Rare Blend
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Rare Blend

Cleveland, Ohio, United States | SELF

Cleveland, Ohio, United States | SELF
Band Rock Jazz


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Unique multi-genre instrumental music"

Rare Blend has garnered an undisputable reputation for creating unique multi-genre progressive instrumental music that dates back to the release of their independent debut, Cinefusion, in 1993. The past fifteen years have seen the band expand from core duo Vic Samalot (electric/acoustic guitar) and Bobbi Holt (keyboards, percussion) to include bassist Jeffrey Scott and a rotating roster of top-notch fusion drummers. Arguably, the band’s most ambitious efforts culminated with the 2007 acquisition of veteran drummer Ivan George. Rare Blend’s newly-released Sessions CD provides the first proper full-length recorded evidence of this fruitful period in the band’s dynamic storyline.

Sessions, Rare Blend’s follow-up to the well-received Stops Along the Way (2006), is informed by the band’s ever-growing diverse catalog of musical influences. Both “jazz” and “jam band” in nature, Sessions is an exercise in the “single-take” mentality that has become one of the band’s trademarks. Although the bulk of the album’s material was recorded at live shows in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore, several tracks were recorded at “in studio” sessions or television taping sessions.

Key songs include the opening cut “Hipster Spinster,” from the Crooked River Groove television program which sounds like a newly-discovered track from a lost Billy Cobham release, as well as the incredibly infectious title track. Several cuts, including “Phantom Lair” and “Break a Leg,” were originally designed as part of a multi-media project to compliment viewings of the film Phantom of the Opera, but hold up surprisingly well on their own.

Rare Blend previewed some of the new material during a recent opening set for Ozric Tentacles at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom. The consensus is that band’s nearly year-long hiatus to write and arrange new songs was both a productive and necessary part of its ongoing development, with Sessions as the proof-divine. (Jud Conway - Kindweb)
- Kindweb.com

"Rare Blend Releases Progressive-Rock-Jazz Fusion Masterpiece"

I was duly impressed with the last release from Rare Blend titled Evolution Theory. Now a new album has arrived and I could feel the anticipation mounting as I waited for its arrival. Stops Along The Way, their fourth album, did not disappoint in any way. This is their strongest work to date.

As with the previous album, most of the CD comprises instrumental tracks with a few vocal tracks (“Miles To Go” & “Heading Home”). The opening track “Illegal Aliens” kicks in with some hard driving electric guitar then everything else joins in the fun…a thumping and weaving bass line, timely drums, and the a Uriah Heep (Ken Hensley) like organ makes the entire scope of the composition very tasteful and complete. “Mystic Jam” is one of my favorites, it has a Middle Eastern flavor and influence, which always seems to work so well when employed for a jazz fusion composition. “Feast of The Warrior” takes all of those elements to another level; it is a real nice number and very eclectic. Smooth jazz finds a home in this song yet it does not take up permanent residence, this band is much too talented to allow a song to stay on one course. Typically, they take it into many different directions, combining jazz, rock, and progressive superbly. “Off To Arizona” has a definitive western Latino atmosphere, which is perfect for the different cultures and climate for that area. The track allows you to envision a beautiful picturesque butte or the Painted Desert in your mind’s eye. If you have ever been there, you will know exactly where I am coming from. This album is all about helping you to envision what they are trying to project through their music and once again, its mission accomplished magnificently.

The title of the album really puts this music into proper perspective; literally, Rare Blend makes many Stops Along The Way on this musical train during the course of this recording. This is a very satisfying listen for ears relentlessly searching for a nice change and something to keep your interest from start to finish. Again, the musicianship is beyond reproach, most notably Vic Samalot’s fretwork, which seems to engage everyone else in the band effectively. Bobbi Holt impressed me once again as a vocalist that could do a lot more if she had the opportunity to stretch out a bit, but that is not what this band is about, it’s a little bit of this and that to keep things fresh and diverse at all times.

