Palos Verdes drummer teams up with ‘Yes’ and ‘Moody Blues’ keyboardist on album
by Jonathan Polakoff
Drummer Greg Alban and keyboardist Patrick Moraz, longtime friends and “musical allies,” are preparing to release their joint magnum opus.
Alban, a financial advisor who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, and Moraz, a keyboardist who played in Yes and the Moody Blues, plan next month to release the “Moraz Alban Project,” or “MAP,” an album that takes listeners on a cosmic voyage through a progressive rock landscape full of drum and keyboard jams. (The album cover is a stylized map of the universe).
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The project began ten years ago when Moraz wrote music for Alban’s drums to accompany his keyboards. But the project took on new life as electric bass, tenor saxophone, slide electric sitar and other percussion was added to the mix.
“Originally it was going to be a project just for me. It was a way for me to express myself,” Alban said. “Then the CD kept expanding and expanding as we got other players on it.”
Those players include percussionist Lenny Castro, who has played with Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones, Elton John and others. Matt Malley, who was a bassist with the Counting Crows, plays slide electric sitar on a track. Saxophonist Dave Van Such and bass players Patrick Perrier and John Avila also contribute to the album.
The result is a technically complex nine-track instrumental album recorded at Total Access Recording Studios in Redondo Beach.
“You don’t normally write music around a keyboard and drums. Usually it’s written around vocals or guitar rhythms,” said Chuck Wilson, owner of Studio 637 in Hermosa Beach, where Alban and Moraz have taken promotional photos and videos for the album release. “It’s crazy stuff, man. It’s definitely unique, masterful music. It compares to the master composers – Mozart, Beethoven and such.”
The album is also the fruit of a decades-long friendship between Alban and Moraz, dating back to their first meeting in 1983 after one of Moraz’s shows at the Roxy Hotel on the Sunset Strip.
Moraz by that time was an accomplished keyboardist who took over from Rick Wakeman in Yes in the mid-1970s and then started playing with the Moody Blues in 1978. Alban at the time was the head of the band Ice that was playing the famously raucous and since-shuttered Red Onion restaurant in Marina Del Rey. Alban invited Moraz to his show, and Moraz was sufficiently impressed to offer Alban drum parts on his 1984 album “Time Code.”
“Patrick and I became very good friends and musical allies,” Alban said.
Some six years after “Time Code,” Alban pursued a career in finance, working his way up from an entry-level position to vice president while continuing to play music in his free time.
Alban’s recent gigs include a Las Vegas show with Denny Laine, a former member of Wings. He has also played gigs recently with Mike Pinera, a guitarist from Blues Image and Iron Butterfly. He’ll play at the Palos Verdes Music Festival in June with Jimbo Ross and the Bodacious Blues Band. He said it’s a balance that works for him.
“I do my day job just like I would normally, but instead of going to play golf or other activities, I work on this,” he said.
Alban and wife Hong Ying Alban frequently invite Moraz over to jam in their Rancho Palos Verdes living room, where Alban keeps his double kit of Ludwig silver sparkle drums and Moraz keeps his Kurzweil keyboard. The living space offers views of the Pacific Ocean and downtown Los Angeles.
“We can play full volume and we’ve never had a complaint,” Alban said.
Moraz lives in Florida and also spends time in his native Switzerland, but makes frequent trips to Los Angeles. Even when he’s travelling, Moraz has a constant presence at the Alban house in the form of a peacock that visits the house frequently that Alban named “Patrick.”
“Patrick may have fed him and now he comes around all the time,” Alban said.
Moraz was unavailable to speak for this story as he was in a remote area of Brazil.
When he returns, the duo will ramp up their marketing and promotions and set an official release date.