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Flash Forward

Rindy and Marv Ross of the '80s sax-rock band Quarterflash release a new,
by: VERN UYETAKE, Quarterflash’s latest CD is titled “Goodbye Uncle Buzz” and features more mellow tunes than their 1980s saxophone pop-rocks songs such as “Harden My Heart.” Rindy and Marv Ross spend time in their large music studio at their home just outside Lake Oswego.

Gone are the days of poofy hair, leotards and pyrotechnics.

Rindy Ross calmly begins to sing, 'Love isn't having the things that we want / It's wanting the things we have / Life is deciding whether we cry or laugh.'

Her voice wakes up the otherwise stagnant home studio with musical equipment, cables and paintings strewn about as if from some creative flurry.

Her husband, Marv Ross, strums his '63 Gibson as autum leaves fall outside their home on the edge of Lake Oswego. It's peaceful.

Their band Quarterflash - the Portland saxophone heavy pop-rock group that sold a million albums through Geffen Records in the 1980s with the hits 'Harden My Heart,' 'Find Another Fool' and 'Take Me To Heart' - is back.

'We never really went away,' said Rindy, singer and saxophonist. 'We just didn't play very often. We're always working on projects.'

Rindy refers to their company Ross Productions, formed in 1991, which led to a commission from the state of Oregon to produce a musical based on diaries of immigrants on the Oregon Trail. The Trail Band they formed produced nine CDs. Marv's Broadway-style musical, 'The Ghosts of Celilo,' had 13 sold out performances by Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland last year.

Whatever the musical endeavor, Marv and Rindy's music has grown up a bit since the 80s. Their recent album 'Goodbye Uncle Buzz' - released in June - is the most 'emotionally honest work we've ever done,' said Marv, who also sings.

'It's pretty close to the bone stuff,' said Marv, of his noticably quieter guitar-driven compositions. 'A lot of it is about our childhood and going through skeletons in our closets from a perspective of being over 50 years old where the world looks different.'

Getting in tune

Quarterflash formed in 1980 when combining two of Portland's hit bands, Seafood Mama - with Marv and Rindy - and Pilot, which added Jack Charles, Rick DiGiallonardo, Rich Gooch and Brian Willis.

'Most people don't know that Rindy and I met in high school,' Marv said.

The couple first performed together, 'well after we were dating,' Rindy said, in the 1970s at Western Oregon State College where they got teaching degrees. They got married and taught three years of school in central Oregon before forming Seafood Mama, a popular dance band.

'That's what's amazing about rock n' roll. It's like, 'now I'm in my mid-20s. How much time do I have?'' Marv said on their move to Portland. 'I felt like the world was passing me by.'

The couple poured into their craft in the '70s and caught the attention of J. Isaac, now the senior vice president of business affairs with the Portland Trailblazers, who became their manager.

Their song 'Harden My Heart' became their first hit and led to Geffen Records signing them, releasing four albums under the name Quarterflash - a word found in a book of Australian idioms at their producer's house.

Cue the '80s music videos, television interviews, collaborations with Burt Bacharach and tours with Elton John and Linda Ronstadt.

The Rosses said their 'wild ride' was fun and they learned a lot about themselves, the music business and different cultures.

'Apparently the phrase 'harden my heart' doesn't translate to Japanese,' Marv said. 'It made no sense (to them).'

The empowering song, Rindy said, advises listeners not to, 'stay with something because it's comfortable and familiar.'

She continued, 'Through the years we've gotten feedback from mostly women who said this was their divorce song.'

In fact, 'Harden My Heart' has appeared on divorce compilation albums. One album cover, they said, had a wedding cake with a chainsaw through it.

'Classic,' Rindy said.

Changing with the industry

The couple said they've witnessed the local and international music industry change dramatically since the 1970s. Vinyl records are now CDs and MP3s. Songs from young adulthood are now classics. Record stores are obsolete. The Internet is a music machine, giving any new artist a platform for show-and-tell.

Marv said the band used to divide its material into genres when booked at smoky Portland nightclubs.

'It's unlike now, when you have four bands playing a club in one night,' Marv said. 'We were the entertainment. … Usually we'd do our first set acoustic with folk and Celtic music and bluegrass - quieter stuff because (people were) dining. Then the second and third sets you could open up.'

In the 1970s, bands would take the stage for hours on end. The couple played music full-time while seeking a record contract.

'That was a time,' Rindy said, 'when you could actually make a living playing music (in bars).'

'We actually bought a house in '79 just on the income we made playing the bar scene,' Marv said. 'Hard to imagine doing that now.'

And recording an album, Rindy said, was unheard of at the time.

'It was a really big deal,' Rindy said. 'We had so much to learn.'

Nowadays, and with a dozen albums under their belts, Rindy spends her days as a mental health counselor while Marv works on projects with Ross Productions. They update the band's Web site and always have time to talk with a fan.

'We have been so blessed,' Marv said.

'We've had so much fun,' Rindy said, 'and silly times.'

Sharing new material

Marv said he and Rindy aren't competitive when it comes to music. They respect each other's strengths.

'Each of us has really different strengths. I am not a songwriter. I help edit sometimes. I'm not the idea person,' Rindy said.

Marv said that Rindy makes each song her own.

The words in their new song 'Trying To Find A New Way' tell the story of writing words for their first song: 'Trying to rhyme in a line what you meant to me / I thought I had it when I found that diminished / Seventy verses later I was still trying to finish.'

The songs on their latest album, 'Goodbye Uncle Buzz,' are introspective, thoughtful and each tell a story - repercussions of a suicide in the family, undying love and a neighbor making a 'crazy quilt.'

Last month, Quarterflash performed its hits at the second annual induction ceremony for the Oregon Music Hall of Fame in Portland. When the couple took the stage at The Roseland Theater to end the night the seated audience rushed the stage - cameras in hand - and swayed to their hits.

'That show was more about celebrating the old stuff in a rock environment,' Rindy said.

Quarterflash was previously inducted into the hall of fame based on their contributions to music in Oregon and impact around the world.

'You can tell from this (new) record that it's not (rock music), it's quieter. It's more introspective. It's more acoustic,' Rindy said. 'It's better suited to smaller venues where that is more expected and accepted.'

Recently, the Rosses performed new Quarterflash songs at several intimate house parties. While it's different than playing arenas and smoky nightclubs, the Rosses are fine with that.

The word 'goodbye' in their album's title, Marv said, is a reference to saying goodbye to the past.

Rindy said that now 'it's really just about conveying the songs.' For them, though, it seems it always has been.

For more information about Quarterflash, to purchase 'Goodbye Uncle Buzz' and to view the live performance schedule, visit http://www.quarterflash.net/.

For more information about Ross Productions and The Trail Band's December concert schedule, visit www.rossproductions.com.