This album continues my goal of the past several years to produce "real" arrangements that could be performed live -- as opposed to studio-only creations with lots of tracks and overdubbing. Here, all arrangements are for a quartet of guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. I played all guitar and bass parts -- along with a few of the keyboard parts. I programmed all the other keyboard and drum tracks -- again going for a live, organic feel as opposed to a synthesized vibe.
The music on the album consists of several covers of classic, jazz-fusion compositions -- the most covers I've ever included on one project. The remaining original compositions cover ground from traditional fusion to a more contemporary, pop-influenced style. Throughout all the arrangements -- both original and covers -- is a fairly strong mainstream rock orientation. Following are notes on some of the individual tracks:
My Down Time
This is an tune that I have recorded a couple of other times. I first released it on my 2006 album A Step Along the Way, where it received a rather heavily produced, smooth jazz setting. Two years later I arranged it for a guitar/bass/drums power rock trio and released it on Just the Three of Me.
This new, guitar, bass, drums and keys version is still more on the rock side, but restores some rhythmic interplay in the chorus from the first version that the trio version had to omit.
This is a tune I wrote back in 1979. In the early 80′s I regularly played it on gigs. This arrangement and recording is done in a different style than originally conceived (which was up-tempo swing in the manner of “So What”).
Here it is set over a slower, rock-based feel with my now standard guitar, bass, keys and drums format. As often happens, I am not sure this “works” or not, or even if the tune itself is strong enough. I’d appreciate reactions and/or comments.
500 Miles High
This tune appeared on the 1972 album “Light as a Feather” by Chick Corea and Return to Forever. Also on that landmark album was his classic “Spain”, which I covered on my album “Still Hungry“.
With the arrangement I tried to develop a feel and setting that would be different from the original samba.
Next in Line
This is an original composition which I first wrote and recorded about five years ago. It appears in a smooth jazz setting on my album A Step Along the Way. Here it is handled in a more rock & fusion style.
In 1960, John Coltrane released his landmark album “Giant Steps“. This album was very influential, adding several new elements to to the modern jazz vocabulary.
“Naima” – one of the tracks from this album – is a ballad, and is named for his then wife, Juanita Naima Grubbs. It has proven to be one of Trane’s most enduring compositions, having been recorded countless times by jazz artists like Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, younger generation fusion artists like Jaco Pastorius and John McLaughlin, and even rockers like Derek Trucks.
The Allman Brothers Band is one of the all-time great groups. What an incredibly gifted bunch of musicians they were. And, of course, beset by death, tragedy and other adversities. This composition showcases both their rock and jazz influences.
One day, for some reason, it occurred to me that this great Herbie Hancock classic would work in a jazz-rock fusion setting such as I have been doing lately. So here it is.
On Candid Nacho
I thought this an appropriate title because the tune itself is bit on the quirky side. I think it has lots of late 70's – early 80's vibe.
The title is inspired by the ambient-style introduction in 6/8 time, which has something of a circular feel to it. After the ambient introduction follows a jazz-waltzy feel — also in 6/8. There is also some rhythmic playing around between two groups of three and three groups of two. The ambient section returns in shortened form after the solo section and before the head is recapped for the final time.
This is pretty much a straight-down-the-middle jazz-rock fusion number. If there’s anything unusual, it is that there are some pretty unconventional harmonic changes.
Pat Metheny’s Phase Dance
There may be some who are bigger fans of Pat Metheny than I, but probably not many. He is a phenomenal musician. I am in awe of his guitar playing, to be sure, but what totally blows me away is what a great composer and band-leader he is. He is about my age, and has been consistently releasing some of the most innovative and listenable (and occasionally unlistenable, at least for me) jazz since the mid-1970′s.
I play a few covers of his tunes, but when I do, I have never done much besides copy his arrangements. It is interesting that — much like the Beatles — it is difficult to separate the composition from the arrangement.
This was an experiment to see if I could treat a classic Metheny number in a way that was somewhat different from the original. I’m not sure it’s drastically different, but I slowed it down a little, and put more of a rock-fusion feel behind it. The guitar sound is also very different from Metheny’s. See what you think: