On making music and people
My goodness, it HAS been ages, no? You kids these days…you grow up so fast. Ahem. Speaking of which, I’m expecting again! Yes, thank you, thank you, I’m working pretty hard here, making lungs and teeth and eyelids n’ stuff. It’s one of the few things in my life that I feel I can actually take credit for. I made this baby! At least in part. But I had a part in the making of another kind of baby, coming out this fall: a brand spanking new jazz album! It’s called ‘The Bright Lunch Trio’ – a self-titled album of original jazz-based songs by my latest group down in the big smoke.
I know what you’re thinking: “Kid number three, six-and-a-half months pregnant and you’re releasing a new album? You must be NUTS!” And you would be right about that. Seriously, have you ever BEEN pregnant? Every decision you make seems to be made by some sort of hillbilly of subconsciousness, hollering at the wheel of your confused and captive brain. Where are my keys? In the fridge, of course! Can’t get your toast out of the toaster? Why, stick your fingers right into that electronic fire of pain! Feeling good about the world? Watch the news and never sleep again! But what got me into this whole situation is something I’m actually really grateful for. Every once in a while a sort of mad spontaneity shows up and makes some very interesting decisions for me that lead to wonderful things.
As I’d like to preserve some sliver, some modicum of privacy in my already open-Facebook life, I’ll tell you about what got me into the making of my new album rather the making of this new baby.
You may remember that I’ve written about my writing partnership before. To recap, around six years ago, in a bar, I boasted about my songwriting abilities to my guitarist and friend, Nathan Hiltz. I’d really only written a handful of tunes (mostly for myself and mostly very bad songs, including one about an untrustworthy sausage) and he completely called my bluff. Nate suggested we collaborate musically and before I could consider an excuse, the hillbilly at my brain wheel replied coolly, “Yeah, that’d be great.” Before I knew it, we had started writing together at lunchtime on Fridays while my first son, just a baby then, contentedly bounced along in the Jolly Jumper.
What followed was six years of increasingly intermittent lunchtime writing sessions. I had another baby, and Nate and his wife welcomed a little girl into their world. Our lives got individually more complicated, between family commitments and Nathan’s own recording and touring, but we never lost sight of our project and goal to record. Nate’s melodies kept flowing and though spending most of my waking hours with two irrational wee men, I was still open to lyrical inspiration. Sometimes I think the outlet of writing saved my sanity between sugar-fuelled supermarket tantrums and surprise stomach flus.
Nate and I wrote and wrote, amassing over 20 original songs. We applied for and lost out on grants and loans and I dragged my feet, hoping to find some money to produce a densely-voiced, big, shiny record. Years passed.
Then one day, Nate told me about a friend of his, a sax player, Johnny Griffith, who had set up a small recording studio and label in his basement in Etobicoke. He said that Johnny would love to record us – eager to have a vocalist on the label and in the studio – and for a reasonable fee we could finally do this album. But it would have to be simple. A trio record. Voice, guitar and bass. I was reluctant. My skeptical brain was fogging the ambition and impulse. But after a few really enjoyable live shows as a trio (with our good friend, stellar bassist musical interpreter, Ross MacIntyre) and a long discussion about the virtues of space and simplicity in modern jazz recordings, I thought, dammit, let’s do it. With that, we scheduled a summer recording session and we diligently laid down 14 tracks over two days in Johnny’s comfortable yet low-ceilinged basement studio in Etobicoke (I still have the goose egg to prove it).
And now it’s here. The fruits of a spontaneous moment. I made this baby. At least, in part. And like my own little mini me’s, I’m truly proud of what I’ve made. It’s long, like me; it’s has my tears and my twisted sense of humour; it wears my stories, family and experiences on its sleeve; it’s varied and eclectic, but it’s true to its roots in jazz and the style of The Great American Songbook with – dare I say – a lyrical hint of contemporary songwriting. As for the other baby, he’s already just like his brothers, though kicking my butt from the inside.
Come to The Bright Lunch Trio CD release at the Jazz Bistro (251 Victoria Street) in downtown Toronto on Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. – call 416-363-5562 to reserve your table. If Toronto driving is the reason you live in Uxbridge, by all means, bring the BLT home with you by picking up the album at Presents Presents Presents (60 Brock St. West) or simply download (after the 26th) from www.brightlunchtrio.com/music