Alex Frondelli recalled that his passion for music began when he was 2 years old and sat behind his father’s drum set for the first time.
“From there on, I was just obsessed,” Frondelli, now 22, said. “There was constant exposure to music around the house. It was a constant bombardment with music and I just enjoyed every minute of it.”
Frondelli took that enjoyment into the studio and recorded a five-track album, titled “Somewhere Else,” which was released in September and is now available on iTunes and at CD Baby. The album, which Frondelli described as an eclectic mixture of genres, including swinging bebop, classic rock and jazz, was recorded locally and mixed by his uncle Michael Frondelli, a record producer in California.
With the album out, the Alex Frondelli Quartet, which includes Alex on guitar and his college friends Sam Towse (piano) Jason Wastor (drums) and Mikey Migliore (bass), will open for renowned jazz bassist Ron Carter at the well-known Birdland Jazz Club in Manhattan on Oct. 25.
Artists such as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie have graced the stage at Birdland, and Frondelli said he felt honored and nervous to play the venue and open for a legend like Carter.
“Ron Carter is one of the best bass players of all time,” he said. “He’s on everything from the classic Miles Davis records to Sam Rivers to Jim Hall — just everything. So it’s kind of scary, the thought of opening up for him.”
Frondelli said his interest in music stemmed from his parents, Penny, a former Herald assistant photo editor, and John. He said his father played the drums and always had guitars lying around the house, which piqued his interest. He added that his mother was constantly listening to music around the house, including artists such as the Rolling Stones. Because his father was a drummer in a band, Frondelli said, he guided him when he first started playing drums, teaching him timing techniques and how to play with other people. “My dad’s guidance has always sort of been there,” he said.
After starting with drums, Frondelli shifted his focus to guitar. He recounted that his parents bought him a Squire bass to learn on, and then when he mastered that, he moved on to guitar. He said he mostly focused on classic rock, but eventually made a transition to playing jazz. His influences included guitarist John Scofield and the rock band Steely Dan.
While at Oceanside High School, Frondelli played drums in the marching band and guitar in the jazz band under the direction of Michael Vetter. Vetter, who has taught the concert, jazz and marching bands for 20 years at the school, said Frondelli was “excellent,” and lauded him for being one of 23 musicians across New York to earn All-State honors while at the school.
“He’s got wonderful ears and he’s doing wonderful things,” Vetter said. “I’m very proud of Alex.” Vetter noted that he planned on attending the quartet’s gig at Birdland.
After he graduated from Oceanside High in 2014, Frondelli attended SUNY Purchase, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in jazz performance. He now teaches private guitar and drum lessons at Sam Ash in Huntington.
He noted that his album’s title, “Somewhere Else,” derived from how he felt toward the end of his senior year of college. “I was really burned out, and man, the phrase that kept replaying in my mind was, ‘I really wish I was somewhere else,’” he said with a laugh.
One of the songs on the album, titled “For Robin,” is a tribute to Robin Williams. Frondelli said the comedian and actor’s death in 2014 was hard for him because Williams was a hero of his, and he would frequently turn to movies like “Mrs. Doubtfire” or “Goodwill Hunting” when he was sad and wanted to cheer up.
“When he died, I wrote that song and the melody is kind of playful, it’s kind of like Robin was,” he said. “The song gets kind of energetic and very animated, just like Robin was.”
With an album behind him and a special gig on the horizon, Frondelli said he is looking forward to playing more concerts with the quartet and eventually getting back into the studio to record some more original songs. “I think playing Birdland will open a lot of opportunities for us,” he said. “Playing Birdland is sort of a milestone for any musician.”