Another Musical Treasure – Up A Mountain
By Sue Todd
The concentration of musicians in Girdwood is remarkable, and a serious amount of talent has come together in the musical crucible called Up A Mountain. Written by Jeremy Cerutti, their original music is anything but formulaic. Cerutti is the front man on guitar and vocals. Kurt Erikkson shreds on guitar, with Tony Restivo on bass and Toby Quinn on drums to complete the back line.
There have been so many renditions of Up A Mountain through the years, and many of Girdwood’s musicians have played a part. This current foursome, however, has something special. To see them play is to watch musical telepathy at work. Together, they produce a sound that is fun, unique, complex and always has the crowd moving.
I took time to chat with each of these talented men to learn their history and more about what makes the band click.
Cerutti and Erikkson first started playing together casually some years back. Eventually they became an acoustic duo, which segued into the Up A Mountain we know today. Cerutti told me the current rendition came together as a band close to four years ago, and tremendous chemistry has developed over time.
Every member is a seasoned musician, and each contributes to the mix, feeding off the others while feeling the music, not just hearing it. Together, they create a sound that is best described as rock/country/ funk/jam, if there is such a genre. Cerutti told me he is always open to input from the other members and encourages creative freedom (gives them jamming rights.)
The joy they experience playing together is obvious. Though Cerutti’s songs have structure, there is always room for improvisation, and every band member is skilled at it. A talented guitarist, Cerutti’s vocals are also spot on. His lyrics are true poetry set to music.
Restivo on bass is a familiar sight. He would be hard pressed to name a Girdwood band he has not contributed to at one time or another. Certainly, he has played with every member of Up A Mountain in at least one other iteration. With this band, however, he has found something a little different. Restivo would have no problem stepping in with any band and following rock and blues progressions. He could probably do it in his sleep.
However, Cerutti’s music is more than that. Restivo claims he has to truly learn the intricacies of the song first, then the jams follow. Eyes closed, gently swaying as he intuits where the music is headed, Restivo produces flawless bass lines. He also provides vocal harmonies. And, in case you didn’t know, singing and playing bass is not easy.
Erikkson has been playing music in Girdwood since the mid to late 70s. More than forty years, by my calculations. After he moved to Soldotna in 1989, he gigged full time on the peninsula for quite a while. Only six years ago, he started collaborating with Cerutti. He confirmed that they started by just “dinking around” acoustically.
Erikkson really appreciated Cerutti’s songs, so he learned them, and before long they became an acoustic duo act – Cerutti/Erikkson Guitar Jams. The duo eventually turned into the current foursome. Erikkson’s guitar skills are impeccable, an absolute virtuoso. His contribution to the positive energy of the band is undeniable.
Drummer Quinn, a familiar beat around Girdwood, has drummed for 35 years. He has a long history with Cerutti and Restivo and even gigged with Cerutti in previous iterations of Up A Mountain. He came to know Erikkson only when the current foursome formed. He agrees with the others that there is wonderful synergy now. He feels they all approach music similarly, so the sound they produce together flows.
Quinn has always been a fan of Cerutti’s songs and loves the fact that they are clearly structured yet still leave room for improv (jamming rights). Of the many, many bands he has played in, he feels this is the one that could reach its full potential. Sometimes it is hard to listen to one’s own music, but Quinn says he enjoys hearing their recorded songs. In his words, “This is a really good band.”
Recently, Up A Mountain recorded a five-song demo so they could branch out from Girdwood gigs. You can enjoy these songs and more on Reverbnation.com. In the works are two more.
Up A Mountain makes regular appearances at Chair 5. It is, after all, their home base. This summer, they are scheduled to play the Kenai River Festival June 7-9 at Soldotna Creek Park, as well as Forest Fair, which runs July 5-7. The application has been submitted, and hopes are high that they will be selected to play Salmonfest, too.
Up A Mountain is one more Girdwood musical treasure. Put your dancing shoes on and enjoy this must-see band.