HELLO, EVERYONE, THIS IS John Stebbe. For those of you who don’t know me, I am a music teacher from Indianapolis, who also loves to play the piano. In the fall of 2006, my previous CD, “Jazzin’ It Up!”, fell into the hands of Beth Perdue Outland, Vice President for Education for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. That CD had a couple of classical pieces done in a jazz style. Those classical-jazz tracks caught Beth’s ear, and she asked to hire the John Stebbe Trio to perform an hour’s worth of classical-jazz music, as a prelude to an ISO concert in January of 2007. I gladly accepted the gig, and proceeded to whip up several more jazz arrangements of well-known classical melodies, for the trio to play. After the performance, I thought that these arrangements would make a great jazz piano CD, and so this project was born. For that ISO performance, I had brought some recording equipment, and got a very nice take of the trio. Tracks 13 and 14 are live recordings from that gig.
That same CD, “Jazzin’ It Up!”, was also found by a record label from South Korea, MUZOO Records (Music Zoo Records). A lady from this company heard clips of the CD on CDBaby.com, and wrote to me, asking for the rights to distribute the CD (repackaged with new art for the Asian market) in parts of Asia, in exchange for a royalty agreement. I gladly accepted, and soon after that deal was done, she wrote to me again, asking for a second CD. Again I happily agreed, and many of the tracks on the CD you are holding are also on the second Korean CD project.
A few comments about the tracks: I first heard the melody from Dvorak’s “Largo” on a record by Honeytree, around 1979, on her song, “Melody.” I have loved it ever since. The “Skater’s Waltz” owes its stylistic inspiration to one of my favorite pianists, Vince Guaraldi, of “Peanuts” fame. So if you think I’m trying to copy him, you’re right! While an undergraduate music student at Ball State, I accompanied many a voice student on the song by Beethoven, “Ich Liebe Dich,” so it brings back many fond memories. Mozart’s "Sonata #1" happens to make an excellent jazz vehicle, and I have enjoyed playing that with the trio many times in the last few years. Ditto with “Ode To Joy.” Often the same characteristics that make a great classical melody also make outstanding melodies of any genre, including jazz or pop. “Solace” and “Arabesque #1” are the only tracks on this CD played “straight” with no improvisation. I have been playing those pieces since high school, and have loved them for many years. They are not ‘jazz’ in a modern sense, but the music of Joplin and Debussy laid the groundwork for the jazz of today. “Chopsticks Jazz” was created at the request of the lady from Korea. I thought the idea odd at first, but as I began to create the arrangement, it became great fun. I love the song “Oh Susanna” because I use that song as a square dance tune for my elementary music students. Saxophonist Randy Lowe played my arrangement of “Blessed Assurance” for an offertory at our church (Southport Presbyterian) in 2006, and the performance and the recording turned out so well that I thought it should be on this CD. “It Is Well With My Soul” was originally created as an accompaniment track for one of the children’s choirs at church that I direct. The kids grew to love the melody and the text, as I do. It’s probably the least ‘jazzy’ of any track here, but hey, it’s my CD, right? “Grandfather’s Jazz Clock” was another request from Korea, and turned out to be one of my favorite tracks in this collection.
This CD was created in my home studio, using a Yamaha P-120 as controller, MIDIed to a DAW on my Mac. Except for the live tracks, the piano sound comes from Native Instruments Akoustik Piano.
Drummers are Todd Sorensen (of 'Drums On Demand') and David Mills. Bass players are Neil Bowen and Jonathan Evans. (David and Jonathan are the other members of the John Stebbe Trio.)
I hope all my listeners will feel a bit of the joy I get from playing the piano and creating new arrangements of old tunes. Thanks for letting me share a bit of my life with you.