In The Shadow of a Crow
The Very Thought of You with its ethereal melody soaring over the long beats, like desire inching toward a pure object of love, the archaic Hollywood scenario of the modern prototype, the woman who loves too much, rendered in the melodious admission (or submission) of More Than You Know, the ingenuous trepidation embodied in Please Be Kind and the anticipation of the homeward-bound lover in You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, these are the story lines that illuminate some of my favorite ballads and swing tunes, so rich in harmony and imagery. The lazy hammock “two- feel” and the chromatic surprises in the confession of love that is altar-bound in Charles Mingus’s not-so-well-known tune, Baby Take a Chance With Me, is a find, thanks to Frank Lacy’s rendition and to Susan Mingus, who kindly gave the lead sheet to me. It was Gordon Parks, and his daughter Toni, who pointed me toward Don’t Misunderstand, a nostalgic lament about, and lyrical argument for, uncommitted love that graced the movie Shaft’s Big Score, and which is, on this album, dedicated to Gordon. In Paris I met, finally, the composer of Les Parapluis de Cherbourg, and so many film classics, Michel Legrand. Les Parapluis de Cherbourg is offered with a bossa nova spin on the legendary porcelain protagonist’s enduring song, and I hope it adds a new resonance that is pleasing to all, including the composer! Que-reste-t-il?, also a French and American classic, is an impressionistic lament on the passage of time as it dissipates into vaporous clouds, the sort I have come to know so well in Paris, and La Javanaise here bouncing like a helium ball in 3/4 time, is a veritable French anthem, at once celebrating and abnegating love tried and conveniently failed in the carousel of cynical attempts “en passage” toward the romantic ideal. Monday Morning, a traditional ballad, paints a vignette of a young girl’s innocence in conflict with rebellious sensuality and corralled within the social convention of an earlier time, all expressed in the simple minor melody, the beauty of which is never exhausted in repetition. This album presents a number of songs I wrote both on my own and in partnership with some terrific musicians, James Weidman and Ron Jackson, with whom I have performed over many years, and Galt MacDermot, composer of the legendary musical Hair, with whom I worked on Broadway. Blue By the River was written during an idyllic stay in New Orleans, during the Jazz Festival, replete with beads on the balcony and steamboats on the Mississippi at dusk, unforgettable scenes in electric moonlight under a Prussian blue sky. Shut Down the Moon, in 3/4 and “two- feel time,” came to me in the image of an amphitheatre of disappointed love mounted on a papier-mâché set, and When The Dream Is Over, is an ironic deliberation on the high stakes of a questionable love. New songs written for this album include Manhattan Under the Paris Moon, reflections on a cross-continental journey and the surreal dislocations of time and place, and unresolved relationships, all echoed in the disparity of musical idioms and united by a French carousel theme. In the Shadow of a Crow, written in a mercurial weather pattern, and inspired by the flight of a bird past the window, is a groove tune on a romanticized image ruffled by a portentous reality; and I Don’t Believe In Romance, is a song that came to me in a moment of regret and leapt to limerick, materializing musically into an old-time radio swing tune. This album is dedicated to my listeners, to the music, and to the musicians who have interpreted it with me, in this album and over time, always the poets and the painters of the canvass we inhabit together, and to those who have supported the album, yet one more expression of the collective unconscious that resides in the universal Songbook.
—Lisa Kirchner 2008