Greg Tiburzi has a secret to where the music comes from. “It finds you,” he says. Right before New Year’s, Tiburzi released Free Choice Cuts, his seventh album in a little under a decade. A hardworking Twin Ports stalwart for over 40 years, he doubles up by writing and producing his own tunes.
Originally from the blue-collar heart of Hibbing, Tiburzi started out playing drums in the school band. After graduation, he stayed on the Iron Range for college, studying design and drafting. He worked during the summer at his family’s liquor distribution warehouse, which financed his budding side career as a musician.
Tiburzi’s first band formed around the same time he needed a bigger vehicle to transport his gear. What better way than to borrow his father’s delivery truck? The nascent coalition of denizens started to hone their craft enough to garner some recognition. “We did hundreds of songs together.”
Meanwhile, Taburzi continued to perform his own songs and set his sights on moving to Duluth and finishing his commercial arts degree at the University of Minnesota.
Photo by Ryan Swanson
Guitarist Bryan Gatten collaborated with Greg Tiburzi on their latest album, Free Choice Cuts.
His artistic eye runs in the family—his sister, Santa Fe artist Dawn Taburzi, painted the album cover for 2009’s Black-Eyed Susan. The cover of Free Choice Cuts depicts a butcher’s chart with the cuts of meat replaced by the song titles in chronological order from left to right.
Tiburzi performs live in local bars and restaurants and in Weber Hall at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, sometimes appearing solo and sometimes with his frequent collaborator, Bryan James Gatten, whom he met at church. “He is a great writer. He writes instrumentals. In fact, he is coming out with a CD in September.”
Gatten is a guitar instructor and appears onstage here and in the Twin Cities. Originally from St. Paul, his family moved to the East Coast, but his musical roots are in Duluth. His father, Eric, played in the local band Solitaire in the ’80s (it later it became Automatic). So coming back to Minnesota made sense. Gatten relocated here in 2013 with his wife, after spending their honeymoon in Duluth.
In addition to Gatten, Jane Aas, a local nurse and talented songwriter, provides vocals on select tracks for Cuts. Aas’ voice complements Tiburzi’s, coming in at just the right moments.
“Back Down the Mountain” is a whimsical story about children learning to ski by putting their skis tips together. Tiburzi rhymes so deftly he makes it look easy: “She let it fly, fly, fly/Just shape it like a pizza pie.”
The rendition of “Back Down the Mountain” features only Tiburzi on vocals. Gatten’s guitar is subdued and Tiburzi’s whistling exudes a playful spirit. Gatten’s guitar melds with Tiburzi’s, emerging into a rocking blues.
The penultimate track, “Bottomless Cup,” hearkens back to Tiburzi and Gatten’s 2016 live recording in Weber Hall (which is available on YouTube). The song weaves together themes of timelessness in the moment and a waitress at the end of her workday. The lyrics are involving enough to stand on their own.
It’s interesting to compare their performances available on YouTube. The quality of the videos is raw, but Tiburzi’s voice is soothingly melodic, youthful and clear, so you hear every word perfectly.
Gatten and Tiburzi recorded Free Choice Cuts in a whirlwind four-hour session. Tiburzi then mastered the final audio in post-production and added Aas’ vocals.
Free Choice Cuts may have only one track that spiked, and quickly it is gone, then we get to the meaty (sorry) tracks on the plate, but this album can easily compete with bigger names coupled with vaster budgets.
Free Choice Cuts is available for free at GregTiburzi.BandCamp.com.