This band knew exactly what the words Rare Blend meant for them before their adventure started. It is obvious to me that before they set out on such a fantastic musical discovery that the intention was to present something inviting and thought provoking, a sound that would arouse your curiosity and sense of adventure while making your ears stand up and take notice. They did it for me again, what a great album this is.


- Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck / Adams, MA

"The Road Less Traveled: Rare Blend takes a metaphorical journey on its new CD."

WHEN KEYBOARDIST BOBBI HOLT met guitarist Vic Samalot some 12 years ago, they both had had their fill of playing in cover bands. They wanted to write original music but not in any one genre. Rather, they aimed to play a mix of fusion, jazz and prog rock but couldn’t find musicians willing to join them. So they simply played as a duo, performing at coffeehouses and small venues and issuing their first disc, Cinefusion, in 1995.

“We were just sticking our toe in everywhere,” Holt says. “It was really tough to find musicians who were into the instrumental scene. We tried to find other people but because we weren’t playing a pure form of music, people weren’t really interested. They just wanted to be rock or jazz but not both.”

They remained a duo until 1998 when they started adding other musicians to the mix.

“[The band] continued to evolve,” Holt says. “We started to find with our writing that, because we put all our toes in so many pots way back when, that’s what we wanted to bring to the table. We’re not the newest concept on the block. We just like to be overt about [pulling from different genres]. It’s like getting the whole box of crayons.”

After 2000’s Infinity and 2002’s Evolution Theory, the band parted ways with drummer Paul Stranahan, who had scheduling conflicts, and recruited Vince Broncaccio of Fayreweather and Wish You Were Here fame. “He gave us a different groove to go on,” Holt says of Broncaccio.

That much is apparent on the band’s new CD, Stops Along the Way, which is based upon a metaphorical journey about “going on the road without leaving the security of the
recording room,” as Holt puts it. It features music that represents the so-called “stops” the band makes. “Cole Train” evokes the sound of a train, and “Splat!” is a more conventional jazz number. “Destiny’s Eyes” has the kind of flutes you hear in Peruvian music. The disc on the whole is a heady experiment that likely goes down a little easier with a healthy dose of hallucinogens, as is the case with most psychedelic music. As always, the band combines bits of jazz, fusion, progressive rock and funk in the endeavor. Even the tune called “Intermission” that serves as a mid-CD break is a funky extemporaneous riff.

“It’s about taking a road trip in your head,” Holt says of the new disc. “Instrumental music doesn’t have words to take you by the hand through the story. One of the best compliments that I hold onto was a review in the Cleveland State Cauldron for Cinefusion that said ‘Rare Blend knows how to paint a picture with sound.’ I’ve held on to that all this time. It’s the perfect synopsis. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

The album also features Holt singing on two songs, a rarity.

“I started singing in a band and predominantly I’m into the instrumental scene,” she says. “But I felt like I had something to say, and I wanted to say it. I try to use the vocals to pull something together based on the concept. It was fun and something different.”

After playing at its CD release party at the Winchester this Saturday, the band has a few other gigs in the works. It hopes to record a CD of live improv and has set a date for a gig where it will perform along to a silent movie.

“It really is amazing how fast 12 years has come and gone,” Holt says. “I know with all the musical ideas on the table yet to be completed, the next 12 will probably go by even quicker. It’s a fairly democratic process when we all get together. That’s what’s kept us together for so long. Many bands are like a dysfunctional marriage but the music has always come first. We leave whatever problems we have at the door. It’s really cathartic.”

Jeff Niesel - Free times / Cleveland, OH

"Highly recommended!"

The group lists their musical influences as SANTANA, TRIBAL TECH , LED ZEPPLIN, STEELY DAN, YES, GENESIS, TANGERINE DREAM, JEFF BECK and SPRO GYRA; and their compositions and improv sessions reflect those many influences – but to my ears this ultra tight unit has more in common with THE DREGS, RETURN TO FOREVER, DAJAM KARET, PASSPORT, KING CRIMSON, WISHBONE ASH , DOCTOR NERVE, and most notably BRAND X.

