Sounds of Summer
In 2019, Midland Park resident Randy Dominguez was smoking at Wyckoff's Brick House when he met actor and producer Fulvio Cecere. Fortuitous bonding over their Cuban heritage and love of cigars sparked life-changing career moves. Now, four years later, the duo is wrapping up their interview-based documentary on New Jersey's music history called The Jersey Sound.
Dominguez, born José Rolando Dominguez, moved to Manhattan’s Upper West Side from Cuba in 1959. He was ten years old and worked hard to achieve the American Dream. He was drafted into the Vietnam War at 18 when his love for music blossomed. Returning from war, he immersed himself in business, serving a variety of notable companies, including Merrill Lynch. He bided the rush of corporate America adieu, though, at 73 and retired to Midland Park.
The transition from a fast-paced career to idle retirement is challenging. Dominguez decided to devote his time to charity but still had voids to fill. So, he jumped at the opportunity to help Cecere with his then-embryonic film idea. Over 295 musicians have been interviewed. Dominguez is now the Executive Producer and is thinking of starting his own production company.
What is the documentary about?
The concept was to do a documentary film on the history of music in New Jersey and its musicians. New Jersey has more musicians per capita than any other state. New Jersey is unique in that it has transitioned over time through all the genres and continues to do that. Chicago has the Chicago Blues, there's a Philadelphia sound, and there's New Orleans jazz. Each of them is different, but they're generic in that they stay within their sphere. New Jersey transitioned through every genre. The musicians that contributed have all sorts of unique stories. But, each reports a distinct attitude toward the New Jersey music industry.
When did you realize your passion for music?
When I was in and coming back from Vietnam, listening to music allowed me to escape the moment. At the time, you probably had some of the best music that ever came out in the history of the world. I was part of that because I could listen. I had built up a record collection for my stereo system so soldiers could come over, hang out, have a beer, and listen to music.
What childhood memory shaped who you are today?
A question I get asked all the time is, "Why do you have no or a very minimal accent?" When I was about 14, I went to see my friend. As I'm waiting for him, a neighborhood fellow comes over to me. I had a heavy accent at that time. I'm not even sure if I can mimic it because it was so long ago. He goes, "You a smart guy. You're gonna do really good, I know this, but I gotta give you one piece of advice." You gotta get rid of your accent. When you are in business, you don't want nobody to know where you are from. You're kinda white, so they're not gonna be able to pick up you're Latino. That's good for you because it gives you the upper hand." So I went to my English teacher, who told me to read MAD magazine out loud in front of a mirror. Effectively, I was able to transition.
Is there a particular music group interview in the film that stands out?
We [Dominguez and Fulvio] went so far as to identify the different music originating from New Jersey. The first was the Lenni Lenape Indian Tribe based in Mahwah. Obviously, it's drums. It's part of their culture and the integration of their values. In the movie, some senior members play a drum set for us at one of their events. For me, getting a Native American aspect incorporated into the film and explaining their historical value towards New Jersey and its music, is very important.
What production element are you proudest of?
I've always liked cartoons before movies. When you used to go to a movie theater, there was always a prequel to the film. It was fun and got kids engaged. I thought, let's do something here in animation that will resonate. The character we chose was a seagull because many of our logos resonate in Asbury Park. You'll see the seagull flying, and he's got an attitude. He eventually lands on an old-time microphone, pulls this guitar, and plays a doo-wop song, which is absolutely fabulous.
What trends occur throughout each interview?
We start each interview with "What is the Jersey sound?" The responses are all about the attitude of Jersey musicians towards music, New Jersey, and other musicians. New Jersey musicians share information with each other and help each other improve. They work together to keep improving, develop great products, and support each other.
New Jersey has more musicians per capita than any other state. NJ is unique in that it has transitioned over time through all the genres and continues to do that.