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SPEAK LOW / SWING HARD

Celebrated the release of its fourth CD
OCTOBER 30, 2011 5PM-8PM 
Benson Hotel, Mayfair Ballroom 
309 SW Broadway Portland, OR 97205


Speak Low / Swing Hard (click here or on image for a larger view)

 

From my personal perspective, each recorded album must not only be superior in musicianship to the one that came before, but also provide new challenges for the musicians.  The music in this album reflects the expertise and dedication of an incredible array of area professionals, in creating arrangements, original composition and performance. 

 

When I begin looking at charts for a project, I first look at the voicing and ensembles parts.  While solos are interesting and individually creative, it is the ensemble work that makes a band stand out, and more charts in this album were chosen especially for specific musicians than on any of the other 3 albums.  Once the musicians are chosen, the charts agonized over, the band rehearsed and the album recorded, comes the job of choosing how you want the album to sound; with what chart do you open the album; with what chart do you close; structuring the others pieces so that they provide an album with a blend of balanced tempo, voicing and rhythm to keep the listener interested.

 

You and The Night and The Music 

has always been one of my favorite pieces of music.  The inner voicing of the instruments was intriguing in this arrangement by Phil Kelly, which swings without being too concertized.

 

For All We Know 

was commission several years ago from a young arranger by the name of Kevin Walczyk; however, it never seemed to quite fit into the fabric of the other albums.  It seemed it was waiting for this group of charts to come into its own.

 

Dejection Blues 

was chosen because of its easy going bluesy sound.  Originally written by Ray Brown for the Gene Harris Band, I opened up the chart, making room for additional solos for the baritone sax and trombone.

 

Swinging for Art 

was written specifically for the band by a retired music teacher, Paul Nagel, who had listened to our previous CDs and wanted to contribute something to one of our albums.  The instrumental voicing in the arrangement made it a natural for this album.

 

Patch of Fog 

(Tracks 5 and 6) One afternoon, when I went to visit Dave Parker, the 1st trombonist, I found him working on the seed of a musical idea on the piano.  It was inspired by the patches of fog Dave watched on the Columbia River from his window.   The piece was only about 1 ½ minutes long, but the melody caught my attention.  I suggested he expand it into a longer piece.  That became the solo piano piece in track 5.  I was so impressed with it that I asked Dave to create an expanded chart for the band.  What he provided us is a haunting film-noir style melody that has become one of my favorites.

 

Pete Kelly’s Blues 

plays to my history in music.  I grew up in this era and have always admired the Jack Webb movie of the same name that inspired this piece. The chart was commissioned as a solo piece for me by former band member from the saxophone section , Ray Rom. 

 

Speak Low 

has been long in my mind as a piece for the band, but could never find a chart that seemed suitable for the band.  Our lead alto player, a young and talented player by the name of John Nastos expressed an interest in arranging.  I commissioned this along with some other charts.  Written by Kurt Wiel with lyrics by Ogden Nash, it has had many treatments, and I wanted something unique.  John surpassed my expectations.

 

Serenade for Bass Trombone 

was brought to the band by our bass trombonist, John Ohnstad, who asked if the band would play it at his wedding, where he played the solo as a love song to his wife.  It was received with so much enthusiasm that I decided to add it to my next recording.  This piece is a wonderful feature for an instrument often taken for granted, composed and arranged by Larry McVey, an honored member of the staff at MHCC until his death.

 

Time After Time 

is another instance of a chart brought to us by a member of the band; this time by Mike Snyder, our drummer.  It was originally arranged as a solo piece for trumpet; however, it was decided that it would sound great as a solo piece for Mike Horsfall who does the solo work on both the piano and vibes.

 

I Remember Clifford

This is the 2nd recording of this piece by the band.  It was also recorded on our first album, “The First One”, but it was not creatively satisfying.  When one of our most devoted fans, Bob Godel, I turned to John Nastos for a new arrangement. 

 

I Hear a Rhapsody

This chart is a coming together of several diverse threads.  I grew up in an era when this piece of music was almost always played as a ballad, and while I love it, I never wanted to just play it as another ballad arrangement.  I have also been a Four Freshman fan since their beginning and have followed them through all of their many changes.  Greg Stegeman, a 14 year veteran of the Four Freshman, came to visit his son in Portland and expressed an interest in writing an arrangement for the band.  His choice of I Hear a Rhapsody provided us with a hi-tempo work that I love.  This arrangement brings it up to date for me.

 

Invitation

is another of my favorites that has had many treatments and was one of the commissions I gave to John Nastos.  All I asked is that he keep the essence of the piece, but told him he had carte blanche to create something special.  He took it in a very new direction that the band loves and so do I.

 

I’ll Be Seeing You 

was my all time favorite song growing up during the war years, Our tribute to the Men and Women serving our country. This was made famous by Frank Sinatra.  Mike Barone, another wonderful arranger and veteran of the Tonight Show Band, had done an arrangement of this chart, but refused to let me buy it.  Then after listening to the band and helping us during the recording of the 3rd album, he finally relented and gave me the chart.  It is wonderfully nostalgic piece in a medium swing tempo.

 

Besame Mucho 

I originally saw this as a Latin piece, but my friend Steve Sample said he had an arrangement that had never been recorded.  It wasn’t Latin, but it worked so well, I became very excited to include it.

 

This has been an artistically satisfying and challenging project, and one the band and I have thoroughly enjoyed.  Through every step, the musicians demonstrated their personal investment in the outcome.  This is a truly great group of musicians.

 

ART ABRAMS