"The long awaited sophomore release from New Jersey's Advent is finally here. Cantus Firmus
starts practically where their 1997 self-titled debut left off, here with some wild Gentle Giant styled vocal interplay (quoted above) on the magical opener "GK Contramundum". From there it's one prog rock gem after another, signaling the return of a band that had they been a little more prolific with releasing product would probably be one of the more popular progressive rock bands of today. With Cantus Firmus, that just might now happen." ~ Pete Pardo (SeaofTranquility.org)
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HENRY PTAK - keyboards, lead vocals, mandolin, electronic percussion
(photo by Vincent Mineo)
Henry - keyboardist, composer/arranger, and co-founder of Advent - began his music studies at age nine, taking guitar lessons at the local music store. He switched to keyboards a few years later, having discovered Procol Harum and J.S. Bach at about the same time. His interest in composing and arranging was sparked largely by various artists (most notably, The Nice and Fairport Convention - as well as Dick Halligan and Fred Lipsius of Blood, Sweat and Tears) who, at this time, were busy uniting popular music with jazz, classical, and traditional folk-music forms.
While pursuing a fine arts degree, Henry continued his musical education—both on campus and privately—studying theory, harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, 20th-century music, and piano. An interest in choral music also grew out of his involvement as a singer in the choir at St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church in his hometown of Hawthorne, N.J., and later as a member of Newark's Sacred Heart Cathedral Choir.
Henry insists that his musical influences are too numerous to list ("anything worthwhile from the present all the way back to St. Gregory the Great"). His hopes for Advent are "to be wherever popular music is an outgrowth of the very best that western musical culture and tradition can offer."
ALAN BENJAMIN - guitars, Stick®, bass, mandolin, violin, keyboards, glockenspiel, recorder, backing vocals
(photo by Brian Schenkenberger)
A lifelong musician who first studied piano at age three, switched to violin several years later (playing in two New York City orchestras), and picked up several other instruments in between, Alan experienced his first serious encounter with the guitar at age 14 upon being prevented from bringing his violin to boarding school. Taking to the instrument quite naturally, he quickly formed the school's most popular rock band - Amber - who later went on to record a professional demo under the technical supervision of engineer, Les Paul, Jr.
Later that year, at age 16, Alan attended a semester at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass. Impatient with the first-year curriculum, he left to seek experience in the real world, which soon led to an 18-month stint playing clubs in the Philadelphia-based band, Merlin.
In the late 1980s, Alan recorded several solo pieces (playing all instruments himself) and also received advanced guitar instruction from jazz-rock maestro Glenn Alexander. Shortly afterward, he met up with keyboardist Henry Ptak, and Advent was born.
In addition to maintaining a full-time commitment with Advent, Alan joined (the newly re-formed) Mirthrandir - one of the most respected independent progressive acts from the 1970s—in October of 2005.
The band has since been enjoying a string of highly successful performances that kicked off at the New Jersey Proghouse (in February of 2006) and went on to include major festivals such as Baja Prog, RoSfest, and ProgDay.
MARK PTAK - keyboards, lead vocals, percussion
(photo by Brian Schenkenberger)
Mark is a 1990 graduate of the Berklee College of Music. While pursuing a major in Music Production & Engineering, and studying traditional theory and jazz harmony, Mark augmented his music-industry experience by taking on the role of production director for the ASCAP Award-winning New England Philharmonic Orchestra under music director and conductor, Jeffrey Rink.
Mark also took time to develop his vocal skills by serving as a tenor in Berklee's Concert Choir, as well as singing liturgical music in Roman Catholic Church choirs in both Massachusetts and New Jersey. Soon after leaving Berklee, he joined up with Alan and Henry as Advent's second keyboardist.
Influential bands? Well, besides his "big three" (Gentle Giant, Genesis, and Procol Harum), Mark enjoys groups such as Ambrosia, The Tubes, Utopia, and Weather Report, though he does admit these days to listening to more "long-hair" music.
In this world, his favorites include Bach (especially organ music), Schubert (piano music), Haydn (organ masses), and various works by Elgar, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, and Bartók.
