COPYRIGHT 2001 Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Byline: Joel Welin
The chords and notes from the keyboard are forceful and determined, but they soothe, nevertheless.
The songs are familiar, but their arrangements vary just enough so that they tickle the ear, but don't fully engage the listener.
It's perfect music for a restaurant full of people.
That's Wally Gator at the piano, entertaining diners by playing favorites at Turtles or Michael's on East, or, currently, at the Plaza Steakhouse and Wine Cellar.
But it's just one facet of Wally Sirotich.
"I've written a lot of different kinds of music -- blues and country and rock 'n' roll," he says on the telephone. He also has played in a number of local groups, including the Chris Anderson Band and with the Toler brothers and with Twinkle.
"What I've found as a musician is that you have to really be flexible and you have to be able to do a lot of different things," he says, choosing his words carefully. "For many years I've played blues and Steely Dan-kind of music (and performed with the Dan's Elliott Randal). Doing solo gigs around here, people expect something completely different. So I've had to, as a survival tactic, learn to do a wide variety of music."
Given that, it's no surprise that Sirotich's "Music From the Sun" (WGMR), is an album of smooth-jazz originals.
"I've been a jazz fan forever," he says as an afterthought. "I've spent a lot of time on the left side of the FM (radio) dial. And I've always listened to music that was 'above me,' like Prokofiev's piano solos.
"Music from the Sun," however, is down-to-earth, accomplished and accessible. Its dozen songs -- two co-written with Dan Toler; all music performed by Gatermon -- draw inspiration from Southwest Florida, as such titles as "Sailing the Venice Jetties," "St. Armands Circle" and "Ice Coffee" would suggest.
"This is really a specific focus that I had, to do music that fit in that focus," Sirotich says. "This was really my first focused project."
Wally Gator performs at 6:30 p.m. today, Saturday, and Tuesdays through Saturdays at the Plaza Steakhouse & Wine Cellar, 525 Bay Isle Parkway, Longboat Key. Call 387-2700. Access his Web site at www.wallygatormusic.com.
Published: Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 10:44 a.m.
Without leaving his home base of Venice, pianist Wally "Gator" Sirotich has gone nationwide, thanks to his flair for cybermarketing.
The musician's compositions recently appeared in the John Lennon documentary "Strawberry Fields," and are slated to make cameos in the Justin Timberlake film "The Open Road" this summer. Because of Sirotich's presence on networking sites such as TuneCore.com and SoundClick.com, which feature his original MP3s, producers across the country have picked up his melodies for high-profile projects.
"Not bad for a piano player from Venice," Sirotich said with a laugh. "I'm super excited about having my music placed in motion pictures. That's the dream of a lifetime coming through."
In "Strawberry Fields" are 15 of Sirotich's songs, including "From Lennon's Closet," which the film's producer simply found on a Web site. The 14 others were born when Sirotich viewed the documentary DVD and custom created tracks to fit with the narrative. In "The Open Road," Sirotich's piece "The Gospel According to Gator" is featured during a bar scene with actor-singer Lyle Lovett.
"I love writing my solo compositions for films," Sirotich said. "It gets my creativity flowing. That's a niche I needed to explore more."
A Buffalo, N.Y., transplant, Sirotich became a lover of the ivories at age 7. His nickname, taken from that of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Wally Gator, has been his trademark since he began performing on the Sarasota and Longboat Key bar and restaurant circuit. During the slow seasons, Sirotich retreats to his home studio, records sessions and posts albums, like his most recent, "Circle of Love," online.
Throughout Sirotich's career, he has shared the stage with Elliott Randall (who played on several Steely Dan albums), Dickey Betts, "Dangerous" Dan Toler, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, Bo Diddley, Odetta and Richie Havens. Sirotich also opened for Steppenwolf, the Marshall Tucker Band, Molly Hatchet, Toto and Jerry Jeff Walker.
"Most people, when they record these days, they record with full bands. What I'm doing now with my piano playing is getting back to the basics," Sirotich said. "It's working out well for me. That's where my heart is now."
Sirotich is currently booking gigs at Rum Bay Restaurant on Palm Island and will soon be a regular at the Polo Grill and Bar in Lakewood Ranch.
For more information on Sirotich and his upcoming shows, visit gatermon.com.