By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

New CD 'has a lot of joy'

On The James LaRocca Project’s “Enbrightened Borders,” as on his last several CDs, his compositions are performed by local musicians such as cellist Amelia Bierly, pianist Dana Libonati and bassists Matt Seymore and Bethany Humlie. One song on the new disc features singer Chelsea Janzen, as well.

The collection is positive and playful, said LaRocca, whose recent recordings have traced his journey through illness and personal crises.

“In a way, my first classical album was about hope and aggravation, the next was about the end of a relationship ... ,” he said. “This one has a lot of joy, although there’s also some heavy contemplation.”

LaRocca said he hadn’t planned to write and record another album in 2012. Then his friends David and Jeulet Noyes moved in to his house to help with his caregiving. “They brought inspiration,” he said.

Jeulet Noyes wrote the lyrics for the song that features Janzen, “Letting Go the Reins.” She also encouraged LaRocca by coming up with titles, then telling the composer to write songs to fit.

“Remember,” for instance, is about “remembering all the things that have been coming into my life that have been positive, instead of focusing on the negative,” he said.

Remembering the positive turned out to be easy, he said, since “this community has supported me beyond belief.”

That includes his many fellow musicians, who lent their skills to the CD free or at reduced rates, LaRocca said. “They’ve all been a blessing to me,” he said.

In addition to Janzen, Bierly, Libonati, Seymore and Humlie, the list of musicians includes Eddie Parente on viola and violin, Tatiana Kolchanova Parente on violin, Diana Kravits on flute, Steve Kravits on bassoon and clarinet and Keith Sommers on drums.

Sommers also engineered and produced the CD at his studios in downtown McMinnville.

LaRocca said he is pleased with the results of the recording. “It’s less heavy than the other stuff; it shows I’ve come out of a dark time,” he said. “But that’s truly what art is — capturing a moment in your life that is hard or joyous or challenging.

“I’ve had a chance to capture a lot of moments that show the difficulties and beauties of my MS journey.”

LaRocca, a popular and frequent performer at area venues, was diagnosed with optic neuritis, often a precursor to MS, about 15 years ago; full MS was confirmed about four years later, when LaRocca was 35.

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic degenerative disease that causes destruction of the protective sheath surrounding nerve fibers. It results in muscular weakness, loss of coordination, and speech and visual problems; unchecked, it can be debilitating. Researchers suspect MS’s origins may be genetic or viral, but they don’t completely understand the disease yet.

In LaRocca’s case, it caused the professional guitarist to lose the ability to play not only his main instrument, but anything. He can’t even join a drum circle these days, he said.

However, he remains able to create and hear music and write out his compositions for others to play. “That helps,” he said. “To be able to do music, that’s huge.”

His new CD and previous releases are available at Incahoots, Harvest Fresh, Union Block, Inner Oasis and Red Fox Bakery in McMinnville. They also can be ordered from LaRocca’s website,, as well as CD Baby and iTunes.

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