“Heart of the City,” by Larry Chernicoff

gallery of air coverLarry Chernicoff’s 1984 album Gallery of Air has some really interesting sounds on it, but this one, “Heart of the City,” seems really modern and familiar to me. I acquired this record by chance in a big lot I bought several years ago. As it says on Chernicoff’s site, this one’s out of print, and unavailable on CD, but he’s selling the remaining vinyl copies for $12 a piece. A steal! I’ve even played this out at the bar from time to time.

Larry Chernicoff, “Heart of the City” from Gallery of Air (1984)

Again, I included this on the original Record Jumble disc I did a few years ago. Image is from his site. Glad to see he’s got quite a website out there.

2 Responses to ““Heart of the City,” by Larry Chernicoff”

  • I’m glad you like this track. I listened to it recently after not hearing it for quite a few years, and I liked it too, which isn’t always the case with my old compositions and performances!

    Heart of the City reflects what a lot of musicians were doing in the 1980′s. We were enamored of musical sounds from around the world, as well as the stunning appearance of minimalism (Steve Reich, etc.O We would set up repetitive elements and then write melodies over them. A lot of the jazz music you hear from those days is structured in that simple way.

    Heart of the City is more dense – it was inspired by the layering of repetitive lines that you hear in Indonesian Gamelan music, or similarly, in Steve Reich. The various little phrases interlock rhythmically in a nice way/. The piece is built like a pyramid with a flat top: each overdubbed rhythmic figure is added to the next one, until the dense structure is created. Then there are two solos, on synthesizer and vibraphone, and then the layers are subtracted until there is nothing left. It has a nice trance-like quality, but with enough detail to hold your interest.

    The synthesizer sounds we used are like museum pieces – very early in the development of synths, and very “80′s”. But they work. We recorded the piece without loops; in other words, each line that you hear – the piano, the synth lines, the bass, the drums – was played non-stop for the entire duration. Today people would play it for two bars and then cut and paste the repetitions in, and it would be “perfect”, with no rhythmic variation, no little errors, no humanity.

    Tom Schmidt and I played all the instruments We added a Beatles-like reversed cymbal at the end.

    Thanks for the nice review! It’s a surprise, 23 years after the record was released.

    I still have a few vinyl copies left. People can contact me through larrychernicoff.com.


  • Thanks, Larry for the thoughtful comment. It’s an honor to know you’ve found this site. If I’d imagined that you’d read this, I would have been much more effusive in my review… I truly love this album and am so happy that I lucked into acquiring it.

    It’s great that you mention the craftsmanship involved in creating a track like this in the pre-Pro-Tools days. One definitely gets a feel for the human “details” that emerge in the course of keeping this composition alive.

    Something I’m incredibly interested in is the places in music where, even in a world of cut-n-paste phases, an awareness of the person behind it all comes to the surface. As I post more tracks on this site, hopefully that idea will be at play quite a bit.

    Again, thanks for the comment. & please know that “Heart of the City” has rocked several crowds who showed up to hear less-crafty rhythmic music played very loud.

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