by Chas B Stout
Behind the Scrim (Track 1) begins with a tune originally intended to have been the introduction of Slender Dreams, written by Jeff DeGraff. Like Behind the Scrim, Slender Dreams was going to be played with a slow swing beat. Jeff decided he was more comfortable performing his song in Folk style and I, in turn, was free to put it in front of another melody for which I had long ago given up trying to write lyrics. All of the chords played on the piano are open fifths with seconds, which allows the melody to travel along major or minor scales and roots to modulate with each chord change. Elliot chose to stay mostly within his E minor with a Blues sensibility
Global Chillin’ (Track 2) was originally written for and with Elliot on trumpet and his brother Corwin on alto sax to both front a jazz ensemble. For this album, my Dell laptop and I became the ensemble: although a jazz pianist and a bassist expressed interest, I could not see any way for us to learn and rehearse the music given Elliot’s school schedule and numerous appointments. Corwin had told me he preferred not to impose himself on Elliot’s solo effort and, because of his course schedule at the University of Michigan and his summer internship at Ford Motor Company, he was not available to record his part for this recording. Elliot added portions of Corwin’s solo to what he had written for his own opening solo and left the rest for a future recording that we hope will include Corwin. Bouncing from its syncopated introduction, this bumping swing tune is written in D minor, but the melody, counterpoint and resulting sixth, major seventh and ninth chords make it sound as if it’s in Bb major.
Look Out Kid (Track 3) takes its name from the refrain of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, which Elliot and I had enjoyed watching on YouTube while we were still writing and compiling tunes for this album. We wanted something upbeat and danceable like a tune I had written for an exhibit at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, but not that tune because I had given the rights to the museum. We played with riffs that Elliot was working with for his Raps and ones that I had collected over the years. In the end, we didn’t use any of those, but they probably inspired the result. This is one of my favorite pieces on the record because it just flows, very much the way we wrote it.
Short Shuffle (Track 4) is a slow swing dance fox trot in D minor with an F major bridge. I wrote this song in the 1980s for a jazz flavored record that was never made. It provided Elliot with another beat and style and gave the listener a little breather after two upbeat tracks.
A Little Time to Heal (Track 5) was written for 2Dig4’s (Tom Wolforth’s and my indie duo) forthcoming album, Temper. Written in the form of a slow spiritual in six-four time, this tune departs from the jazz beats and chords of the rest of the album. The melody is given space for long legato notes, which Elliot plays almost staccato, evoking sorrow that turns to hope in each refrain.
Pretty Young Girl (Track 6) comes from a skit of fractured Shakespearean tragedies turned into light musical comedy by James Ingagiola and me for the Ann Arbor theatrical group The Brass Tacks Ensemble. The lyric has one of Shakespeare’s tragic heroines unknowingly singing a happy love song while the audience is already painfully aware that not only is the love ill-fated, but the character is not long for this world. This slow stride in Bb helps to make the character seem off balance by modulating to major chords that take the audience along a not so parallel path with the melody.
So Long (Track 7) is the oldest tune on the record, originally part of a progressive rock song titled Suicide at Goldsworth Pond, based on a drowning incident at Western Michigan University in the mid-1970s. This version extracts the best part of that song, the melody emerging from undulating sixths and a swing beat floating over a slow rock four.
Donny Boy (based on Mozart’s Là ci darem la mano) (Track 8) is a boogie rondo in C. During one of Elliot’s consultations with his attorney Marsha Kracyr, she mentioned that she loves opera and that her favorite is Don Giovanni. Elliot and I had just started working on this album, and I suggested that we should try to find some part of the opera to set to a jazz beat as a thank you to Marsha for all her concern and advice for Elliot beyond the legal issues. Without having to change a single chord, this piece pops out of Mozart’s score with a wink and a smile. Elliot multi-tracked all three trumpet parts.
Art of Survival (Track 9) is the final song on 2Dig4’s first album, Artifacts. For this recording, the straight thumping rock four of the original is replaced by a sort of “Keep On Truckin'” strut. Elliot was working with the bass vamp for another project when we decided to add this tune to the CD. The fanfares at the beginning and in the final chorus are multi-tracked trumpet voicings of the original electric guitar part.
The cover art was created in a very old stripped down version of Adobe Photoshop called PhotoDeluxe, the disk for which came with my first digital camera, now long retired. The yellow font is Weltron Urban. The white text was Myriad Pro, but changed to a serif font as we uploaded the cover art PDF file onto the server at OasisCD (the manufacturer of the physical CD).
We make no pretense that this is a live album with a group of musicians contributing simultaneously in every track. To the contrary, Elliot and I worked from scores prepared in advance, knowing where he wanted to ad embellishments or try something that diverged from the pages. Elliot recorded several takes and parts of the ones we liked best are what you hear. I recorded or programmed the MIDI piano, bass and drums in Acid Pro 6, using sampled instruments. The tunes were arranged and recorded April through September 2011. Mixing was finished in early October.