Late 2016 and early 2017 brought about some changes in the Violet Mary lineup. With the departure of our longtime friend and multi-instrumentalist, Scott Cranfill at the end of the 2016 season, the band was venturing into uncharted territories. With the news that bass player, composer, and producer Martin Dorren would also be stepping down, we had some serious shoes to fill.
We are pleased to announce that we have added two new members to the Violet Mary family. Jason Tortorici will be joining us on guitar, backing vocals, obscure movie quotes, drinking fine scotch, and male pattern baldness. Jason has played with bands and in pit orchestras in the Rochester area for many years. He and Joe (drums) used to play together in a band called Honey Pollution with some friends from other projects. Jason studied music at Nazareth College and his skill set is vast and a great addition to the band.
Rounding out the low end is Brennan Terry on bass, whose other contributions include being Irish, owning too many bass guitars, and appreciating craft beer. Brennan hails from the Binghamton area. He moved to Rochester to work for Kodak (who knew people still moved here for that?). He's made quite the splash in the local music scene, playing with bands like That Party Band, Tombstone Hands, and the Maroon 5 Tribute Band. Brennan has played most stringed instruments, including the heart strings of women near and far.
We're excited to get back at it and debut the new lineup. In the meantime, we're working on a new record that should be available this spring. Please join us for the first show featuring the new crew on March 3rd at Flour City Station. We'll be opening for our friends from Boston, the Adam Ezra Group! Check out the event on Facebook or click here for more details!
Throughout my musical career, I've had the privilege of meeting people from all over the world, people from different walks of life, and people who have their own unique perspectives and experiences. I've been fortunate to play music with many people, and even more fortunate to form life-long bonds and friendships with some of them. It's a very rare occurrence when someone comes into my life and permanently changes the way I interact with music, the way I share and talk about ideas, and the way I think about what is and is not important with regard to making, recording, and performing music. Nearly three years ago, I was in the right place at the right time. I was lucky enough to be asked to audition for Violet Mary, a band I'd always admired and secretly wanted to be a part of. It was then that Martin Dorren (I call him Marty) came into my life and completely changed it for the better. I remember being a little intimidated at first because I could tell how serious he was about his craft and how important it was for him to find the right person to take over behind the drum set and complete the rhythm section. I knew the previous drummer, and let's just say I had some big shoes to fill. After an audition and some conversation with the band, my fate was in their hands. A couple days later, I got the call. I was in! We started working on the band's extensive catalog of songs, dating back to 2008. At the same time, we were recording a new record that ended up being a double disc with 14 songs! It was no small task and we sure had our hands full. As I got to know Marty, I was humbled by his musicianship, but more importantly, by who he was as a person. Marty's approach to music is an art in and of itself. He knew the notes to play, the notes to hold back, and the story to tell to take the audience on a journey they would not soon forget. Marty quickly became a friend, a mentor, and the person I call to talk about the ups and downs of life over coffee and breakfast at IHOP. He even became my Spiritual Advisor during my bid for the Presidency of the United States. His graciousness, generosity, and willingness to lend an ear and reach out a hand is second to none. His guidance was invaluable to Violet Mary's progress. He filled many roles within the band. Marty is a songwriter, a lyricist, a producer, a composer, a bass player, a vocal coach, a storyteller, an advocate, an arranger, a confidant, and a friend. His wisdom, his unadulterated approach to his art, and his truly unique ability to tell a story with a song without ever saying a word has forever changed the way I look at music and at friendship. A couple weeks ago, Marty informed me and the rest of the band that he would be leaving Violet Mary. The four of us sat around the table and talked, and our conversation ended in hugs and well wishes. I've spent the last three years learning, growing, finding inspiration, and processing my thoughts and feelings with Marty. I've already felt his absence, but I feel gratitude more than anything else for everything that Marty has shown me as a musician and as a person, and I'm thankful that our friendship will endure. I can confidently speak for all the remaining members of Violet Mary when I say we love Marty and we will miss his contributions to our deep rock pockets.
We knew about this evening back in April. I believe that most of us just put it out of our minds as something that was well off in the distance, like storm clouds that you can barely see on the horizon. The nature of things has a way of ignoring our willful ignorance and stubbornly presses forward its agenda. And, tonight, we have to acknowledge it, feel it, and embrace it. Tonight is Scott Cranfill's last formal rehearsal with the band.
Scott joined Violet Mary soon after her inception and has been with the band since the first record. Ole-time Violerariat members will notice his credits on every record in the catalog. Cranfill played a vital role musically as the compliment to my sometimes overbearing presence. He always found the part that needed to played in a live performance to provide the audience with an experience equal to the record. His playing is subtle and tasteful, "without ego" as Marty would say.
Scott's talents are not limited to the musical. He was always my first call and my first "sure!" whenever VM needed a behind-the-scenes element tackled. Scott was kind enough to cover my ass whenever I needed help with financial matters, taxes, official minutes or records... all of the things that I am not good at. Cranfill also designed the album layouts, websites, and font choices for most of the Violet Mary catalog. He will continue in the front office of Violet Mary in a limited capacity, designing album layouts and offering advise and perspective.
Now, there have been some rumors floating around the Interwebs, Facechat, and other social media venues. I would like to speak to those rumors so as to set the record straight.
1. "Cranfill meets with President-Elect" - New York Times
I received texts about this on Sunday morning, only hours after the Ugandan Water Project Fundraiser, "Two Tanks: Tonight!". While it is true that Cranfill has code-word clearance and and is a trusted member of the US government, he was not approached by the Trump Transition Team. Cranfill received several DMs on twitter during Saturday's event, though... none of which he responded to.
2. "Cranfill: An advocate against growing heightist social movement" - Washington Free Beacon
Twitter bots reposted this headline all day on sunday. Violet Mary acknowledges Scott Cranfill's incredible stature and irregular ability to hang banners and change lightbulbs. The organization also denies the validity of heightist rhetoric and, thusly, has no response to these claims.
3. "Latest Mars Mission Team adds new member" - Trekkie Times
Violet Mary can not confirm or deny Scott Cranfill's involvement in a mission to Mars, biped robotics or orbital AI. Any mention of such topics has been redacted from weekly rehearal audio and knowledge of such conversations has been stricken from official records. Cranfill who?
4. "Gettysburg II to begin shooting in 2017" - E. Online
J.J. Abrams is reported to have cast Cranfill in the lead roll of President Lincoln in his 2018 historical epic "Gettysburg II: Lee's Revenge". While discredited by most historians as a "Antibellum fantasy film", GII has attracted hollywood favorite Jackie Chan as General Bruce Lee and Christopher Walken as Colonal Angus, the selfless soldier who risked his life at the Battle of Shady Thicket. Some critiques feel the Cranfill has been typecast and that his acting potential is stiffled by his uncanny likeness to the 16th President. We'll let the box office make that call.
5. "Cranfill the Playa" - Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone suggested that Cranfill found an younger, prettier band to spend his nights with. Violet Mary wants to assure her audience; ain't no one as young and pretty as Violet Mary! Damn, son.
In all seriousness, we don't want to say it outloud because giving words to it makes it real. While Cranfill remains a part of the organization, he will be missed on stage and in rehearsals. We will miss his grounded, ego-less, team-minded focus. I will miss his ability to call me on my B.S. and to focus me on the important things. And, even when we disagreed, I knew we were always on the same team and rowing in the same direction. On behalf of all the members of Violet Mary, we wish Cranfill the greatest success and fulfillment in his next adventure and are thankful he will not be far away.
Mike for Violet Mary
ps. Join us on Thursday, December 8th at Abiline to toast Cranfill!