Brad is going all-out for the release of his latest CD Far Away From Everyday. The official release date is December 2, but promo copies are available and starting to make the rounds via a jazz music publicist Brad’s engaged for this special release.
What makes this release special is of course the enhanced line-up – not only top-tier harp guitarists (9 this time, including Brad), but additional top acoustic guitarists (Phil Keaggy, Don Alder, Trevor Gordon Hall and more), a wide variety of excellent players of violin, cello, bass, flute, oboe, etc, plus some additional icing-on-the-cake: jazz virtuosos Howard Levy (harmonica), Jeff Coffin (sax and flute) Joscho Stephan (gypsy jazz guitar prodigy) and Michael Manring (bass). Yowza!
Last Thursday, Brad did a phone interview with WFYI in Indianapolis, which you can now listen to here (his segment runs from 35:30 to 50:30). He gives a bit of back story and impetus behind the project and two tunes; they play about half of these: “The Relative Sea” (Jeff, Howard, Antoine Dufour, with Terry Hayes on classical), and “Sharper’s Revenge” (Howard, Joscho, Brad on piano, and-gulp-me).
Talk about a “fool’s paradise”…I could get used to this! For those unaware of how these international collaborations come together, allow me to give you a little firsthand rundown on this one:
Brad comes up with the concept of this tune, and in mere days, creates a marvelous composition on the fringes of the “gypsy jazz” tradition. Sends it to Howard and Joscho, two of the most in-demand guys in the business. Mind you, these two are each the world’s best on their respective instruments (in Brad’s opinion – which I concur with). After listening to the music, they both liked what they heard and agreed to participate (hey, dream big – it may pay off!).
Meanwhile, Brad’s “stunt casting” for this tune involved the clever idea of using Mario Maccaferri’s harp guitar (I own one of his personal experimental models) to play the bass part, in place of the typical upright bass (Django’s Selmer D-hole model being the steel-string version of Maccaferri’s nylon-string classical guitar for Selmer).
I was now on the hook for making this actually work – it’s a gut-strung classical HG, for cryin’ out loud! With only 4 subs, and stuck with the key Gm, I hit upon the idea of tuning the neck’s E down to D, which in essence gave me five open bass strings: G-A-Bb-C-D (plus the neck’s A). The brief “comping” I did in between bass notes was buried in the mix (or outright removed by my ruthless editor).
I begged Brad to send the guys his piano part with his own sampled bass and temp rhythm guitar, but since I was the one with a Gitane Selmer copy, I had to provide “le pompe” – my first attempt, which I nicknamed “le poop,” if you get my drift. We also needed to hear what the Macc HG could/would actually do. As it turned out, it sounded not-unexpectedly strange, but pretty cool (the nylon-core subs sound vaguely like an acoustic “fuzz bass” to me); and we brought the part up a bit more than the standard support bass would be for this type of music (it is, after all, Brad’s own re-imagining…”gypsy ragtime”?!).
But – to say I was horrified to supply these two quick and dirty rough parts (cleaned up by Brad) to the two world-class stars would be understating my embarrassment just a tad. But Brad did, and they were (at least publicly) gentlemen of polite, professional restraint. In fact, they played parts that sounded as if they were playing live with The Greatest Rhythm Section Ever .
Brad and I were beyond blown away (as you will be). Brad actually mixed the track with my original recordings (Joscho had added a more authentic rhythm guitar, mine would be the second, a la Django’s Hot Club of France), but I insisted I re-do the Maccaferri, playing off the band, as they were ostensibly “playing off” me. It made all the difference in the world, making it (I trust…I mean, I certainly felt the energy!) even more musical and more “in the moment,” giving it a very “live” feel – not bad for none of us four ever being in the same state or country!
I hope I’m sounding neither cavalier nor boastful in this little blog – those who know me can imagine my awe and honor of being on the same track with these two giants (and Brad, too, who holds his own quite nicely).
PS: I also love the track I did with Brad and Stephen Bennett…another first and feather in my cap!
But enough about me. Doesn’t the 5-page folding booklet with the plethora of performers look great? (Brad did a stellar design job on this release – as always, I urge you to buy the physical CD!)
Look for it on December 2nd, or at Brad’s interim gigs, and special reveal at the 11th Harp Guitar Gathering!