Salazar Bass Marimba, Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Orchestra Bells
Salazar Bass Marimba, Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Orchestra Bells
Steel Drums, Salazar Bass Marimba, Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Orchestra Bells, Hand Percussion
Drums, Salazar Bass marimba, Hand Percussion
You can blame all of this on me. I needed an opportunity to present the mallet instruments I love in some kind of performance arena. So I called my usual suspects and asked if they’d like to take a whack--no pun intended--at a “Mallets Only” band, and of course, a drummer. Since I have some buddies that are equally enamored by wooden and metal instruments that like to be beaten upon, this project came to fruition! You’ll meet all the players in a moment, but for now, a little history.
The Mallet Band has existed in one form or another in San Francisco since the 90’s. We played street gigs, park concerts and other events. We all are full timers in the music freelance world, we play other instruments as well, but mallet instruments are where we live. Quite often we have to create our own playing opportunities. I rallied the troops before with our last recording, “Phone Call From Barcelona”, and that project was a lovely collaborative scene. We used only acoustic instruments, except the bass marimba part, which was driven by Silicon Mallet and MalletKat mallet synthesizers. That worked out fine, it was very easy to capture for recording purposes, but it wasn’t wood! So for this project, I decided to go “au naturel”… And, of course, the band had no issues with that… I contacted John Salazar, a very fine marimba maker in Arcata California, and told him I needed a gorgeous instrument that could produce and project some heavy bottom to drive this band. He accepted the task, and built the fine instrument you see and hear on this recording. I especially appreciated John’s resonator design. Bass marimba resonator tubes typically are shaped like a “J” in order to have the length to support the frequency of the bar. For his design, John chose to double the resonator in on itself, so the result is a uniform looking instrument with beautiful lines, and incredible low end resonance.
The Mallet Band members wrote the tunes you hear on “How Far Is It?”. Some of the tunes were written under great duress, while others had been kicking around for a while, waiting for the right time to emerge. Our creative process was very involved, and went something like this: “I’ve booked two days of recording for The Mallet Band, everyone needs to write four tunes”…. After the panic subsided, everybody got busy, either writing or raiding his own “I’ll finish this tune some other time” files. Now about the tunes….
“Just For Today” was written by Tom Miller, our resident steel drum genius. (We’ve said this before, but he’s the only guy we know who sight reads be-bop lines on pans… And the rest of us are a little upset by that…) This tune features the Salazar bass marimba, on a great solo by Tommy Kesecker. Makes you want to drink a double latte in a nice café somewhere.
“Latin Fantasy” is a Tommy Kesecker composition. We think that the tune is part of series that started on our last record with “Two Sisters.” We will let you use your imagination on how this composition came about. We’re sure that Tommy used his imagination as well, it just couldn’t have happened in real life. Very sexy, cool groove by Jim Munzenrider … gotta love the Tom Miller bongo “outro”.
“Long Ago And Far Away” I wrote this a long time ago, and it has surfaced once or twice in the past, and now it has a permanent home. When I called all the members of “The Mallet Band” and said “turn in your home work,” everyone had written a tune with the word “Far” in the title. I had been wondering what to title this CD, and everyone had contributed to the task of naming “How Far Is It?”, albeit unknowingly…
“Let’s Go Latin!” Another Tommy tune, and probably another part to his personal series in his sub-conscious. There also is a “tip o’ the hat” to Jimi Hendrix hidden in the sub text. This bash-o-rama features Curt Moore on drums, an honorary Mallet Band member in good standing.
“Never Far” is a lovely ballad by Tom Miller, and we had great fun marrying the two sections together. This piece is a real exercise in restraint, and once we untied Tom… I mean, we didn’t play a lot of notes, although we were perfectly capable of it….
“Morning Rush” Mr. Miller again, and I truly believe this tune was written with a full schedule, traffic, and a triple shot of espresso in mind. There is an underlying calm, discipline and perhaps several layers of clothing. Tom is a bi-city guy, keeping his feet grounded in East Bay Grease, with a bit of Rocky Mountain climbing.
“Not So Far Away” is Tommy Kesecker hard at work channeling the late Karen Carpenter. Tommy called and asked how low the new bass marimba could go, which was a low “A.” That’s an important clue. Due to copyright issues, we can’t say anything about a “Superstar” like Ms. Carpenter, or Leon Russell for that manner. Tommy says you’ll all understand.
“Mallete Tango” is one of my contributions. I have a fetish for tunes in “3” and I was running out of time to write before our recording session, so I put the mallet to my head and came up with this. This is a trio number with Tom, Curt and myself. I will say I scoured the Internet to make sure there was no illicit translation of “Mallete” anywhere…
“She Play That Funny Music” is another Hatfield tune from the past. I had originally written this tune for the band “Booga-Booga” and it did have a short life as a vocal. I always liked the groove, and there is a story line. Picture a bachelor in a ground floor apartment and an exotic lovely female living in the apartment above, who continually plays strange ethnic music every night. Finally the guy has enough, goes upstairs to tell her to turn that stuff down, and ends up dancing his life away with wild abandon. Or something like that.
“Tres’ Nicoise” A lovely atmospheric tune by Tom Miller. It didn’t have a title when he brought it into the session, and after recording the tune we went to lunch at a tiny French cafe on Potrero Hill. Three of us ordered the “Nicoise” salad without consulting each other, and we figured it was a serendipitous way to title the tune.
“Tico Taco Too” Dare I confess how this came about? I’ve got nothing to hide. Here’s the real scoop, I wrote a different tune for the session, called “Tico Taco” in the lovely key of “C”… I wanted to give the CD a bit of humor, with a Honduras marimba band feel. I should have known better, was even warned once by Gary Burton about the treachery of the key of “C” on mallet instruments. I ignored the warnings, wrote a brisk number that none of us could play except for Tom Miller. (We still are upset about that..) So I tucked my tail between my legs, and rewrote a similar concept tune in “G”, which was successful and a lot of fun. Curt Moore also laid down that nasty little 2 & 4…
I hope you enjoy listening to “ How Far Is It?” by “The Mallet Band.” To find out more please visit:
www.themalletband.com or stop by www.michaelhatfield.com.
Your Chief Mallethead,
”How Far Is It?” is dedicated to the memory of Chet Cahill, my companion musical journey traveler. I shall carry on for both of us. All the low notes are for you!
Tommy Kesecker Tunes copyright: Tkvibes Music ASCAP
Tom Miller Tunes copyright: Hop Zee Music, BMI
Michael Hatfield Tunes copyright: Michael Hatfield BMI, Good Luck With Your Music
Recorded at Potrero Post Studios 2007-2008
Thanks to: Buddy Saleman
Engineer: Dragan Petrovic
Mix & Mastering: Gary Mankin @ Knob & Tube
Photos: Greg Hagel
Graphics & CD design: Shannon Meyer
Thanks to John Salazar for the amazing Bass Marimba