If Ron Esposito printed out a hard copy of his résumé, it would have to be on a continuous roll of teletype paper. Exploratory drummer at 10. Guitarist at 12.
At Ohio University, while playing in Rock and Folk bands, he was on the student concert board that booked Jose Feliciano with some obscure British opening act called Led Zeppelin. At OU, he met White Panther activist/poet John Sinclair, eventually producing a couple of spoken word recordings for him. He managed Boston’s top-line Jazz club, The Jazz Workshop, and was road manager for artists on CTI Records.
After moving to Cincinnati in 1986, Esposito was music director/producer/on-air personality for public radio’s WVXU for nearly 20 years and bassist for the High Street Rhythm Rockers (later Greg Schaber and High Street) for 12 years. And that’s just the Reader’s Digest version.
Four years ago, WVXU’s ownership change ended Esposito’s employment, which coincided with his High Street departure. Looking for significant change, Esposito shifted gears. Pursuing his longstanding spirituality/philosophy interests, he became certified as a Life Coach and Enneagram teacher/trainer.
“You may not recognize it, but the universe is always on time,” Esposito says over coffee at Sitwell’s. “Xavier sold WVXU, I got my walking papers and at the same time High Street had been playing every beer joint from Indianapolis to Columbus and Chicago to Memphis, and even though the music was fantastic I was ready for a change. I’ve always had a philosophic/metaphysical/spiritual bent, so I got my life coaching certification. And I was blessed to start working at the Conscious Living Center in Mount Auburn.”
Esposito pushed his musical endeavors in a new direction as well with his discovery of Tibetan and crystal singing bowls.
“I was working in the realms of consciousness, spirituality and personal growth, and I think the bowls and their vibration fit right in line with that,” Esposito says.
“That’s not to say I couldn’t be a life coach and still be playing ‘Back Door Man.’ I was just ready for something new.”
Esposito first heard recorded bowls in a massage therapist’s office, then experienced them musically through German New Age artist Deuter. After acquiring both Tibetan brass and quartz crystal singing bowls and experimenting, Esposito hit the studio with colleague Deborah Ooten, keyboardist Billy Larkin and producer Ric Hordinski, recording last year’s Lifting the Veil.
Essentially two long, spoken word meditations on the Enneagram — a metaphysical examination of personality types intended to point the way to higher consciousness — Lifting the Veil was more atmospheric than musical, but it set the stage for Esposito to take his singing bowl explorations to a new level on his latest album, Open Heart.
“I wanted to do an instrumental record that put the bowls in a different context,” Esposito says. “I like playing the bowls as a musical instrument. Usually the bowls are placed in a healing context because of their vibrational qualities, and I’m all good with that, but I come from a musical background.”
On Open Heart, Esposito (on bowls, kalimba, guitar and bass) re-teamed with guitarist Hordinski and other contributors, including Jim Feist (tabla/percussion), Janice T. Sunflower (Native American flutes), Doug Perry (dulcimer) and Angie Pepper (Gospel vocalist on the track “Om Shanti”), to craft a transcendent and reflective work that's both meditational and musically engaging.
“The brass bowls are played with a wooden striker that gets that bell-like sound, then you stir them and get them to sing,” Esposito explains. “Like the quartz crystal bowls, they have a long, resonant singing tone. What I like to do with the bowls is start stacking the notes. What I’m doing is forming all these chords with combinations of notes that are constantly morphing and shifting, like clouds slowly going across the sky. There’s all this subtle stuff going on. For me, it’s like a tractor beam for the mind.”
Esposito is predictably busy with activities both musical and spiritual.
Returning to Jazz, he plays acoustic bass with the Chris Comer Trio at Havana Martini Bar on Fridays at 5 p.m. He also life coaches, teaches and trains at the Conscious Living Center, is active as a presenter for the International Enneagram Association, hosts Waves of a New Age on WAIF (88.3 FM) Tuesdays at 3 p.m. and occasionally plays the bowls live for yoga and meditation centers throughout the region.
With Open Heart being playlisted on John Diliberto’s nationally syndicated Echoes radio show, Esposito is already thinking ahead to his next recording, in which he’s planning to balance the bowls with deep space synths, cello and violin. But first comes a trip to Cuba to study the ways religion and spirituality are steered by music and art. It’s part and parcel of one of the most overstuffed datebooks in the city.
“I keep a detailed calendar,” Esposito says with a laugh. “Nowadays I get up at 8 a.m. and go until midnight. In one regard I’m no different than any other musician who’s playing gigs — it’s just my gigs now are yoga and meditation places.”
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