Today started with the quintet, which has been my preferred instrumentation for live performances - sax, trumpet, piano, bass and drums, like The Jazz Messengers, the Adderley Brothers, Horace Silver, or the Miles Davis Quintet. This has always been my favorite jazz sound - a swinging rhythm section and two horns in front. For the morning session, during which the plan was again to knock out three tunes, I called two guys that I have played with often over the last few years: Justo Almario and John Fumo. They are both brilliant players, and way too underused on jazz recordings.
The first song was "Mitchell's Blues", a song dedicated to Blue Mitchell, a great trumpet player that worked with the Horace Silver Quintet. He and Junior Cook left Horace and started their own hard-bop quintet back in the mid-60's (you may want to check out their recordings with a very young Chick Corea on piano). The title does not refer to the song form - this is far from a blues. It is more a reflection on the reality that many of these bands faced in the 60's, playing 6 nights a week, three sets a night in clubs across America while the jazz audience dwindled away into the Rock n Roll scene. Of course, now we look back and say, "Well, at least they had clubs to play in!"
Our second track of the day was my arrangement of "My Favorite Things", from "The Sound Of Music". This is a song that we have been performing live for quite a while. John Coltrane had the "hit" - (check out the video) with this, and made numerous recordings, taking the two chord E-minor vamp in 3/4 to the moon and back. For my take on the song I wanted to focus on the Afro-Cuban feel of the 6/8 rhythm. We gave Alex a chance to start the song off with a conga and percussion solo to set the mood. Then the band kicks in with a 2/4 over 6/8 polyrhythmic feel. I asked Justo to play the melody a little straighter than he might usually, and we end up with what might happen if Julie Andrews performed with Babatunde Olatunji! The solos start open, and then follow the form of the song. On the way out John gets to play the Fluegel Horn (an instrument that was first extensively used in jazz by Shorty Rogers).
"Use Me" features Courtney Lemmon on vocals - Courtney also helped out on the "...Compared To What?" CD. When I went searching for songs to do as cover tunes on this album I immediately thought of Bill Withers. The song "Use Me" got me through the summer of 1972 when I was working at my father's factory in Queens, NY for a summer job during college. I would listen to the soul station on the radio, and Bill's song of love and lust was all over it that summer. He is such a pure spirit and true original - and his music reflects that. My version starts with an intro that may sound like the band is searching for the right key for the song. We finally settle into a C-minor groove, and then Courtney takes over. Stick around for the ending of this one - it is so hot, it makes me want to start the song over again every time I hear it!
After lunch, Pat Kelley joined the session and we started switching up the instrumentation a little. "Wes' Coast" is dedicated to Wes Montgomery. Wes was another total natural, like Bill Withers. His Riverside recordings set the bar for all jazz guitar records to follow. The song is in the style of the old Miles Davis Quintet, and is how I imagine a record would have sounded if Miles and Wes every worked together (to the best of my knowledge they never did). This song was so much fun to play, we could have gone on for 20 minutes. But that version will have to wait for another day. Pat plays a wonderful solo in the "Wes" style, and Fumo channels Miles for a bit. This song really shows how talented Alex Acuna is - here he holds an incredibly swinging beat throughout the tune, and still brings a sense of dance and percussiveness to the proceedings - it is so exciting to play with him - there is so much "life" going on.
"Cover Up!", the title song of the album, is the most contemporary sounding track of the collection, and it features Justo on tenor and Pat on electric guitar. Sexy and funky, it carries the listener on a little 24-bar journey as it moves through a few different tonal centers. This one is also inspired by Miles Davis, but a later incarnation, after he started experimenting with electric instruments. I take a small leap forward by letting Pat use a WAH WAH pedal on his guitar. What does the title mean? Is it a cover-up? Does it mean put some clothes on? Is it cold outside? You tell me.
We did record one more rhythm track that day as a quartet, an arrangement of "Love For Sale". This one I decided to shelve for the time being - the 11 tracks make a really great album - and so we call it a day.