All in the family Landes brothers have ‘Synchronicity’ in final HRPAC Atrium concert

When they were growing up in their home in Irvington, N.J., Gregory Landes always wanted to be like his older brother and fellow musician, Garah.

“I certainly looked up to him,” Gregory Landes said of his older brother of six years. “He was very influential in the kinds of music I was introduced to.”

“I was 18 years old, and he was in eighth grade,” Garah Landes said. “We played together a little back then.”

Garah Landes, a piano player, had a band when he was in high school and didn’t hesitate to offer a place in the band to drummer Greg.

“We were doing some basic cover stuff and we needed a drummer, so we took Greg,” Garah Landes said.

“When I was old enough, I joined the band,” Gregory Landes said.

However, fate wasn’t kind. Garah Landes went to college and Greg moved with his mother and sister to San Francisco. Their father, George, was an accomplished jazz pianist who was the musical director for the cabaret star Hildegarde for many years and wrote compositions for theatrical shows.

“It’s hard to play together when you’re so far apart,” Gregory Landes said.

The two brothers went their separate ways, both pursuing careers in music, both becoming respective successes in their fields. Garah Landes was carving his niche as a pianist, teaching at New York’s prestigious Julliard School of Music. Greg became a master percussionist, studying at Julliard in San Francisco.

It was their association with the Julliard School that brought the brothers together to perform in 1989 at Alice Tully Hall, performing a piece that was written exclusively for the piano and the timpani. It’s not every day that a pianist pairs with a percussionist, but there was something more than karma at work.

“Geography separated us and then geography brought us together,” Garah Landes said. “We both have a love for classical music, but we also played jazz and rock. I was trying to find a classical venue and combine the things we love, so we could play together. I had to create a repertoire and transcribe them, augment them for piano and percussion.”

So the older brother approached the younger one and discussed the possibility of performing together.

“When he came to me and told me of his plan, I was very excited about it,” Gregory Landes said. “I knew that there would be a real comfort zone playing together.”

“When we decided to do something together, it made sense,” Garah Landes said.

The pair of brothers formed “Synchronicity,” in 1997 and have been performing together ever since. They travel the globe performing with musicians such as Paquito D’Rivera at the prestigious Jazz at Lincoln Center last November.

“We were Paquito’s guest and it was wonderful,” Garah Landes said.

It was the association with the local jazz legend that enabled the Landes brothers to be introduced to Bruce Sherman, the executive director of the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center.

“We met Bruce and he asked us to perform,” Garah Landes said.

Sherman got Synchronicity to perform the final UBS Atrium free lunchtime concert for the HRPAC in this year’s series.

Three tom-toms

The concert will take place Wednesday in the atrium of the UBS Financial Services headquarters on Harbor Boulevard, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The Landes brothers both currently reside in Bergen County, so performing in a concert in Weehawken is somewhat of a breeze, especially since it takes Greg hours to haul all of his equipment to a performance site and set it up – by themselves. There are vibes, marimbas, bells, three timpani, three tom-toms, a bass drum with a pedal and your assortment of wood blocks, symbols, and tambourines.

“It’s pretty strenuous,” Gregory Landes said. “When you say ‘percussion,’ people just generally think drums. But it’s much more. It takes a long time to set up and it has to be set up precisely. When people see me sweating and carrying the equipment, they ask me, ‘Why don’t you just play the flute?’ But there’s nothing like playing percussion.”

Gregory Landes has been an acclaimed percussionist for years, having performed with the orchestra in such Broadway productions as “Les Miserables,” “Ragtime,” and “Wicked,” and currently is in the orchestra of the new production of “Curtains,” starring former “Frasier” star David Hyde Pierce that opened on Broadway last week.

Garah Landes said that Synchronicity performs music that is classical with a fusion of jazz.

“You’re not going to find that mix often,” Landes said. “We definitely don’t want to be the standard. I take orchestra pieces and transcribe them to fit us. I also compose pieces for us. We have some different likes and dislikes, but mostly we agree. It’s kind of funny, but I don’t think like I’m playing with my brother anymore. It just comes naturally. We just get long well musically.”

Some of the work they’ll perform Wednesday includes a piece written by Leonard Bernstein exclusively for legendary jazz clarinetist Woody Herman, along with Stravinsky’s “Firebird Suite,” which was originally written as a ballet.

Synchronicity’s debut CD, entitled “Like Minds,” was recently featured on National Public Radio.

Sherman believes that Synchronicity will be a fitting close to what has been a successful Atrium series.

“Synchronicity is a really innovative and unique musical group,” Sherman said. “I don’t know of another piano percussion duo and when I first heard the Landes brothers at Symphony Space in Manhattan, they really captured the interest of the audience. It’s fascinating to see the interaction between the Landes brothers and to hear the musical arrangements which have been specifically written for this unique musical pairing. I promise the audience that this will be a concert they will not soon forget.”

“We’re looking forward to it,” Garah Landes said. “It has been good series and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

The HRPAC’s future “We’re excited to be a part of the series,” Gregory Landes said. “The HRPAC is really trying to get something great off the ground and we’re happy to help. Garah and I do different things on our own, but it’s really special when we perform together. The novelty of performing with my brother has definitely not worn off.”

Now that the UBS Atrium Series has come to an end for the season, Sherman is busy making arrangements for the HRPAC’s popular Summer Concerts on the Hudson series, which will begin in June. While no formal announcements have been made for the summer series, Sherman is confident that the summer series will be a smash.

“We have a terrific lineup and I can’t wait to share it with all of our wonderful supporters and fans who look forward to these concerts,” Sherman said.

The details of the concerts will be sent shortly to all Weehawken residents.

The Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC) is a non-profit group intended to eventually build a regional performing arts center on the Weehawken waterfront.

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either or


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