I recorded the standards in tribute to my father, Charlie Sr. and all the musicians who came through his big band and our house over the years, not to mention that Michael Melvoin and Phil Ramone badgered me for years to get my ass back in the studio.
Here's a chronological account of the songs, sessions and the amazing people who were involved.
The New York Sessions
'Day by Day' and 'Horse's Grave' were recorded at Right Tracks studio in Manhattan, at the Pawling, N.Y. botanical garden home of my friends, the Ziffs, at Phil's Bedford, N.Y. Shire Studio and we mixed Horse's Grave at Presence Studios in Westport, Connecticut and 'Day by Day' at the Artist Tribe Studios in Topanga, Ca.
Musicians/Singers: Michael Brecker, (tenor solo on Day by Day); David Brown, guitar; Bunny Brunel, bass; Jill Dellabate, b/g vocals; Ray Gomez, guitar; Mike Greene, vocals, keyboards, horns, percussion; Leslie Lewis, b/g vocals; Simon Phillips, drums; Karen Ramone, b/g vocals and goodies in the kitchen; Eric Rehl, keyboards, loops, pads; Andy Snitzer, (tenor solo on Horse's Grave); Vaneese Thomas, b/g vocals.
Engineers/Production: Frank Filipetti, Ken Theis, the late John Patterson, Elliot Scheiner and Geoff Walcha. Elliot was the mixing engineer on Horses Grave and Elliot and Geoff on Day by Day. Phil and I produced these two songs.
Back Stories: Horse's Grave was written in memory of Michael Melvoin's son, Jonathan who tragically died of a heroin overdose earlier that year. Michael Brecker is my favorite tenor player of all-time, and we are honored to have two of his last solos on the project (Day by Day and Lush Life LA). Michael had already been diagnosed with the leukemia which ultimately took him from us in January of 2007 when he heard 'Day by Day'. We already had a tenor solo on the track but Michael said he wanted to take a shot at it. So I took the mix, doubled the length of the solo and sent the files to this and 'Lush Life L.A.' to Phil. Michael recorded these on an icy night with Phil in Manhattan. Michael had helped behind the scenes for many years with the Musicares Foundation.
There are 20 other recordings from this session which will be released later in 2010. Before I left the Recording Academy Phil Ramone and I were already making music together. It had been over 15 years since I had last recorded and his insistence and support made me get off my musical ass and back in the studio. Phil's studio was right above the horse barn so there were many times in the day when the air was filled with much more than just music!
The L.A. Standards Sessions
Michael Melvoin and I had been talking about recording some standards and not so familiar songs for years. Finally I went over to his house and we started going through reams of sheet music, fake books and CD's looking for some great songs to record. After three or four meetings we found the songs we wanted to do and Michael started arranging them. Many were songs that my dad's band had played; some I had never heard and 'Lush Life' was a composition I had wanted to record since I was eleven. We recorded the basic tracks at LAFX in Burbank, overdubs at Rourketown studios in Granada Hills, Ca., and we recorded most of the overdubs and mixed at the Artist Tribe Studios in Topanga.
Musicians/Singers: Michael Brecker, (tenor solo on Lush Life L.A.); Bunny Brunel, bass; N'dugu Chancler, drums; Frank Gambale, guitar, (guitar solo on You Don't Know What Love Is); Mike Greene, vocals, horns, percussion, (tenor/alto/soprano solos on How insensitive/You Don't Know What Love Is/Ain't No Sunshine/The Look Of Love); Michael Melvoin, keyboards, (solo on Being Alive); Eric Rehl, loops, pads; Evan Price, violin; Arturo Sandoval, (trumpet solos on I've Got You Under My Skin and I Never Told You).
Engineers/Production: Uli Noriega (basic tracks), Geoff Walcha (ODs and mixing), Michael Melvoin song arrangement, charts and associate producer; I produced these tracks.