The current line-up consists of Vic Samalot (electric & acoustic guitars), Bobbi Holt (keyboards), Jeff Scott (bass – fretless & fretted), and Ivan George (percussion). Additional guest artists on this live recording include Vince Broncaccio (drums) and Phil Quidort (trumpet).

The latest CD release “Sessions: Live Recordings From Stage & Studio”, is divided into three segments: STAGE, STUDIO, and FILM, featuring new material recorded in concert during shows in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore; live one-take improvisational sessions recorded at Odyssey Studios in Cleveland; and live performances recorded during the Crooked River Groove TV program (title track Hipster Spinster), and their ‘2008 Bridging The Gap’ music/film series in which the band performed their original score against the backdrop of classic silent films “Phantom Of The Opera” and “Metropolis”.

Tracks 1-4 recorded during concert performances, and 5-10 one-take studio improvs display the band as an ultra-tight symbiotic unit, with each member linked in perfect sync to create an awesome display of fusion improvisation at its best. But my absolute favorite tracks on the disc are 11-14 as the band performs their filmscore for “Metropolis” and “Phantom Of The Opera”.

Bobbie Holt’s haunting ethereal sampled voices paint an atmospheric backdrop of dread and mystery as Vic Samalot’s guitar work provides the smoldering passion of a spirited Carlos Santana lead, all propelled by a backbone of driving bass and manic tribal percussion. It’s a shame a DVD couldn’t have been provided of the performance just to see how well the music augmented the movie clips.

RARE BLEND can proudly stand shoulder-to-shoulder with BRAND X and the best of the progressive/jazz/fusion groups, and “Sessions” is as good as anything recorded by their peers.

Highly recommended to aficionados of fusion and improvisational jam bands.

(Joseph Shingler - Prognaut.com) - Prognaut

"This disc rocks out!"

I really liked Rare Blend’s last disc, Stops Along the Way a lot, so this one had a lot to live up to. A live disc (recorded at various stage and studio settings) this CD (Sessions) is even stronger than that one. It’s not got any weak material and the whole disc rocks out. When you are talking a disc of purely instrumental music that says a lot. I’d highly recommend this to fans of fusion and fusion based prog rock. It’s a great set.
(Gary Hill - Music Street Journal / Rockford, IL) - Music Street Journal

"Rare Blend Joins Exclusive Company"

These tracks exhibit the band’s knack for agreeable pacing and smart use of breathing space. In competently mining the heady realms of Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc., Rare Blend joins exclusive company.” (Progression Magazine - USA) - Progression Magazine

"Press Quotes:"

"What a supremely tight, high energy performance yesterday evening at The Beachland Ballroom. Incredible band!" (Robert Menser - WJCU 88.1 Cleveland)

"Great show... Rare Blend is my favorite thing about Cleveland." (Rick & Roll - Delicious Agony)

I recently took a trip to Cleveland and happened upon a radio station( 89.3 ) I believe, and heard some of your music. I was blown away, mostly because I too was a professional musician in the late 70s early 80s and enjoyed this style of music. It is refreshing to hear that it is still as alive as it was then! (Jimmy Valentine - RB Fan)

"Rare Blend was one of the best shows I have seen at Orion Studios in Baltimore". (RB Fan - Baltimore, Maryland)

To my way of thinking, "Stops Along the Way" is very close to the status of a masterpiece. Overall, this is a wonderfully impressive album that may change the minds of any who still don't believe a truly progressive confluence of composed and improvised music is possible. Highly recommended! (Vitaly Menshikov / ProgressoR - Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

The musicians perform at a very high level, the production and sound are quite good and most importantly, the compositions are all interesting. STOPS ALONG THE WAY is an album I will certainly revisit in the future. Recommended! (Marc - Proggnosis / Golden Valley, MN)

