"It was really cool, like completing a circle," says Adam Revell of the first time he realized he already knew Stephen Thurston, a fellow keyboardist he'd begun to collaborate with.
Years earlier, Thurston had taken piano lessons from Revell, formerly of the funk/jam colossus The Motet. Revell didn't remember Thurston at first, but he knew their styles gelled.
"Sometimes It's really dynamic between the two of us," says Revell. "Maybe because I was his teacher, I don't know."
Last year the pair formed Outer Reaches, a progressive synth trio with a revolving cast of drummers and began playing around the Denver and Boulder music scenes. It's yet another piece of Revell's already eclectic career that has spanned several decades and genres.
Revell started playing piano as a child nearly 35 years ago. He was classically trained and studied piano performance at The University Of Colorado at Boulder, receiving first his bachelors then masters under the tutelage of hardbop jazz pianist John "Chip" Stephens and Pat Bianchi, who Downbeat Magazine named one of the ten best jazz organists in 2010.
Revell played with the Motet from 2005 to 2008 and was the keys player in John Common and Blinding Flashes of Light in 2009 and 2010. That same year he released his first album, Triple Leaf. He also teaches piano at all levels and is even the pianist for the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden. "I'm the kind of person that likes to take all opportunities," says Revell. "If I can I will, just to see if I like it.
Revell says the Unitarian Church is a good fit for him. "It doesn't rub me the wrong way like a Christian church could," he says. "It's spiritual and I get to be as creative as I want. I could do that anywhere I guess but having a grand piano and a room full of people listening is great."
Part of what drives musicians like Revell to try different things, he says, is the nature of Denver's music scene. Gone are the days when a band could hold court at one venue for an extended stay. "A decade ago you could get a gig at a club for a week," says Revell. "No clubs have a band for more than one night. There's just too much music."
Revell would love to see Outer Reaches play a bigger role in this already cramped scene. He says the loose nature of the band is a big part of what makes the music fun to hear and to play.
"I've always loved electronic music," he says. "I always liked Depeche Mode and Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb and all the '80s electronica."
As a keyboardist, he says, the range of sounds possible in electronic music appealed to him. "With synth you are picking the sound you'll use. The range is huge," says Revell.
The music, though sometimes bizarre in comparison to more classical forms, isn't entirely removed from what Revell and Thurston studied early in their careers. A lot of what the pair produces, he says, is influenced by jazz and gospel, but with perhaps less improvisation. The good news is the two seem to operate on a common wavelength.
"I don't have to tell him what I'm doing," says Revell. "It's got improv as part but if we just did that it would fall apart. So we'll co-write together or one of us will bring a melody and we'll start with that as a skeleton of a song. Whoever is playing the bass part is the one who guides the harmony."
On the other end of the spectrum is Revell's work with Colorado-born Nina Storey. The LA-based singer/songwriter writes all her own music and is particular about how it gets played.
"Every song is charted out to the note so we know exactly what is going on," says Revell, "which means you're working more on fine-tuning details."
Still, Storey is good about letting the groove of a song take over when it happens naturally. "People will get to solo," says Revell. "She's good at improvising. Whenever you get a singer who can do that, you let them."
After the September shows with Storey, Revell says he wants to focus on getting Outer Reaches more gigs in the area and continue taking his various projects in new directions.
"I think I'm just the kind of person that likes to try new things," says Revell. "And I haven't had a project that lasted long enough to keep me busy. I haven't really had a long career yet so I'm sure I'll settle into something."
Adam Revell plays with Nina Storey, Sept. 5 and 6, at Nissi's in Lafayette.
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