Gurney's Inn
May 10, 2006

An Ear For Exploration

Independent / Lisa Cowley Mark Rios, Scot Gropper, Mark Yodice and Scott Tweedie, of Orient Point Sessions. (click for larger version)
Everyone leaves their ego at the door and pours themselves into what's happening at the moment," said organist Scot Gropper about the members of the new improvisational band, Orient Point Sessions. Its audience members are invited to do the same.

The band is the brainchild of trumpet player Scott Tweedie of Orient, and features Mark Yodice of Hampton Bays on electric guitar, Gropper of Wading River on organ and Moog bass, and Mark Rios, of Bay Shore, on drums. OPS will have its first "session" in public on Saturday at Eastenders Coffee House in Riverhead, beginning at 8 p.m.

Tweedie was listening to trumpet player Freddie Hubbard and the Mahavishnu Orchestra when he decided he wanted to assemble a group of talented musicians who would work well together and with whom he could explore his own trumpet playing. "I just wanted to broaden my horizons musically. I was inspired to find my voice on the trumpet. And I figured with these players, it would be a great way to do that," he said.

Miles Davis has also been a great influence. Tweedie was inspired by Davis's leadership and his ability to "assemble the best players that he knows for the projects that he had in mind." Tweedie chose Rios and Gropper for their "synergistic connection" and Yodice because he is a "phenomenal composer." Tweedie's horn puts the celestial topping on OPS's songs.

"One of the best things about OPS, is that they're great listeners," said Tweedie. "Everybody's got a lot of heart. They know when to build it up, they know when to bring it back down, and they know when to give everyone else space to speak. And there's also a lot of good interplay between the voicing of the melodies and the chordal structures."

The band has had only two sessions, in the living room of Tweedie's Orient home. They recorded originally on analog, and their first release will be a 45. "Most people record in the digital domain. I just like the sound of analog better. It gives you a certain warmth. You don't have to worry about computers crashing," he said. A 45 also helps share the music in a more "eclectic form" for record lovers. The two tracks, "Tides" and "Flying," are pieces of longer jams that Tweedie edited down, which later became favorites of the group.

He invites anyone to Eastenders who "wants to hear conversations with music. We have yet to play for anybody, so who knows what's going to happen when we play live."

Gropper first learned improvisation through traveling and seeing groups like Medeski Martin and Wood. "I was going to different places where concerts were happening and meeting people and seeing the different ways that people improvised music. My subconscious was being programmed at that point, and now years later, I'm fine-tuning what I like and what I want to bring to the table," he said. "I like minimalism, I like texture, I like open space. Sometimes the simplest things are the most intense." He's also influenced by Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman.

"I'll gladly play an organ anywhere. I love organs because of the way you can manipulate the tone to cater to exactly what you want to put into a song as far as texture," said Gropper, who plays a large Hammond organ for OPS. "The way it fits into this style of music, it's definitely appropriate for droning and coloring. It really gives a pillow or a bed to the jam."

"I did improvisation before I even heard of any jazz music. Although I was playing in a rock format, it was always improvised in the moment, so it lended itself toward jazz. Once I picked up on the jazz, I got the philosophical side of it down. Mentally I was aware of what I was doing," said Rios. He brings to the band an "openness, the ability to handle anything that's thrown at me and turn it into something positive."

About OPS, he said, "It all comes down to respect. We are concerned about the sound of the whole band instead of an individual."

He's looking forward to Saturday's gig. "I think people like the adventurous nature of an improvisation in a live setting more so than on a record because it's in the moment and you're all in the moment together, so it makes it more special," said Rios. "When I went to concerts, I always wanted to hear musicians cut loose and explore new territory. I think I'm not alone in feeling that way."

Yodice brings to the band a classical sensibility. "A lot of people have this vision of classical music as Baroque; you think of Bach or Beethoven. I have a fascination with very modern classical music like Ligeti or Bartok. It's really deeply rooted in musical anarchy in exploration. They were only following their own rules, a lot of chromaticism and a lot of color, very strong dynamics, and rhythmic interplay," said Yodice. "In some of those sessions that we did, it was a lot of trying to make different sounds work that typically might not blend together as well." He, along with Rios, also bring to the band African and Latin rhythms.

Primarily a solo acoustic guitar player, Yodice found it exciting to compose on the spot with three other musicians (two he didn't know), and to also experiment with electric guitar.

He added, "I've jammed with people where you just don't want to be there. As far as this project goes, Scott ended up getting four people who do connect on the right wavelength. Everyone shines through in different ways."

"The fact that we [were successful] the first time we were together, it was really an organic beginning," said Gropper. "I like the tunes a lot. It's like a birth. Babies are impressive because they're so amazing, but there's also so much more potential. We're right in the beginning, and we've already got such great stuff. I'm looking forward to what's to come."

Tweedie hopes that the 45 will be available at the band's Eastenders gig. Those wishing to order the record can contact him at PO Box 196, Orient, NY 11957, 323-9705, or OPS will also play at Strawberry Fields in Northport on May 20. For more information, visit The band is also on

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