My name is Alan Oehler, and I’m a jazz/rock/blues guitarist and an off-and-on composer. I like to fiddle around with sound design and I occasionally dream about getting into music and sound for visual media. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
My compositional efforts, when they happen, are usually born from one of these motivations:
- As an improvising guitar player, I always like thinking up vehicles for improvisation.
- I have a strong interest in writing music for visual media — film, video, dance, etc.
I was born and raised on Long Island, in Hicksville, a suburb of New York City. I started playing guitar in my mid-teens, inspired most notably by the playing of Eric Clapton in Cream. After a couple of years of this, I started playing in some groups in New York, first at SUNY New Paltz (in the Hudson River Valley, west of Poughkeepsie), and later back on Long Island. I moved to the West Coast not long after, and played in a band or two in San Francisco before I decided I needed to “get serious” about life. I went back to school and ceased feeding my musical goals. But starve it though I did, somehow my musical self never died, and somehow I even improved as a guitar player in spite of (or maybe because of?) cutting back playing and practicing to almost nil.
During the years since, I have been mostly an armchair musician, working on writing and recording as a hobby, first with a cassette portastudio, later with computers and MIDI instruments. In the early nineties, as one-half of the duo Kurt and Al, I released a cassette tape of originals and a couple of covers in collaboration with Kurt Kaupanger. (Recently we’ve been talking about doing another Kurt and Al project – stay tuned)
In the mid-aughts I performed sporadically: as a soloist; as an accompanist to vocalists Carol Emerson, Bonnie Thomas, Janna Osborne, and saxophonist Bob Olson; occasionally filling in with Jason Davis’ Jazz Pirates quartet in Alameda.
In 2006 I began frequenting some of the local blues jams. I’ve dialed that back a bit over the last couple of years, but I try to make it out to the coast for Stan Erhart’s Sunday night jam at the American Legion in Princeton as often as I can.
Health issues in 2007 and 2008 sideswiped and derailed me for a time.
In spring of 2009 I joined the rock/soul band SNUG. In the years since, in addition to SNUG gigs, I performed once in a while as part of a pick-up jazz combo at a restaurant in Foster City and a few solo appearances at parties, and played for a brief while in the “classic rock” cover band Tehya in 2016.
In late 2016 I started a duo with vocalist Sharon Lea, which became a trio in the spring of 2017 with the addition of bassist Jeff Moles. In 2017 I also started playing with the Scott Goldstone Band, in a guitar duo with Jeffrey Kamil, and occasionally sitting in with fingerstyle guitarist Jon Rubin.
Over the years I’ve studied with a couple of private teachers, and I studied composition, theory, and improvisation at the JazzSchool in Berkeley and at the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA.
Artists whose music I strongly like, and who have influenced me in one way or another (not always overtly), include Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Jaco Pastorius, King Crimson, Miles Davis, Sting, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Pat Martino, Joe Pass, Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford, Tony Levin, Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell, Beatles, XTC, The Neville Brothers, James Brown, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, the Allman Brothers, Robben Ford, Derek Trucks, Mike Stern, Ollie Halsall, Allan Holdsworth, Bill Connors, Chick Corea, Steve Swallow, Mick Taylor, Wayne Krantz, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Richard Bona, Gretchen Parlato, Tal Wilkenfeld, the Police, Björk, Kate Bush, the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Caetano Veloso, Milton Nascimento, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Frank Zappa, Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, George Crumb…
Film composers I particularly admire include Mark Isham, Carter Burwell, Danny Elfman, Bernard Herrmann…