“The Next Phase has to do with two aspects of my current life. The first has to do with the coping and my future of spending the rest of my life without my wife, Gail McFarland-Benedict, as I enter the second year of her passing. The second is in regards to my musical vision of the future and my recent association with a marvelous group of young musicians that have given me new energy to go on personally and musically.
The musicians on this album are simply among the very best in upstate New York and I feel very fortunate to work and learn from them. Most of them were not even born when I was first learning to play jazz in the mid 70’s when I was a college student at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. (Actually, it was in the bars downtown that I really learned to play). Thanks so much to Dave Solazzo, Mike DelPrete, Joe Barna, Lee Russo and Julia Donnaruma for working on this album with me.
Most of this music is original music with the exception of the jazz standard, “Bernie’s Tune”. Joe Barna wrote, “Blow it Out” and Lee Russo contributed “The Abanaki”. Yuko Kishimoto, a wonderful pianist with whom I work with often, composed “Whatever You Say” and “It’s a Mystery”. Each of these tunes are just right for my group and really display the individual personalities of the respective composers.
My favorite composer and arranger, Gary McFarland, wrote three tunes on this album. I consider these to be “original” tunes in the sense that he was my stepdaughter’s father. “Gary’s Waltz” is an instrumental that has been only been previously recorded by Bill Evans. “Sack Full of Dreams” and “I Wish That I Were Young Again” are the two vocals that Julia sings with only vibes accompaniment. In my estimation she sings the definitive version of “Sack Full of Dreams”. I believe that this is the first time that “I Wish That I Were Young Again” has been recorded as a vocal. It was originally included as part of a suite as an instrumental on Gary’s monumental album “America The Beautiful”.
Gary was a huge force in the 1960’s NYC jazz scene. We will never know what more could have come from his tremendous talent as his entire professional career lasted only ten years before his untimely death in 1971.
And lastly, I composed “The Next Phase” which I think conveys my hope for the future.
There are so many people who have been so helpful and caring during this past year including people from my town of Rensselaerville, NY and my colleagues at the Greenville Central School District.
In particular I would like to thank the following people for getting me through the dark days so that I could envision another, alternate future for myself.
Those people are Kerry McFarland, Darby Benedict, Debbie Donnelly, Liza Tivey, Christine Wegrzyn, Greg & Kathy Speck, Debbie Geurtze, Allyson Benjamin, Kellie Snyder and Ronda Rockwell.
My last album was dedicated to my wife Gail. I would like to dedicate this album to my daughters Kerry McFarland and Darby Benedict. They are my reason for being. Your mom would be so proud of how you have coped and become such beautiful, caring women.