BOROUGHWIDE — Only a true Brooklynite knows the importance of pizza to our local culture. Musician Jeff Alexander has taken it to the next level.
The Brooklyn native and singer-songwriter has written an entire album that revolves around our local cuisine. His group the Brooklyn Pizzaiolos’ record, “Right Outta Da Oven,” features four songs that sing the praises of pizza without sounding cheesy, and is partially recorded. With help from a kickstarter campaign, Alexander hopes to finish the job.
Alexander likens a great pizza parlor to a sanctuary. His thesis is simple — “Music feeds your soul like pizza feeds your belly” — so the two work hand in hand.
“Pizza might’ve come here from Italy, but it got baptized and bar mitzvahed in Brooklyn,” Alexander said. And while he describes his songs as blues at their core, he prefers to call his music “Brooklyn soul.”
Alexander wrote and produced the four songs that comprise his new album with some stellar musicians, including Blues Hall of Fame inductee Arthur Neilson on guitar; drummer Eric Parker, who has written and recorded songs with Joe Cocker, Ian Hunter, John Hall and Orleans; organist Rob Clores, who has recorded with the Black Crowes, Tom Jones, Enrique Iglesias and Colin Hay of Men at Work; and renowned Brooklyn bass player Kenny Aaronson, who has toured with folk luminary Bob Dylan, and toured and recorded with iconic artists such as Billy Idol, Bonnie Raitt, Brian Setzer, Dave Edmunds, Sammy Hagar and Hall & Oates.
Additionally, Alexander was able to get music legend Maria Muldaur (whose long list of recording credits includes the classic “Midnight at the Oasis,” a song that reached No. 6 on the Billboard Chart in 1974) to sing on the album’s opening track, “Grab a Slice,” a catchy slice of Brooklyn blues that proclaims, “When I need a break I go home and roll the dice, I find my piece of pizza, and I just go and grab a slice.”
The album’s other three vocals are by soul, rhythm and blues singer La Rita Gaskins.
Alexander gathered his heavyweight group of musicians and recorded the album in Woodstock, New York. Being a musician has been his lifelong ambition. “When I was in my mid-teens, if people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d answer, ‘a songwriter.’ Not a singer-songwriter, but a songwriter,” he said.
As a boy, Alexander learned to play the piano and loved Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” because the song lyrics intrigued him. “To my young mind, there was an untold mystery between the verses and the chorus . . . why was the guitar player in the song named Johnny B. Goode, why did Chuck Berry write it and why was he singing it?” asked Alexander.
He produced his first recording, “School for Fools,” in 2002. The session featured Larry Thurston, a noted musician who had fronted the Blues Brothers Band and jazz pianist and songwriter Johnnie Johnson, acclaimed for his work with Chuck Berry on songs such as “School Days,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode.” Alexander also worked with actor and drummer Levon Helm, a member of the legendary group, the Band.
Now Alexander has a Kickstarter page to help raise the $4,000 needed to complete his album. He has already raised over half of it with about three weeks left. For a pledge of $5, people will receive a download of the four completed songs, including “Grab a Slice,” “Brooklyn Pizza Blues,” “Inner Pigeon” and “Grab a Slice NYC.” For a higher amount, donors can receive physical copies of the CD, posters, t-shirts and more.
“This record contains my love songs to pizza, but they’re also some of my love songs to Brooklyn, New York City, Brooklynites and New Yorkers. Hopefully my songs become part of Brooklyn’s and New York’s history, and part of pizza’s history,” he said.
For more information go to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brooklynpizzaiolos/the-brooklyn-pizzaiolos-i-believe-in-music-and-pizza.