Years ago I made a living playing music though really never as a jazz musician -- my most passionate goal and dream. As a professional trombonist, I tried to adjust my playing to the appropriate style, but now when I listen to old tapes of me in a dixieland band, I sound like a be-bop tailgater. Playing in rock 'n roll bands in the late 60’s-early 70’s, I caught myself thinking about how J.J. or Slide Hampton would play on a Chicago or a James Brown tune; and when I played in symphony orchestras, conductors often asked me to stop swaying and grooving during those endless rest measures trombonists are relegated to in classical music.
By necessity, I took some breaks from the trombone to raise two children and pursue graduate degrees, all the time thinking about jazz. Sometimes I'd accompany myself on piano and scat solos like the one JJ plays in Yesterdays that I include in this CD. My Master’s Thesis was about the therapeutic value of helping de-institutionalized adults feel safe and comfortable enough to improvise music. For a while I worked as a music therapist, treating a variety of people and training other clinicians to improvise on the piano or to use rhythm instruments while encouraging them to talk about their feelings.
I’ve found that in playing jazz and my working as a psychologist and psychotherapist, I don't think about technique as much as I guide people to better understand themselves. There is a feeling of unpredictability about the outcome of my job: no therapy session or psychological evaluation is alike, just as no jazz tune sounds the same played twice. My doctoral thesis involved studying how the elderly hold on to their lifelong-dreams into old age, which has always seemed related to my dream of playing jazz for a living. There's a continuity in my own life sustained by my love for my family, my career as a psychologist and passion for jazz. These days, I have developed a second career in jazz and still dream about making it to “Birdland,” a fantasy which has led me to record this CD .
If I had done this recording 30 years ago, four of the pieces: Bess, Thanks McCoy, Some Dirge, and Yesterdays still would have been included, as I surely have been planning this CD across my lifespan, and holding onto my dream. You will hear that I have included some of the best musicians in Vermont and elsewhere. Thanks for listening to the music.
Bess, You Is My Woman Now, from “Porgy and Bess” by George Gershwin, is beautiful, music and I was inspired long ago to record my own version from listening to a Slide Hampton arrangement. Whenever I perform this piece in a crowded and noisy bar or restaurant, people quiet down and listen, and then go back to being noisy after it is over, but only after they have applauded enthusiastically.
Thanks McCoy; I wrote this in 1977 as one movement of a brass quintet, which was only performed once, and during that performance, one of the players showed up drunk, and missed many of the right notes. This haunted me for a long time until I decided to transform it into a piece with rhythm section about 10 years ago. It was inspired by a McCoy Tyner piece on the album “Expansions”.
Cocolalla Land: This is a free-piece composed by my sister, Judi Silvano, a great jazz musician and composer, who has been my greatest supporter and inspiration. It features Judi, her husband and my brother-in-law, Joe Lovano, and myself.
Yesterdays; a familiar standard, but for me it has very special meaning. When I went to college in 1965, someone gave me a subscription to Downbeat, which included a free record, “JJ Johnson and Stan Getz at the Opera House”. I memorized each JJ solo, and typically sang them to myself to feel good or entertain myself, especially his solo on Yesterdays. When a book of transcriptions of his solos was published, I decide to learn that solo and play just the way he did-no easy task, as JJ’s playing, which sounds so effortless, is that of a true master. It has been an honor and fulfillment of my dream to play what he played.
26-2; This is a John Coltrane tune, fashioned after the form and some of the changes of Confirmation. Many musicians are somewhat intimidated by playing Coltrane’s music, myself being one of them, although after “Sgt. Pepper”, Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” is the album that had the greatest impact on how I view music. In planning for this recording, I started demystifying the changes of this piece, and with encouragement from Joe Lovano, and guidance from a Jamey Absersold CD, I recorded it, although I am still working on it.
Some Dirge: Among my most favorite jazz pieces is this composition by Carla Bley, which comes from her album from the 1960’s, “A Genuine Tong Funeral”. It is a tone poem that encompasses jazz and world music, and featured Jimmy Knepper on trombone, one of my heroes. For my CD I kept to the general form of her piece, and made some arrangement alterations.
Alone Together: Another standard, chosen for this CD because I often play it with my good friend and trombonist Tony Whedon, who starts off this piece in his unique and beautiful style. When we perform this piece in public, there is usually an unpredictable and wild flavor, with our own versions of JJ &Kai Winding interactions.
The Wasis: I wrote this piece for the CD, after I was able to arrange for Judi Silvano and Joe Lovano to join me to record in Vermont. The title refers to the word my daughter, Eva, used to identify her pacifier when she was just starting to talk, and then she later assigned the word to beautiful flowers. For those who have raised children, the pacifier and the special word for it, has crucial meaning, as finding the Wasis, meant that Eva would be happy, and her parents might get some peace and quiet.