STOPS ALONG THE WAY definitely lives up to the group’s musical history of blending several genres of music to come up with a unique and refreshing sound.(Charles Cassady & Michelle Payne /Westlife News - Westlake, OH)

Rare Blend is a very seasoned group from the Cleveland, Ohio area. "Stops Along The Way" is what I would call a jazz/fusion jam band album. I have heard a lot of mixed feelings about jam bands but when it sounds good you can’t deny that the players know what they are doing. (Jimmy Caterine / Guitarnoise.com - Canada)

This is highly inventive (mostly) instrumental progressive rock infused with more traditional styles. Rare Blend is a very generous band. On 11 February 2006, they played a concert in Ohio and the price of admission included a copy of this CD, a recording that lives up to the billing of 'where rock, jazz, fusion and world music collide'. (Phil Jackson / Acid Dragon Magazine - Lyon, France)

"Stops Along the Way" is for those who prefer to take their time and sightsee. It’s meant for those who stop to smell the roses each time and also appreciate every detail. The performance of these musicians is extremely patient, giving the listener a chance to process each piece and suck it all in. Joshua Turner / Upbeat and More - Milwaukee, WI)

"Stops Along The Way" is Rare Blend's most efficient recording. The songs naturally jump genres while traveling through an aural landscape that's filled with songs that pretty much fit their titles. (Michael Gallucci / Scene Magazine - Cleveland, OH USA)

A more apropos name would be hard to find for this Cleveland-based (mostly) instrumental quartet that blends rock, jazz, fusion and world music into a rare concoction of tight, colorful and unpretentious arrangements. If only all instrumental albums could sound this appealing.. (Michael Popke - Sea Of Tranquility / Monroe, NY)

It's really astonishing what brilliant bands you can discover if you dig deeper and don't rely on the crap being published by most of big major companies."Evolution Theory" should appeal to everyone who likes a good rocking mixture of Jazz Rock / Fusion with a light Latin and Funk touch. (Kristian Selm / Progressive Newsletter - Leonberg, Germany)

RB has a brilliant collection of instrumental arrangments that are 'heady' enough for any jazz afficionado, but have odd time signatures and hooks, as well as elements of funk and rock, appealing to a broader audience than traditional fusion bands. (Pat Ferris - Hotbands.com)

"Evolution Theory" is a great CD and it should appeal to fans of the modern jazz-fusion genre and may even win over some who are not familiar with this style as well. Great recording, great CD! (Jeff Holton / 1340 Mag-
East Aurora, NY)

..I was amazed how well the musicians mesh together in sharing the creative vision.. (Jazzreview.com - Milwaukee, WI)

This album (Infinity) was well performed and is a great find for the avid jazz fan. You will discover a great talent here and will be anxious for more.. I know I am.(Nefarious Entertainment Magazine - Milan, IL)

One of the greatest features about "Cinefusion" is its multi-dimensional focus, in which a variety of feelings and ambiences are explored with a free spirit that allows the unique character of each track to shine through. (ProgFreaks.com -Garza Garcia, Mexico)
- Rare Blend

"This is as tasty as fusion gets"

This is as tasty as fusion gets - very structured, very "lyrical" for mostly instrumental work, plus liberal rock moves to give it added weight and kick. Vic Samalot is one tasty "feel" guitarist who also has the chops to make his compositions smoke: Carlos Santana is an obvious touchstone here, but the music itself crosses many boundaries evoking Yes, Tribal Tech, and others. His supporting cast comprises Bobbi Holt, keyboards; Jeffrey Scott, bass; Vince Broncaccio, drums and percussion; Gabe O'Brien, percussion.

