Berkshire Records is pleased to announce the highly anticipated solo recording “By George” by noted Ohio pianist George Foley. The album features seventeen tracks in a variety of genres that span a period of over one hundred years. Repertoire includes fresh treatments of several well-known jazz standards, “parlor piano” pieces from the early twentieth century, compositions by piano masters Earl Hines and Fats Waller, and excursions into light classical music. Original ompositions include the impressionistic “Ottoline” and the bluesy and noirish “Gumshoe”. Foley’s irrepressible humor is evident in his arrangement of the Christmas classic “Silent Night” as a blues and the classic “Lara’s Theme” as a boogie woogie tour de force.
“By George” was produced by Mr. Foley and music industry veteran Doug Harvey. The recordings were done over a period of ten months in the relaxed environment of Harvey’s studio. The album marks the debut release of Berkshire Records, which has been formed by Foley to re-release his previous recordings as well as other projects by affiliated artists.
George Foley's Notes:
Over many years of playing the piano professionally, I have been fortunate to play music I like much of the time. When playing solo, I enjoy presenting tunes and pieces from different eras which require or lend themselves to various techniques.
"High Hattin" (1924) is part of the "African Suite" by Zez Confrey, who helped keep ragtime going in the 1920's, sometimes under other names.
The quirky jazz waltz "Bird Brain" was part of the scoring for the Peter Gunn TV series of 1958-1961, which featured Mother's, a nightclub with real jazz musicians. I learned it from the delightful "Quincy Jones Explores the Music of Henry Mancini" record, which also featured real (and really great) jazz musicians.
I discovered Fats Waller at age 15 and owe more to him musically and aesthetically than anyone. His ability to combine the playful and profound knocks me out. "Jitterbug Waltz" (1942) highlights his lyricism and gift for melody.
First recorded in 1944 by Cootie Williams and His Orchestra at pianist Bud Powell’s urging, “Round Midnight” went on to become Thelonious Monk’s best known standard.
"Nuckels Otool Wouldst Ride Again" (1970) by French pianist and composer Claude Bolling came out at the beginning of the ragtime revival and harkens back to the often tacky packaging of ragtime in the 1950's known as honky tonk. "Knuckles O'Toole" was actually pianist Billy Rowland, who had a varied career, including playing with Les Brown. His records were some of the more tasteful in the genre and included some nice originals.
"Got the Spirit" was a showpiece of the great Maynard Ferguson big band of the late 50's and early 60's and was penned by trombonist Slide Hampton.
"How Long Has This Been Going On" (1928) is a gem by the Gershwin brothers. As a teenager my mom attended a solo recital by George Gershwin and got his autograph. She wanted to give it to me, but unfortunately we never found it.
The noirish "Gumshoe" (1995) in 4/4 came to me during solo hours at Nighttown, where I started playing in 1979.
"Silent Night Blues" uses jazz chords and blues phrasing to update the Christmas classic written in 1818.
"Stung"(1908) is a very rare march by ragtime composer Theron C. Bennett. The sheet music cover shows a teddy bear and the letters of the inside title graphic depict a cartoon of a Winnie the Pooh type going after honey from a beehive.
The fascinating Thelonious Monk was a pioneer of modern jazz who understood and included stride piano in his distinctive pianistic palette. Monk first recorded the jam session staple "Blue Monk" in 1954.
"Ottoline" (1982) was inspired by reading a biography about and letters by Lady Ottoline Morell, a significant figure in the Bloomsbury group in England.
The Mexican classic "Besame Mucho" (1940) starts off like my favorite pianist Jaki Byard's solo version.
"Blues in Thirds" (1928) is a nice early piece by the great Earl Hines. My variations even surprised me.
"Lara's Boogie" is my treatment of "Lara’s Theme" (1965) from "Dr. Zhivago". Few know that the words were added after the movie was released.
"Souvenir de Chopin" (1947) is a moving homage by the Swiss-born composer Arthur Honegger.
"Fairy's Dream" (1909) is a lullaby of a waltz by the king of Kansas City ragtime, Charles L. Johnson.
Doug Harvey and I started getting together every week in March of 2012. We were often surprised and delighted with how this recording evolved. I hope you share some of that feeling as you listen to this musical journey.
Doug Harvey's notes:
I first heard George Foley play the piano during a business lunch on a winter day at a restaurant located in the Harley Davidson dealership in Cleveland. The music brightened an otherwise dreary occasion. I was impressed by George’s technical facility and his obvious delight and immersion in the material. Clearly, I was in the presence of a gifted and distinctive musician.
As luck would have it our paths began to cross and we became friends. I have been fortunate to hear George play countless times and have never heard him on an off night; he doesn’t seem to have them. I have also spent many hours talking with him about the many great players and songs from the early 20th century and can say that his knowledge is on par with his considerable musicianship.
I could go on about the many dimensions of George’s artistry. I like to say that if James Joyce had been a piano player he would probably have sounded like George, combining intellect, erudition, imagination, inspiration and wit. He is a master of pianistic technique and aesthetics of the 20’s and 30’s, the heyday of the virtuoso soloists such as Fats Waller, Earl Hines, and Art Tatum, among others. His repertoire ranges from classical through ragtime, parlor piano, several generations of jazz and on into modern classical compositions. His fearless flights of fancy are always grounded in flawless logic and respectful of his sources. He is truly a one man band – his left hand handles the bass and rhythmic duties as well as any bassist and drummer.
I always smile when I hear George play. His playing is always fresh, full of twists and turns and seasoned with droll asides and impish surprises. I often laugh out loud at his musical jokes. I turn my head in wonder how he does some of the things he does and marvel at how he manages to think of them. It always makes me happy. Everyone else in the room invariably has the same reaction. It is as close to a “happy pill” as anything I know. I’ve often thought that the world would be a better place if we could bottle and sell that happiness, and so when George floated the notion of doing a solo album I jumped at the chance to produce it. I hope you have as much pleasure listening to it as I have had in helping George make it.