"What I really am attracted to, though (no matter what the style or genre), are musical ideas that sneak up on you and make you think—you know, like puzzles or word games. When a piece of music speaks to me in this way, I get a real charge out of it. Discovering it is almost like finding a buried treasure. And then, just like a Hitchcock movie, you almost wish you hadn't found it so you could go back and experience the suspense again."
GREG KATONA - guitars, backing vocals
(photo by Brian Schenkenberger)
Greg started studying the guitar at age nine and shortly thereafter discovered two musical forces that were to shape the direction of his playing and listening for the rest of his life. "One was the music of classical guitarist Andrés Segovia, in which I began to see what the guitar could be in the hands of a virtuoso." The other was Genesis.
What followed was a period of voraciously consuming the music of other progressive bands such as Yes, Gentle Giant, ELP, Gryphon, and King Crimson (to name a few).
Some time later came a fascination with classical music—especially that of Arnold Schönberg, Hans Werner Henze, and the post-WWII, avant-garde music of Gyorgy Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki—and, simultaneously, the jazz fusion of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return to Forever.
After years of private study, Greg enrolled in college and subsequently graduated magna cum laude with a BA degree in music from New Jersey City University as a classical guitar major.
"Alan Benjamin of Advent recently attended a performance of my Genesis tribute band, Foxtrot, and a week later I received a call asking if I would like to join Advent. After listening to their two wonderful CD releases, I quickly agreed!"
Greg teaches guitar at Monmouth Academy of the Musical Arts in Marlboro, N.J. Performance background includes classical solo, classical guitar-vocal duo, solo with orchestra, rock bands, and even a stint with a jazz big band.
JOE D'ANDREA - drums, violin, backing vocals
(photo by J.H. Kertis)
A lifelong New Jerseyan, Joe grew up listening to music incessantly. From singing with the local choir to dissecting countless songs—and playing in everything from rock bands to orchestras—Joe developed a healthy appreciation for musical genres of all kinds.
At college in Hoboken, Joe continued to embrace musical opportunities, first as a glee club tenor/soloist, and later as a jazz-ensemble drummer. Initially self-taught, Joe has studied violin with Nadia Koutzen, piano and theory with Harold Van Hise, musical theater with Faith Kline, and drum rudiments with Tommy Igoe.
Joe considers his 20-year association with "touch-style" player/multi-instrumentalist Ray Ashley among his fondest memories. Along with Ray, he has had the privilege of sharing concert lineups with artists such as Project/Object, Bon Lozaga (Gong), Dark Aether Project, Greg Howard and Mike Keneally. Joe continues to perform with local musicians, having logged numerous hours at concerts, on-air sets, and festivals throughout the northeast US—and has also been on stage, behind the scenes, and in pit bands for a variety of New Jersey area theatrical productions.
In approaching the drums, Joe brings an orchestral, sometimes driving, always dynamic aesthetic. He enjoys moments of "lyrical synchronicity" and is not averse to singing or harmonizing while behind the kit. Through his impromptu session work and live shows, Joe has earned a reputation as a quick study who is always eager to push boundaries. Elsewhere, Joe can be heard on studio recordings by Broadside Electric, Three Hour Detour, Mike Agranoff and Ken Galipeau.
TROY CHAPPELL - bass, backing vocals
(photo courtesy of Case 150)
A Pennsylvania native, Troy's passion for music began in his formative years, initially manifested by taking up snare drum in marching and concert bands, as well as non-curricular drum corps. Piano and guitar technique followed by his early teens, in conjunction with music appreciation and theory classes in high school. With early adulthood came forays in live performance with various top-40/classic rock/wedding cover bands. Participation in original material occurred sporadically throughout the 1990s and 2000s with such outfits as prog-poppers Lucid Dreamers, twang band Case 150, and the late singer-songwriter Joe McIntyre.
Troy became acquainted with the members of Advent during a number of NEARfest weekends in years past, greatly enjoyed their company and musical output, and leapt at the opportunity to audition when informed of the opening. Troy's listening tastes and affections encompass choral, orchestral, experimental/avant-garde, early music, '80s art-rock, "intelligent dance music"/electronica, and classics of jazz, country-western, and progressive rock. Additional appetites for world, art-house, and classic cinema music provide further sources of constant inspiration.