Not Afraid


Dancer was formed in 1982. I was working at Tower Records and had met Neal at the register. We’d hit it off and before long we were talking about putting a recording project together. He brought in Don and I brought in Jeff. Jeff and I worked together at Tower, Neal and Don had played together in previous bands.

We rehearsed for several months and recorded our first demo in an 8-track studio. We hadn’t thought about playing live, but the tape was good enough to get us some gigs around town, so we began playing in local clubs such as The Troubadour and Madam Wong’s.

We always had a sax player with us whenever we played live. Cynthia Kimoto (who played the solo on “Little Girl”) was with us our first year, and Jeff Dellisanti (who played on “Song of My Heart”) was with us after that.

I remember one night in particular when we were booked at a place called The Plant. To our surprise, it turned out to be a punk / new wave club, unlike the traditional rock clubs we were used to, and the crowd there made me a little nervous. I wasn’t sure how our music was going to go over with these folks—especially some of our more mellow tunes. But the show started off fine and we built up confidence as we went. When we got to the part in the show where we were supposed to do “You’ve Come To Me,” I hesitated for a moment.

Then I announced that we were about to play a jazz ballad. To amuse the band, I even said that it was written by Mel Torme and that it was a favorite of mine. As I talked, Neal began ad libbing jazz chords and I could feel the audience being drawn in. I told the crowd, “We’re not afraid to play it, and we hope you’re not afraid to like it.”

That show ended up being one of my favorites and as we walked off stage, Neal came over to me and said, “Good show, Pardo.” Coming from our resident man-of-few-words, it confirmed we’d been at our best.

With the words “not afraid” still on my mind, I decided to take the band back in to the studio. This time it wouldn’t be to record another demo, but to record the actual album ourselves. Though it’s common for artists to release their music independently nowadays, back then it was rare.

So with a little help from friends and family, I raised the cash to get us started. We spent almost two years recording but kept running out of money. I didn’t want to cut corners and was determined to make the best record we could possibly make. We got as far as mixing three of the songs, but by then I was completely tapped.

With nowhere else to turn, I had to place the project on hold indefinitely. Eventually, Neal came to me and told me that he wanted to start his own project, which didn’t surprise me, but you can imagine my disappointment.

We agreed to do one final show and I’m glad we did. That night, before we went on, I asked the guys to let me do a song without them and took the opportunity to sing “Dream,” which I’d just written and which included a verse just for them. Lots of loyal fans and friends were there and we went out with a bang. Still, in my heart, I would carry the hope of someday finishing what we’d started, for many years to come.

In late 2005, the company that I’d been working at for almost seven years approached me with a buy-out package. Though that company had been very good to me, I was very aware of the fact that I hadn’t written or recorded a song the entire time I was there. So after the initial shock of their offer, I realized that this was my chance—this was “someday.”

With the time and money that had dropped in my lap, I tracked down the Dancer tapes, renovated my home studio, and went to work.

Once I got going, I started adding keyboards, percussion, guest musicians… I could see that this was not just a sentimental journey, but an opportunity to complete a musical statement. I believed, as I did when we first started out, that this music could connect with people in a timeless way, in a classic way.

My feeling now is that I’ve done the best I could to make this dream a reality. As I write, the CD is being manufactured. I’ve played the new versions of our songs for Jeff, Neal, and Don, and they’ve given me their blessings.

As I told someone recently, my dream will not come true if and when we’re fortunate enough to receive some attention for this record, financial or otherwise. It will be when I hold that very first finished CD, right out of the box, in my hand. That’s when we will have accomplished what we set out to do all those years ago.