In the last few years, Alexandra Gerhard-García has established a loyal following in Germany, performing innovative percussion both in her own efforts and with her band, the Garcia Orchestra. Although her music mostly tends toward jazz, it is infused with the Latin influences of her heritage, as well as with strong rock and funk undertones to create a sound that is uniquely hers.
Alexandra Gerhard-García was born in Cologne, Germany. She grew up in Cologne, but she was strongly influenced by the sounds of Venezuela, the country of her mother's birth. Music was a part of Gerhard-García's life from the beginning. Her father, Wolfgang Gerhard, is a successful music producer and guitarist who made a name for himself playing flamenco guitar in the 1980s. He is perhaps best known for his "Jazz Meets Flamenco" release, which he recorded with noted saxophone player Heiner Wiberny. The album was nominated for the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis (German Record Award) for jazz.
Gerhard-García played music throughout her childhood. At first she focused on the guitar, her father's instrument of choice, and also learned to play the piano. But it was the drums that inspired the budding musician most, and starting with a small drum set constructed especially for children, Gerhard-García began to spend more and more time in the recording studio her father had built in the basement of their house. As musicians came and went on recording sessions, she paid special attention to the drummers, experimenting with making sounds on their drums. By the time she was 12 or 13 years old, Gerhard-García began to take drumming lessons, studying with a teacher who was primarily a piano player, not a drummer. But it was enough to start Gerhard-García on the path she was to follow as an adult.
In spite of her passion for music, Gerhard-García planned to become a doctor most of the way through her college education. Then, with a year to go before graduation, she found that she could no longer ignore the pull that music had exerted on her throughout her early years. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Gerhard-García went on to study musicology at the University of Cologne. The program proved too academic for her, however, and she realized she needed a more hands-on approach to music and the music business. Accordingly, she spend her free time performing, singing in a choir, and playing her drums.
Gerhard-García's drumming career suffered a setback in 1997 when she was involved in a motorcycle accident. "After that," she said, "my life changed." Several ligaments in one shoulder were torn, preventing her from playing the drums. Rehabilitation involved starting over, retraining herself to play, step by painful step. But it put her priorities in focus; academia, she realized definitively, was not for her. She left the university and enrolled in classes at the Drummers Institute in Düsseldorf, Germany. After several months of training there, she moved to New York City, where she continued her training at the Drummers Collective.
Only a year after her accident, in 1998, Gerhard-García released her first album, "Eternal". Released on the Canastero label, the album features Gerhard-García on eight tracks of Latin-inspired jazz. Unusual for any album, the release features the drummer, Gerhard-García, as the main attraction. The work also distinguishes itself in the broad range of musical styles it encompasses. The Latin-inspired "Pandara" lays down an infectious dance beat accompanied by smoky vocals and acoustic guitar. The pop feeling of "Pandara" is offset by the all-out flamenco-styled "Carmen (Bulerias)," complete with the rapid percussion of a dancer's feet. This cut also features Gerhard-García in a drum solo that "All Music Guide's" Larry Belanger termed "impressive. "Escape from Oakland" is pure jazz, while "Infected" combines electric guitar and virtuosic drumming to create a hard rock sound. The well-rounded album finishes with a unique rendition of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" sung with only Gerhard-García's drumming for accompaniment. Belanger called this last track "an ace performance that deserves international attention for originality in a contagious and charismatic style seldom found on a recorded piece."
"Eternal" also drew praise from "Drum!" magazine, which featured Gerhard-García in its "New Blood" column, saying that she "ornaments every transition with blistering single-stroke rolls and ghost-notes." Further, said "Drum!", "She's a contender."
By 2000 Gerhard-García had formed a band, called the Garcia Orchestra. Featured musicians are Jost Edelhoff on electric guitar, Andrey Muratov on keyboards, Achim Schröter on saxophone, and Christoph Wolff on electric bass. Edelhoff was well known to German-speaking jazz aficionados for his popular series of articles in the German-language magazine "Gitarre & Bass." Muratov, an emigre from Russia, studied piano at Leningrad's (now St. Petersburg) music conservatory before moving to Germany, where he met Gerhard-García when they played gigs together with other bands. Schröter and Wolff have both been accomplished musicians for many years, each playing a wide range of styles, from classical to big band to rock, and their styles lend themselves perfectly to Gerhard-García's eclectic sensibilities.
In 2000 Gerhard-García and her band went to work on an album called "Crossroads", which features a vibrant jazz and rock fusion sound with Latin and funk influences. Unlike on "Eternal", Gerhard-García composed all of the music for this album. Particularly striking is the track "Kwaheri (Farewell)," a purely percussive piece that showcases Gerhard-García at her best. "Tears" features mournful lead vocals from Christina Meller with Gerhard-García on backup vocals. The opening track, "Deep Blue," features as its centerpiece a guitar and saxophone duet."Crossroads" was released in 2001 under the name of Gerhard-García's band, the Garcia Orchestra, on the Canastero label.
In addition to its studio work, the Garcia Orchestra has played regularly in jazz festivals, including the 12th Jazznacht Huerth, Jazz Rally Düsseldorf, the Hessenjazz-Festival Idstein, and the Buergertreff Ingolstadt, which has also featured such notable performers as Bill Evans, Billy Cobham, and the Yellowjackets.Besides playing drums and composing music, Gerhard-García gave private drumming lessons and in addition to playing in her own band, she has also sat in with the Rodrigo Tobar band and with La Fiesta, Maipu, Alex Oriental Experience, and many other bands.
The last years, although still being active in the music business, Gerhard-García decided to start a second career as a medical doctor. She completed her education in June 2012 at "University of Cologne" and received her doctor´s degree in November 2012 by defending her thesis entitled "Untersuchung von Umbauvorgängen der Extrazellularmatrix in der Reperfusionsphase nach akuter Myokardischämie". She is currently doing her residency in Internal Medicine, specializing into cardiology. At the same time, Gerhard-García is currently in pre-production for her next album which title will be "Vital Signs" as well as composing music for TV and film productions.
- Source: Michael Belfiore, Contemporary Musicians, © 2006 Gale Cengage
- Additional information by Dr. med. Alexandra Gerhard-García, M.D.