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UND English Professor Steven Rand started his band Penumbra, a fusion of jazz and folk, a little over twenty years ago and has been playing with various members ever since. Penumbra is defined as "the glow around an eclipse" giving Steven's band name extra meaning. "This world can be a a dark place," Steven said. "Music is the light around the darkness." Check out Penumbra next week during the Backstage Project at Empire Arts July 24, 2014. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)

Musician’s love of jazz highlighted on new album

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Musician’s love of jazz highlighted on new album
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The images and sound are still vivid in Steven Rand’s mind.

He can still see and hear that time his dad took him to go see a Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66 concert in Long Island. From then on, he was hooked on jazz.

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By day, Rand is a senior lecturer in the arts and sciences department at UND. By night, he is the front man for Penumbra — a band that recently released a CD titled “Hooked Like a Fish in Rio.”

The two-track disc is heavily influenced by jazz and dedicated to Rand’s father, who he said “started my journey on the road to jazz appreciation.”

Changing musical tastes

This CD is the third set of compositions released by Penumbra. The group previously released an album, “Black Dog at Night,” and the single “Snow Blowin’ Blues.”

Thematically, Rand said, “Hooked Like a Fish in Rio” is different from the other releases. He said as he’s gotten older, his musical tastes and playing has improved and honed.

Since he last released an album, Rand said his musical tastes have gravitated more toward jazz, and that helped move the new CD in a new direction.

Rand said jazz has always played a big part in his life, and has impacted the type of music he’s drawn to.

 “I think in many ways this is a culmination in the evolution of my musical ability,” Rand said.

The title track takes the listener to the concert that got Rand hooked on jazz. Rand said looking back on this moment took more maturity than he had previously had in his music.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to come back and reflect in that way when I was in my 20s or 30s.”

Rand said he has played more rock and less jazzy stuff when he works solo. He said now that it’s natural, he has recently gravitated more toward jazz because a lot of other artists have moved in that direction later in their musical careers.

“When you listen to musicians who’ve been around for a long time, even the rock ones, they tend to gravitate toward jazz. I think it’s a growth, an evolution.”

Penumbra’s forming

Rand is joined on the album by his long-time musical companion, Jeff Anvinson.

Anvinson is a former lecturer at UND, as well as a freelance music critic. Rand said he and Anvinson work well together.

The two have collaborated for more than 30 years; the two first met when Rand started taking classical guitar classes at UND. Anvinson was the guitar teacher.

Since then, the two have formed the foundation of Penumbra, with Rand providing most of the lyrics and Anvinson helping to write and enrich the music.

Penumbra’s newest album was recorded in Anvinson’s basement recording studio. Rand said that while the recording process can be tedious and meticulous, it is also fun to work in collaboration with others.

“I kind of defer to Jeff when we talk about musicality when it comes to what notes and what kind of intervals,” Rand said. “He defers to me in terms of overall feel for the music and he defers to my ear.”

When Rand plays shows, he’s often joined by Ron Franz and Steve Augustin. The three of them will perform July 24 at the Empire Theater’s Backstage Project.

“It’s always fun to play. There’s something about playing music with your friends that’s just fulfilling and fun. Music is supposed to be shared. If you’re just sitting in your basement playing, it’s still fun. But you’re not able to share it.”

Penumbra’s new CD, “Hooked Like a Fish in Rio,” is available at various places around Grand Forks, including UND Bookstore and Hugo’s, and on iTunes.

Call Rupard at (701) 780-1122; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or send email to wrupard@gfherald.com

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Wade Rupard
Wade Rupard is a features reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 
(701) 780-1122
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