IF YOU ARE NEW TO JOE GALLANT & ILLUMINATI here's the story!
Illuminati started life as a trio on Oct 20, 1982, for a gig at Tramps in NYC. As the music evolved, I added additional members from among my friends in the lower east side "downtown", chamber and jazz cadres, until the band reached its current 18-piece ensemble size around 1990.
We gigged frequently on the downtown new-music circuit, home-basing in La Mama Galleria and playing regularly at the first Knitting Factory, St. Marks Church, Judson Memorial Church, Sweet Basil and Theater for the New City, among many other spots around NYC and the boroughs. Some of the earlier music of this era can be heard on my self-produced 1990 Illuminati CD. "Skin". 1990 was also the year that I was invited to appear live on a KPFA composers' radio show co-hosted by David Gans and Phil Lesh.
1990-92 was a profoundly fertile period, one which yielded huge compositional and organizational leaps.
The self-produced CD, "Code Of The West", came out of this chapter. "Code" is a large-scale, ambitious work, featuring approx. 60 performers throughout 7 original compositions and my labor-of-love reworking of the Grateful Dead's "Unbroken Chain". It was this arrangement that caught the attention of a number of people in the Dead's camp.
A commission in 1995 from the Dead's production arm led to my arranging the entire Grateful Dead 1975 "Blues for Allah" album for Illuminati and additional players, in celebration of the album's 20th anniversary.
This led to the release of "The Blues for Allah Project", the biggest-selling CD on the Knitting Factory's label, and 2 subsequent live CDs on Relix records. I went on to arrange approximately 50 Dead tunes and composed dozens of more groove-and-energy oriented originals between 1995 and 2000, a period of constant touring and local gigging, much of it joyously self-funded.
1998 saw the release of the magnificent "Terrapin" CD, a 75-performer reconstruction of the Dead's "Terrapin Station" album. Terrapin is as fine a tribute to the multi-leveled spirit of the Grateful Dead's music as I am capable of crafting.
Terrapin includes fantastic performances from special guests Catherine Russell (who went on to sing with Illuminati for a year), Bill Walton, Pat Boone, Ike Willis, Maggy Roche, Patricia Barber and the remarkable Jorma Kaukonen.
With enough original material from the preceding touring years, I created "Shadowhead" in 2000. An eclectic, groove-centric, chamber latin and jazz-tinged CD, Shadowhead has a fine balance of accessibility and musical density. Designed for a "core" Illuminati ensemble of 16 players, Shadowhead's music has appealed to Deadheads and jazz fans alike.
The orchestra is back after a brief hiatus, and the time is now completely right for the band's re-emergence. A recent packed July gig at Brooklyn Bowl was a remarkable sign of enthusiasm and interest. I'm currently crafting new material, steering the old catalogue into some different terrain, and prepping for a great, rambunctious new chapter in the band's history.