It is with sorrow that we share with you the loss of one of the most accomplished keyboard technicians to share the planet. After more than a month in the hospital, Alex succumbed to illness and passed away early this week. Those of us that had the great privilege of playing with Alex, counting him as a friend, and those who had the privilege of hearing his skilled renditions of many flavors of progressive rock feel his loss deeply. Rest in peace, Alex. We’ll miss you.
Here is his impressive bio:
Alex Chigos – Keyboards
Born in Germany, while a toddler Alex enjoyed listening to a series of LPs called Classics For Children that featured the music of great composers such as Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Grieg, Prokofiev and others along with a narrator who would tell the story of Peter And The Wolf, Sheherazade, The Hall Of The Mountain King and others. He fell deeply in love with classical music. At age 3, Alex walked over to the Steinway grand piano and played Mozart’s Minuet. After visiting the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart in Salzburg, Austria, Mozart became Alex’s childhood hero.
After moving to the US as a child, through frequent trips to music stores whenever and whereever possible, Alex was drawn to electric organs which were evolving the abilities to play sounds that realistically recreated orchestral instruments and percussion including a magnificant Hammond organ with attached chimes, pipes and drums in a New York music store.
In elementary school Alex took up the violin which he played, with lessons, for 2 years before putting it down forever and moving his focus to the organ. Alex began taking organ lessons at age 10. His instructor urged him to switch to piano, saying his talent was wasted on the organ, but something about being able to create complex sounds and instruments on the organ had gripped him and he continued his lessons for another year and a half. At age 11, Alex joined a neighborhood band as the organist and the youngest member and within a year was playing at dances, parties, amusement parks and bars and getting paid for it. Playing the music of The Doors, Deep Purple, Iron Butterfly, Steppinwolf, Spirit and other progressive leaning music mixed in with The Rolling Stones, The Animals etc., Alex soon developed a reputation in his area as a strong keyboard player who targetted the most challenging and interesting music of the time.
Also at age 11, a friend introduced Alex to the music of The Mothers Of Invention in the form of the album Freak Out. It was love at first sight as Alex followed the music of The Mothers and Frank Zappa enthusiastically from that point forward.
Around the same time, Switched On Bach (Walter Carlos), Silver Apples Of the Moon (Morton Subotnick), The Minotaur (Dick Hyman) all were capturing Alex’s attention with the instruments being huge modular synthesizers costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Alex was fascinated with this music but, due to the unreachability of the instruments, there was little opportunity to play them.
Then it happened.
Trilogy, by Emerson Lake And Palmer, a band his brother had spoken of but he had never heard, was released. Alex bought the album and listened, immersed through headphones. Keith Emerson’s organ and piano work was unlike anything he had ever heard, but the synthesizers hit him “like the hot kiss on the end of a wet fist”. He realized then and there that one way or another, he must have a synthesizer.
There was no Internet or Google in the 1960s, but after researching his options he discovered a company called PAIA electronics that made a modular synthesizer kit that cost less than $ 200.
When it arrived, it consisted of empty printed circuit boards, bags of resisters, capacitors, transistors, potentiometers, transformers, connectors some flat metal panels and several pieces of wood. The synthesizer was comprised of several modules including A Power Supply, Voltage Controlled Oscillators, Filters, Amplifiers, Envelope Generators, and more. Alex built the synthesizer one module at a time, carefully soldering each part onto the circuit boards, attaching the front panel connectors and finally attaching the circuit board to the front panel.
As each module was complete, he and a friend who was an electronics prodigy with a full lab, connected the finished module to the power supply, an amplified speaker and an oscilloscope and explored the various functions and capabilities of the module thoroughly. Finally the primative little synthesizer was complete. Woefully inadequate for live performance, the little PAIA never found its way onto the stage, but the education he received from it was invaluable. He had found his instrument, the synthesizer!
Later, he bought a MicroMoog which he did use on stage, but alas, it was stolen off the stage at a gig. He subsequently acquired an Oberheim 8 Voice Modular Synthesizer, one of the classic huge synthesizers of the 70s and 80s.
Parallel with Alex’s foray into Progressive Rock, he discovered Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever and Weather Report, along with other Jazz/Rock Fusion groups and artists including Jan Hammer, who, along with Patrick Moraz and Ravi Shankar, helped complete Alex’s musical influences and styles.
Alex played keyboards in various dance bands, but eventually decided that the music business was not for him, and after completing computer programming classes began his “straight” job as a software developer, still never missing an opportunity to jam or play on stage as a guest. Eventually he joined a South Florida Pink Floyd Tribute band with whom he played for a little over a year. Finally, he found a newly formed Yes tribute band, Sound Chaser, with whom he played for years.
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