After a stint in Southern California, Styler headed back east to start the band Duke Jupiter which had strong major-label national success, but Marshall believes they were ultimately hampered by being too musically eclectic. They began as an instrumental band blending jazz and blues-rock, eventually added vocals, and often jammed improvisationally onstage. Throughout their career, Styler wrote approximately 80 percent of their material and shared the lead vocals.
Duke Jupiter got a major label deal with Mercury Records for their first three albums. The first recording, Sweet Cheeks, was produced by Chuck Leavell (who had played with the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones), and he steered the band in the direction of Southern Rock. Recorded in Macon, Georgia, at Capricorn Studios, the album included special guest percussionist Jaimoe (Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Charlie Daniels). For the second album, Taste The Night, the band re-explored its jazz roots a bit more, this time using famed producer Glen Kolotkin (Jimi Hendrix, Joan Jett, Santana, Electric Flag). Legendary guitarist Steve Katz (The Blues Project, Blood Sweat & Tears) produced the third project, Band in Blue. During these years Duke Jupiter toured with ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Seger and BB King.
The band switched to another top label, Epic/CBS, for the next two albums and enjoyed their biggest success with a more pop-rock sound. Produced by Kolotkin again, the album was titled Duke Jupiter 1 to signify that the band felt like they were starting over. A live version of “I’ll Drink To You” was filmed and the video aired repeatedly on MTV (Top 15 on their charts). The next year Duke Jupiter released You Make It Look Easy produced by Ashley Howe (Ted Nugent, Hawkwind, Uriah Heep).
Meanwhile the band was touring the country coast-to-coast with acts such as REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, David Bowie, Blue Oyster Cult and The Outlaws. In their hometown, Rochester, Duke Jupiter headlined in front of 25,000 fans. But as their popularity ascended, the band suffered hardship too. In the group’s first half-dozen years, two band-members died.
Duke Jupiter went on to sign with Motown Records’ rock’n’roll subsidiary Morocco Records and recorded two albums again produced by Kolotkin, White Knuckle Ride and The Line of Your Fire. Blending pop-rock with straight-ahead rock, Duke Jupiter continued to gain fans and sell well. They toured with Huey Lewis & The News and Toto. Finally, in the mid-Eighties, after a decade-and-a-half of non-stop recording and touring, the band called it quits. Their final album was a best-of collection, The Band Played On. However, they reunite every few years for special concerts, usually in the Rochester area. Information updates and CDs are available at their website: www.dukejupiter.com.
On his own musically after helming a hard-working rock band for so many years, Marshall moved to Texas and played with several Austin-area rock groups, but finally decided he wanted to try a different musical approach. He had recorded a demo of instrumental piano music a few years earlier and sent it as a valentine to his future wife Katherine. With her encouragement he decided to pursue that direction further. Katherine became his manager and he was soon performing in public on piano and synthesizers four or five nights a week. In 1990 he recorded his first solo album, Camden Road, which was only released regionally, but it opened the door for his full-fledged solo recording career.
In 1992 Styler began releasing an acclaimed, best-selling series of new age, emotion-filled, piano-and-synthesizer CDs beginning with his “Red River Trilogy” comprised of the albums Bluefields, Mockingbird Station and Red River Crossing, all containing musical impressions of the Hill Country of Central Texas. “Its scenery and people continuously inspire me,” he says. He continued to mine these themes in subsequent releases Jericho, The Twilight Concertos and the new A Face In The Clouds. Selections of his original music were joined with breath-taking photographic images by James Innes to create the Dreamaker DVD. Marshall’s only foray away from writing his own material came with Silent Night, containing his renditions of 14 traditional Christmas carols.
“I consider myself an impressionist,” Styler explains, “in the spirit of the French Impressionist painters Degas, Monet and Renoir. They worked with color and emotion, and have a powerful elegance, and those are qualities I strive for in my music.”
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