We started recording around 10:00 AM at Brian Bromberg's studio, called B2 (as in "B Squared") Studios. Brian has a lovely German grand piano there, and a great engineer named Tom McCauley that also signed on for the project.
The goal for the first day was to knock out 6 tunes in about 6 hours - not impossible, but certainly a good days work. Day one was all trio stuff, so that made things a lot simpler than dealing with different set-ups and instrumentation.
Alex's drums were all set up when I arrived, and by 11:00 or so we had good drum and piano sounds happening. The studio is set up where each of us were in an isolation room, with headphones - both Brian and Alex could see me, so I was in charge of signalling any tempo changes, stops or starts.
We started out with Eleanor Rigby, the well-known Beatles tune. This song has a feel like the old Ramsey Lewis Trio recordings - as a matter of fact, most of Ramsey's hit albums in the mid- 60s consisted of cover tunes of pop music. He even did a whole album of Beatles tunes in 1968! To keep in the "West Coast Jazz" style I composed an intro to the song that switches back and forth between 4/4 and 6/8 time signatures, using the string part from the original Beatles arrangement as a jumping off point. We had no trouble falling into the groove on this one!
Next up was "Sunshime Of Your Love" the classic rock tune by CREAM. This was a challenge to arrange - I wanted to make it swing, but not sound like a SNL-lounge version of the tune that Bill Murray might try to sing at a karaoke bar. Of course, working with Brian and Alex brings you to a place far from Karaoke! The drums have a bit of hip-hop feel to them, and we de-contructed the melody a bit. Add Brian's double stops, and - voila! - an arrangement that even Clapton would be proud of. Alex gets to take a solo, and, luckily, he had no idea who Ginger Baker is!
The third tune was our only original of the day, "Mr. K. V.". This song is dedicated to my favorite LA acoustic bass player, Karl Vincent. After a jagged unison melody line, it settles into a swinging feel over blues changes. This song was inspired by John Coltrane's tribute to his long-time bass player, Paul Chambers (Mr. P.C.).
After a lunch break, we came back and played Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. Having spent many drug-induced evenings listening to this band, as well as seeing them live, I always have wanted to delve into their music. This song for me has always had one of their strongest lyrics, and so I felt it would be a great taking-off spot for a piano trio. You'll have to listen and judge for yourself if we did it justice.
For the 5th song of the day we attacked a medley of two songs, the Lennon/McCartney classic Yesterday, and the jazz chestnut Yesterdays by Jerome Kern. Initially I had heard this as just the two songs played pretty much one after the other. After all, "Yesterdays" is written in the relative minor of "Yesterday", and it would be pretty easy to do a double time swing on the second tune to set it apart. Brian looked at the chart the weekend before the session and suggested trying to do more of a "mash-up" of the two songs, swinging from the chorus of one to the bridge of the other - and by the time we got to the session I had found a way to do just that. The song starts with a baroque piano solo on the Beatles tune, and moves into a "Dave Brubeck - meets - Floyd Cramer" swing section before Brian takes over with a searing bass solo. This was fun!
We ended the day with an evocative song from John Mayer, "Waiting On the World To Change". Once again, I was inspired by the lyrics, and felt that although John did a great rock version of this song it really called out for a more gospel rendition. (You can see John Mayer's video for this song on his website.) Having lived through the Vietnam War (from a distance - I lucked out with a high draft number), I have spent the last few years horrified by the sad events that have taken place to our troops and to the people in Iraq. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose." I, and most of my generation, started out with such high ideals and now I have found that I continue to wait on the world to change.
Well, that wrapped up day one - a good day's work (and play!)