About ‘Tain’t what You Do
The cd started out as a project designed to showcase a solo playing style I developed after hurricane Katrina changed the musical scene here in New Orleans. The jobs I worked at that time were played on mandolin and guitar and the repertoire I developed was very diverse and multifaceted. A typical set would include gypsy jazz, Brazilian choro, samba, or bossa nova, bluegrass , Bach and other classical pieces both on mandolin and guitar, Italian classics and of course modern and traditional jazz .This period of my development lasted from fall of 2005 through the spring of 2009. At that time my wife Trish gave me a gift of recording time at Word of Mouth here in Algiers Point but, unfortunately, the opportunity went unused for a while. I had changed direction again to focus on traditional jazz guitar. When I ran into owner Tim Stambaugh on Mardi Gras day, he reminded me that I still had a load of time there. I thanked him for keeping that open and started thinking of ways to use it that reflected what I was about at that time.
The traditional jazz jobs that I now work in New Orleans provide a rich musical and cultural learning opportunity and the time spent on my own projects gives me a greater appreciation for it. I feel fortunate to be able to work with great musicians like Wendell Brunious and Mark Brooks on a regular basis and grow as a player from our collaborative efforts. As a group we pool our individual approaches to form a strong unit whose characteristics include a strong sense of swing and time, a repertoire that appeals to a culturally diverse audience, and melodically grounded solos and vocals that reflect an understanding of playing styles from all eras of the jazz tradition. Whatever playing situation we find ourselves in, we bring these values to the performance. As musicians, we are influenced by our environment in an intense way. A suggestion for a tune can come from another musician, an audience member, a student, or co-worker at a venue we are playing. Whatever the source of inspiration, we decide which aspects of our surroundings we internalize and how we allow them to shape our musical development. I think in selecting the playlist on this cd, I took a ‘what’s not to like’ approach. We play beautiful melodic tunes in a fun playful swing style that we hope everyone can relate to and enjoy. Tunes like Nevertheless by Danny Barker, I Remember You by Chet Baker and ‘Tain’t What You Do were some of Wendell’s favorites while I Thought About You and You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To were tunes Mark liked to work on. New Orleans by Hoagy Carmichael, Star Eyes, and Rosetta were my choices and all of these are good vehicles for the of the concepts we work on every time we perform together. I think the melodies of the tunes on this cd really have a way of staying with you, getting stronger with each repeated listening. (LINK TO BIO OF WENDELL AND MARK at some point)
We all have musical influences that help us find a direction early in our development. In both Wendell and Mark’s case they were influenced by family members from the start. Mark’s dad led a gospel group that he and his siblings played in while growing up and Wendell’s dad was a Julliard-educated trumpeter/arranger who influenced him to pursue music as a career. A big step in my development came when I moved to Texas at 19 and met and studied with a 14 year old jazz prodigy named Clint Strong. Clint is an amazing musician who has toured with Merle Haggard and recorded with Willie Nelson. By the time I met Clint in 1978, he was already a fixture on the Dallas/Ft. Worth jazz scene. He was headlining at the jazz clubs in the city as well as playing a steady stream of freelance gigs. I was lucky enough to study with him and for the next five years immersed myself totally in his style of guitar and the jazz styles of the masters that he and I often listened to together. That study along with the formal classical and jazz education I received at university formed the basis of my guitar concept and gave me inspiration to last a lifetime. It was in March that I got an email from Clint saying he would be interested in traveling to New Orleans if a chance to work presented itself. I immediately thought it would be cool to add his sound to our trio.
To be reunited with Clint and to have him play on this project is really special. Clint has a way of elevating the ability of his band mates to produce inspired performances from all involved. One of the tunes Clint taught me that we included here is Star Eyes. When I performed it on a gig with Wendell I found out that he had played the tune on a memorable job in Denmark with Art Farmer and Donald Byrd. One of Clint’s specialties has always been rhythm changes. While trying to find a tune of that type to include in the project, Wendell suggested ‘Tain’t What You Do. It was the last tune we played at the session. Mark suggested the tune I Thought About You on a job in Algiers point at a friend’s house and You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To on our steady brunch at Muriel’s in the French Quarter.
We recorded the music in one session and tried to keep the feel as close to what we play like in a live situation as possible. I really think Mark and I play well together and wanted that to be represented on the cd. We recorded both the bass and guitar totally acoustically and were sitting side by side like we would be in a live acoustic situation. Tim Stambaugh really did a great job of getting all of the music on tape allowing us to focus on the playing. Some of the highlights of the cd for me are the interaction between the players during the ensemble sections of the tunes. An example of this would be Clint’s duet part behind Wendell’s vocal on Nevertheless, Wendell and Clint on the out chorus of ‘Tain’t What You Do, and Wendell’s muted trumpet behind Mark’s vocal on I Thought About You. We really had fun recording the music and hope the listener enjoys the music as much as we do.