Who needs a band when you have software?

Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y., Friday, February 2, 1996
By Jeff Spivak, Staff Music Critic

Al Biles has created the perfect backing band: one that doesn’t drink, smoke or whine about long bus rides to the gig.

Introducing the Al Biles Virtual Quintet: Biles solos on trumpet and flugelhorn as he’s accompanied by tenor sax, acoustic piano, bass, drums, vibes, marimba, French horn and synthesizers, all performed by a piece of computer software he created called GenJam.

Biles, a jazz musician and information technology teacher at Rochester Institute of Technology, celebrates the release of his first CD, also called GenJam, in a concert Sunday. A veteran of Kansas City-area jam sessions before he moved here, he has performed with his GenJam box at Media Play, the George Eastman House, Eagle Vale and on WXXI.

He has included one of his own pieces on the album, an island-flavored, syncopated ramble called Analog Blues. Compositions such as Wayne Shorter’s Speak No Evil, Black Nile and Yes and No, McCoy Tyner’s Song for My Lady and Horace Silver’s Barbara help round out the nearly 60-minute disc.

GenJam generates these straight-ahead jazz, Latin, funk and new-age sounds — the program includes room for improvisation. And listening to the relaxed vibes on the album, you’d never suspect that most of the sounds were not being created by live musicians.

“GenJam, as expected, needed no second takes,” Biles writes of the recording of the project on the Virtual Quintet CD booklet. “I, on the other hand, …”

Hear for yourself when Biles and GenJam team up from 3 to 7 p.m. at Dynamic Recording Studios, 2844 Dewey Ave., Greece. Admission is free, and there will be refreshments (computer chips, we assume).

Back to Press Coverage