Back Stories: Arturo Sandoval is one of my dearest friends. I got to know the Maestro Sandoval when we were putting the Latin Grammys together. Arturo is the most complete musician I have ever known! It is seldom that one meets someone who does what they do better than anyone who has ever lived! I had to finish this CD if for no other reason than it embodies 2 Arturo Sandoval and 2 Michael Brecker solos! Kurt Elling was one of the Trustees of the Recording Academy while I was President. We never really talked singing, mostly because Kurt didn't know I was a singer, and I wasn't about to reveal it to him for the obvious reasons! I would go to hear Kurt sing from time to time, sitting in the rear of the room marveling at his control, effortless vocal nuances and melodic slight-of-hand. One night at a little jazz venue in Santa Monica I went to see Kurt and he sang 'You Don't Know What Love Is'. It inspired and severely punished the vocal slacker in me. When Melvoin and I started assembling the songs, that one got a free pass and is dedicated to my friend, Kurt! There is not a lot more I can say about Melvoin and Bunny, they are my dear friends, confidants and I would love to be either of them when I musically grow up!
The Austin Texas Sessions
Shortly after we finished the standards sessions I knew I would be headed south to Atlanta and Charleston for the holidays, so I called my old friend Ray Benson in Austin to book some time in Austin on the way. 'Love Don't Knock Twice', 'Stop Chasin' My Heart Around' and 'Lush Life Austin' were recorded at Ray's Bismeaux Studios. Ray put together a great group of players and of course he was there with great ideas and that special brand of Ray Benson humor and hospitality.
Musicians/Singers: Floyd Domino, keyboards; Mike Greene, vocals, saxes, keyboards, percussion; John Mills, tenor sax, (tenor solos on Love Knocks Twice and Lush Life Austin); Evan Price, violin; Eric Rehl, loops and pads; Jason Roberts, violin, (violin solo on Stop Chasin' My Heart Around and Lush Life Austin); Dave Sanger, drums; Larry Seyer, guitar; Spencer Starnes, bass; Mitch Watkins, guitar on Lush Life Austin;
Engineers/Production: Chris Burns and Larry Seyer (basic tracks); Geoff Walcha (ODs and mixing); Spencer Starnes, charts; Ray Benson associate producer; I produced these tracks.
Back Stories: A few days after I left Austin, Ray called me from his tour bus. He said hold on Willie wants to talk to you. The Willie was Willie Nelson and Ray had been playing the Lush Life track we had recorded for Willie; crappy scratch vocal track and all! Willie said he was moved by the track and encouraged me to keep recording until I ran out of money. Nobody records the same song twice and puts it on their CD, right? In most cases you would be right, but when we got through with my two songs the band had just hit their stride, so we all wanted to keep going. I went in my bag and pulled out the Melvoin chart for Lush Life. Ray called Larry Seyer and said he needed a jazz guitar player at the studio after lunch. We sat down and worked out the chart and then the bass player Spencer Starnes started to play it in a Texas swing feel. I knew then that we had a totally different Lush Life animal on our hands and we jumped right in. Lush Life was written by an incredibly talented man named Billy Strayhorn who I could go on and on about, but Google him, read his biography and be inspired, what a great story; what an awesome composition and because I am a knucklehead, I couldn't help but put the two versions on the same CD. The intro to my song 'Stop Chasin' My Heart Around' is obviously inspired by the bebop song 'Salt Peanuts', written by either/or/and Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Clarke, Count Basie.
The cover art is an adaptation of a painting by J. Ceark. For many years I spent an inordinate amount of time on the road for business and on one such trip to New York I decided to find paintings for my 3 boys for Christmas. After an exhaustive search I found 3 that were perfect and this is one of them. In the original painting the young man at the door obviously wasn't holding a sax, but Robin, at Dreamer Designs made the lad a tenor player and also took some Photoshop liberties with the bathing beauties' voluptuous shapes… in the eye of the beholder stuff! The CD was mastered by Bernie Grundman in Hollywood and replicated by Groove House in Woodland Hills, California. Truth be known I probably wouldn't have had my horn chops in shape had it not been for my oldest son Charlie. He has been recording and gigging for a couple of years, and I have been playing in his band. So thanks to CG, Andy, Will, Dad, Mom, Peg, Mark, the rest of the Artist Tribe team, the amazing musicians who humor me, all the dogs past and present, the Topanga gang and my friends whose encouragement and loyalty helps me stay the uncharted course and ignore the banal banter!