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Composer Finds His Patience Pays Off

February 22, 1989|RICK VANDERKNYFF | Times Staff Writer

For Anaheim composer Ric Flauding's "Refuge" album, the road to record-store shelves has taken more than a few twists and turns.

Flauding admits that the slow pace has been frustrating--more than 2 years between the time he started recording and the album's release last month. But he says it was worth the wait: "Refuge" seems to be taking off, getting regular airplay on 125 stations across the country, including jazz-oriented KKGO-FM (105.1) and new-age KWVE-FM (94.7) in Los Angeles.

It all started in late 1986, when Flauding, who also plays guitar and keyboards, and sound engineer John Fischer found themselves with time on their hands after losing their jobs at a video company that was scaling back its audio production department.

Between free-lance assignments, primarily scoring corporate videos and slide shows, the two began recording Flauding's compositions in Fischer's home studio in Stanton. They weren't thinking album at the time: Flauding hoped to sell the tunes to other musicians, and he shopped his demos to record companies.

He didn't get any bites, but by the end of 1987 he had put together eight songs. "I decided to put it out on my own," Flauding said, so he had 500 cassettes with black-and-white covers made up. Last March, he decided to take another stab at attracting record company interest--and ended up signing a three-album deal with Burbank-based Spindletop Records.

But the wait wasn't over. Several scheduled release dates for "Refuge" came and went, until finally the instrumental album hit the record stores on Jan. 1.

"I feel better now when people ask me what I've been doing for the last 2 years," said Fischer, 34, billed as co-producer on the album. "At least I have something to show for it."

For Flauding, 35, recording his own album after years as a work-for-hire composer was a liberating experience: "It certainly was a pleasure sitting down and not having someone looking over my shoulder and telling me what to do."

Flauding's eclectic musical background includes performing in garage and Top-40 bands, studying jazz and classical guitar (one of his teachers was jazz star Barney Kessel), composing chamber music, working as a staff arranger and orchestrator for the Crystal Cathedral, studying film scoring at UCLA and working for Yale Video in Anaheim, where he met Fischer.

On "Refuge," he plays synthesizer and guitar, with lots of help on saxophones from in-demand session player Brandon Fields and local musician Keith Felch. Flauding calls the mellow, all-instrumental album "pop jazz," but Billboard magazine labeled the album "new age" in a Jan. 28 review. The record has been getting air play on both jazz and new-age stations.

"I'm not a new-ager from a theological standpoint by any means," Flauding said. But, he added, "it suits me as a player." While jazz tends to emphasize the player, he said, new age puts the focus on the composer. "I'm not a monster keyboard player," said Flauding, who considers himself a composer first.

Although Flauding's musical interests are varied, the style of "Refuge" tends to reflect such favorite composers as Bob James, Dave Grusin and Bill Evans. "I would love to do a straight-ahead orchestral album," he said. But "if God stood before me and said I could do only one kind of music, this would be it. This is who I am."

Flauding has assembled a band and performs occasionally in Los Angeles jazz clubs. "I love performing," he said, but he is a family man now and doesn't relish the idea of going on the road. He has toured with bands before, and "it gets tiring." But he will hit the road if the record company asks: "I'll do whatever I need to do to promote the album."

Meanwhile, Flauding has written nine songs for the next album, and he and Fischer have started recording demos. "I've even thought about a couple of vocal cuts on the next album," Flauding said, emphasizing that he won't sing them himself.

And the duo hasn't ruled out doing more sound-track work. "I need to make a living. I have a family," Flauding said. But, he added, "I would say that I love doing albums more than anything."

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