The cleverly titled "Cole Train" is but one example of Rare Blend's ability to create music that sticks with you long after you're done listening. Most of these tracks are in the 3-to-6 minute range, including three improvised jams recorded live in the studio. Stops Along The Way stays on track for a delightful ride. - John Collinge / Progression Magazine

"One of America’s most adventurous instrumental fusion groups"

Testing the limits of instrumental rock fusion for over fifteen years now, guitarist Vic Samalot released an excellent overview of his band Rare Blend late in 2009. The fourteen track Sessions is an action-packed musical extravaganza featuring Samalot and company recording in a variety of settings. Superbly recorded, the CD is filled with a number of Rare Blend tracks from stage and studio and there’s also several additional tracks featuring Rare Blend in soundtrack mode performing dynamic hard-hitting instrumental tracks crafted as film backing tracks. Acclaimed by fans of jazz-rock fusion and progressive instrumental rock, Rare Blend have over the years shared bills or opened stages for musical giants including David Sanborn, Kevin Eubanks, Ozric Tentacles, Blood, Sweat & Tears and others. On Sessions, a number of players back up Samalot including long time Rare Blend keyboardist / second guitarist and co-composer Bobbi Holt, drummer Ivan George and bassist Jeff Scott. Whether performing one take live cuts, in the moment jam-fusion instrumentals or some rocking, atmospheric film music, the Cleveland based Rare Blend moves into 2010 as one of America’s most adventurous instrumental fusion groups. www.rareblend.net - Music Web Express 3000


Sessions - 2009/ 2010

Stops Along The Way - 2006

Evolution Theory - 2002

Infinity - 2000

Cinefusion - 1995



For over 15 years, Rare Blend’s music resonates with purists as well as those who embrace a progressive multi-genre approach to original instrumental music. Pulling from a variety of influences and musical styles, Rare Blend continues to receive favorable press reviews, and radio airplay, performing at a variety of concerts and outdoor festivals, and have been invited to be included on regional and national compilation discs.

Because of their diversity and growing catalog of music, Rare Blend can be found performing on bills that range from Jazz to jam band, fusion to progressive rock. They have shared bills or have opened for the likes of David Sanborn, Special EFX, Ozric Tentacles, Tunnels, Dark Star Orchestra, Kevin Eubanks, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Spyro Gyra, Frogg Cafe, Los Lobos, and others...

Started in 1993, Rare Blend (Samalot / Holt), released their debut independent CD entitled Cinefusion as a duo. Recorded and produced by Vic Samalot and Bobbi Holt, Cinefusion received local, national, and even international college radio airplay and was performed live in small intimate venues in Ohio.

In 1998, Rare Blend expanded to a four piece with bassist/composer Jeff Scott and drummer Paul Stranahan. As a quartet, Rare Blend added additional musical texture to the original concept and took the live performance to a new level.

CD album recordings added to the catalog to date:

• INFINITY (2000)
• STOPS ALONG THE WAY (2006) Introduced veteran drummer (Fayreweather, Tie Die Harvest, and Wish You Were Here) Vince Broncaccio, whose talent brought a fresh nuance to the group during 2005 and 2006.

• SESSIONS (2009) With veteran drummer Ivan George, whose fusion style influenced by Billy Cobham and Dennis Chambers has brought the improvisational edge to the RB fold since 2007.

Rare Blend continues to write, record, and perform at various concert clubs and outdoor festivals throughout the year and is looking forward to incorporating on the spot improvisations to audiences in 2010.


#5 Is Live for Rare Blend


Rare Blend have released their 5th CD album Sessions, an impressive 14 track disc of live recordings from stage and studio. Unlike the groups previous CDs, Sessions highlights Rare Blends one takes, and in the moment jam-fusion instrumentals.

Sessions features new songs and improvisations from shows in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and in-studio improvs recorded at Odyssey Studios in Cleveland. Also included are selections from a taping for the Crooked River Groove television program (title track - Hipster Spinster), as well as performances during their 2008 Bridging The Gap music/film series against the backdrop of such classic films as; Phantom of the Opera and Metropolis.

Sessions is now available at CD Baby