By John Benson
O.A.R. sax player and Liberty Township native Jerry DePizzo doesn’t get home much these days. Being a big-time touring musician does have its downside. But a few weeks ago, the Columbus-based musician was able to make a quick return to the Youngstown area.
“I was in Canfield for about eight hours,” laughed DePizzo, calling from Kansas City. “I had to get to the College World Series as part of an ESPN [promotion] and had to fly out of Pittsburgh. So I stopped by, literally said ‘Hi’ to the family, gave hugs and kisses and put my head to a pillow.”
While he may not be spending much time in the area, DePizzo’s presence is felt as part of O.A.R.’s outreach program, which recently included a $75,000 donation of computers and equipment to the Liberty School District.
As for the band, now comes word that the island vibe roots rock act is working on the follow-up to its 2011 album “King,” which DePizzo said was the group’s most eclectic effort to date with intricate intros and interludes.
From a stylistic standpoint, the band hasn’t settled on a vibe of the new album, but, DePizzo hinted that diehard fans will be excited O.A.R. is unearthing a bootleg lover’s gem. The rare track is called “The Architect” and dates back to the band’s 2005 “Stories of a Stranger” era. DePizzo said it was played one time live and took on a life of its own. Now the track is pegged to be on the next album, which is tentatively due out next summer.
“It’s a song we worked on maybe eight years ago, but it was never good enough to release on a record,” DePizzo said. “Recently, we took another look at it and tweaked the arrangement. It takes a journey with a lot of different turns. I think in our career we’ve written songs that are kind of expansive material that don’t fit three-and-a-half-minute pop arrangements.
“So the songs that are in the six- to eight-minute range like ‘That Was a Crazy Game of Poker’ have to be worth the journey to take the audience on. That’s our big goal, to really keep people entertained and excited. This is a good example of that.”
There’s another phenomenon taking place with O.A.R. that DePizzo said he didn’t foresee. The jam band, which formed on the campus of Ohio State University in the late ’90s, enjoyed a resurgence of late that the group believes is attributable to its recently released concert CD/DVD “Live on Red Rocks.”
The live performance’s airplay on cable channel AXS TV led to a renewed interest in O.A.R. that DePizzo said is increasing ticket sales for its current tour, which includes a show Sunday at the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.
“It’s really exciting to see how we’re still growing in a lot of different ways,” DePizzo said. “That exposure of being on TV, people seeing the Red Rocks show, and the energy and excitement and vibe we put out, it’s reinvigorated a love to the band and reintroduced them to us. It’s cool to be 15 years in and to still have people discover you.”