Singer/songwriter, pianist, jazz experimentalist, soundtrack composer, beat-style poet -- Donald Rubinstein has somehow juggled all those hats over the lengthy span of his creative career. Rubinstein studied music at the University of Washington and moved on to stints at Berklee (where he befriended guitarist Bill Frisell) and Columbia in the mid-'70s. He first made a splash by scoring two films by horror director George Romero: the modern-day vampire tale Martin (1977) and the offbeat motorcycle flick Knightriders (1981). The latter picture starred future Oscar nominee Ed Harris, who would become one of Rubinstein's greatest supporters and benefactors. Rubinstein held a variety of jobs during the '80s, while working on music for the TV series Tales from the Darkside and Monsters, as well as a number of musical theater pieces and a book of poetry and sketches titled Haunt from an Early Island. The latter was published in 1989, the same year Harris served as executive producer for Rubinstein's first recording of his original songs, The Witness.
Rubinstein began to come into his own in the late '90s; his acclaimed theater production Strum Road was committed to film in 1997, the same year he recorded Time Again, a duo album with old Berklee cohort Bill Frisell (now, of course, a widely acclaimed modern jazz innovator). Two solo albums, Scars & Dreams and Music for Ocean Travel, followed in 1998, and Rubinstein also cut a country-flavored collaboration with Zony Mash titled A Man Without Love, released on Blue Horse. The following year brought a composer's residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts, as well as the song cycle Maya; during 2000, Rubinstein released a second album on Blue Horse, The Long Parade, which drew from folk, blues, classical, and avant-garde jazz. In the meantime, Rubinstein continued to write scores for radio (NPR's The Greatest Blues Singer That Ever Lived), television (the German-produced The Summer of My Deflowering), and several dance companies. Rubinstein collaborated with Steve Deutsch on the album The Painted Stranger during 2001. In 2002, Rhombus Records began to re-release parts of Rubinstein's catalog for wider distribution, starting with the Frisell album Time Again; Maya and The Painted Stranger were slated to follow in 2003.