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Luis Resto Losing Himself In The Music

of the Oakland Press

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Luis Resto is musically schizophrenic.

And he likes that.

He has a resume of credits that runs from a long (and still tacit) membership in genre-traipsing Was (Not Was) to sessions for country supergroup the Highwaymen, R&B diva Anita Baker and rock icons Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks. And Resto’s long association with Eminem has not only netted him an Academy Award and a Grammy, but also entry into the hip-hop world, where he’s written and produced for the likes of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, T.I., Akon and, posthumously, 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.

“I’ve always found collaboration more fun for me and more productive for me than just listening to myself go off,” said the 48-year-old Royal Oak resident and father of two. “I dig on everything I’ve done.”

But one of the things — the many things — Resto is doing these days is making his own music.

This week he releases “Combo de Momento,” a six-song LP, as in vinyl, that will precede a full-length album, tentatively called “One Small Light,” which Resto plans to put out later this year. “Combo de Momento” features three studio recordings and three live tracks, the latter done in the late summer of 2008 at Memphis Smoke with a quartet that includes Resto’s brother Mario on guitar.

Some of the work dates back to late ’80s compositions for choreographer Susan Marshall, but their release right now reflects Resto’s desire to put some priority on his ambitions after spending so much time working with others.

“This is something I set out to do a long time ago,” Resto acknowledges. “It always kind of took a back seat because all the other things were really cool things to be involved in, and I really liked doing them. And I felt like that was my music, too, y’know?

“But sometimes it was frustrating. I kept thinking I’m supposed to be doing one or the other. I just dig on playing music, whatever direction it comes from.”

That’s been the case since Resto, born in Ann Arbor and raised in Garden City, was young. Learning piano and violin at a young age, he spent a couple of summers studying at the Interlochen Center For the Arts.

“That locked it up for me as far as music,” he said. “It was really magical what happened there.”

He played in rock and jazz fusion bands and also soaked in the Latin music played by his Puerto Rican-born parents. He spent two and a half years at U-M, during which he toured colleges with an avant garde jazz group called Antares, before meeting Don Was (ne Fagenson) in the nascent days of Was (Not Was).

“I had the first synthesizer on the block — that’s what got me the gig,” Resto said, but Was recalls that “here was this young kid with great chops and great, really diverse tastes who could really play anything, and that’s what we were about.”

Resto also remembers some sage advice from Was as well.

“He said, ‘Take every session that you can, whether it pays or not, and you’ll be the first-call keyboard session guy around here.’ I did what he said and got all the work I could, and that’s how it went.”

Logging stays in New York and Los Angeles, Resto piled up the credits that, to date, have resulted in roles on 15 chart-topping albums. He didn’t abandon his own music — most notably with Gadda Da Vida, a rock outfit with Was (Not Was) guitarist Randy Jacobs — but the other opportunities dominated his time, especially after he began working with Eminem after a referral for D12’s first album, “Devil’s Night,” in 2001.

“We just clicked,” says Resto, who was designated to accepted the 2003 Best Original Song Oscar for “Lose Yourself” from the film “8 Mile,” which he co-wrote. (It also won a pair of Grammys, including Best Rap Song.) Resto also collaborated on the single “Beautiful” from Eminem’s 2008 album “Relapse” and another track, “Elevator,” for the subsequent “Relapse: Refill” expanded edition. He’s also working on the “Relapse 2” album that’s expected to come out this year.

“(Eminem)’s really cool to work with,” Resto said. “He’s got an open ear. It’s stunning to see how he’d be open to someone else’s ideas, not a my way or the highway type of thing. To go in and be able to throw the stuff against the wall and go down one path for four, five hours and then say, ‘This is the wrong path. Let’s go down this one’... I love that. It’s really fun.”

Working with hip-hop in general, Resto notes, offers more opportunities for experimentation and exploration.

“It’s cool to see stylistically what you can do with this, that and the other,” he explains. “I don’t approach it from rap; I’m bringing my scene, whatever I bring to the party, whenever I go to a session, which usually ends up being more of a classicist thing, to be honest.”

Resto’s “Combo de Momento” also stirs a variety of influences into its stylistic stew, including pop, jazz, soul, R&B and classical flavors, as well as personal pieces such as “Olivia” and “Olivia Bop,” inspired by his 12-year-old daughter, and “We Called It a Day,” which was inspired by an argument with his wife.

The result is a disc laden with loose, improvisational playing that never meanders into gratuitous showboating. Resto says the group — which also features bassist Paul Nowinski and drummer Keith LeBlanc — is “the most comfortable” ensemble he’s had for his own music yet, and he anticipates working further with those musicians despite everyone’s busy schedules.

“It’s just a good unit, with a lot of elements that everybody brings to the scene,” says Resto, who also plays during Sunday church services in Royal Oak and in the local salsa band Orquesta Ire.

“It feels like I’m starting something, in a way ... and it’s a purging of sorts. These songs sat around for quite some time and need to get out there and be heard, just so they exist. I want people to hear them and have them connect with folks out there, so I want to make sure that happens now, even with everything else I’m doing.”


Luis Resto will celebrate the release of his new LP, “Combo de Momento,” with several metro area performances during the coming week:

Resto and his band and Little Bang Theory perform Wednesday (Feb. 10) at the Majestic Cafe, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. Call 313-833-9700 or visit www.majesticdetroit.com.

Resto appears live on the “Fox 2 News Morning Show” (WJBK, Channel 2 in Detroit) after 8 a.m. on Friday (Feb. 12).

Resto and the band perform at 4 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 13) at Record Time, 27360 Gratio Ave., Roseville. Call 586-775-1550 or visit www.recordtime.com.

Resto and company finish the run around 9 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 14) at Memphis Smoke, 100 S. Main St., Royal Oak. Admission is free. Call 248-543-4300 or visit www.memphissmokeroyaloak.com.

Web Site: www.restoworld.com

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