Have you heard the one about the rabbit and the hat? Well, that’s what we did on February 14 and 15, 2013. We tracked 12 songs in 24 hours. Poof, you are a record!
I can’t quite express the ease and joy in which these songs went to tape last week. It was the vibe I wanted to create, an atmosphere that was relaxed, filled with good friends and musicians and a console at the ready to capture the notes. First of all, Elliot Scheiner brings all his years of wisdom and puts everyone at ease knowing the music will be recorded perfectly and honestly critiqued. That we rehearsed once before the session relieved any pressure of not knowing the music and the goals going into it. I worked tirelessly tweaking the charts, adding the changes from the rehearsal, and making sure the music was ready for the marathon ahead. And it must also be said that Andy Ezrin helped in getting many of the newer arrangements up to speed and ready to go under the microscope. Andy, you’re my hero!!!
So on Valentine’s Day we embarked on recording 12 songs with only a schedule and a dream. One by one, we checked off the songs. We began with a lamenting ballad entitled “We’re not going anywhere Today” which turns out to be Elliot’s favorite of the bunch. It’s sparse and delicate. I’m not sure why I thought that it would be a good leaping point, but it really did focus our energy and set the tone. By lunch break we had tracked almost three songs, taking a break from the third because we were overthinking. After lunch we checked the third off and moved on to two more before dinner. I purposely put some of the heavier and more ambitious songs on the first day’s roster, so that the second would be less pressure filled and would allow us to linger in other ways. One tune that I am personally proud to have recorded is a song that was first titled “Turn the Bass Around”, but is now titled “Chasing the Sun.” It’s a wordless brazilian influenced piece. The original title references a repetive bass motif that gets slightly displaced as the song rolls along. I knew I couldn’t keep that title and finally came upon this new option while on the Jazz Cruise with New York Voices. A woman on the cruise was telling me how she and her husband were following the summer while their home was being remodeled. The idea hung in the air just long enough for me to realize that would suit very well the feeling of this joyful song. This song is inspired by one of my favorite orchestral-like songs written by Antonio Carlos Jobim entitled Stone Flower. I hope I can come close to that brilliance.
At 7:30 PM, Will Lee walked through the door, replacing Dave Finck for the evening’s line up of songs. Working with two incredible bassists is a thrill. It’s my first time working on my music with both of them. Dave is a master and there will be more on him later. But Will is just the consumate pro, rock star and hysterical human being all wrapped up in one. And he’s the perfect bassist for the title track, “Circle in a Square.” This song takes you on a ride, a tour de force, if you will. I brought the head of this tune to a wonderful saxohonist Ada Rovatti who really took it to an incredible place with her harmonic choices and groove. I told her to write a musical interlude that we could play together. But then I had to write a different melody and story over her changes and suddenly it became something else. The more I thought about it, it was kind of like one of those Beatles bridges that takes you out of the tune and transports you someplace else. Well, that’s all I had to say to Will, Ben and Andy for them to figure out where to take this section. Can you say classical trumpet solo? I’m very pleased with how this turned out. And that closed the first day’s recording. A technical glitch in the studio prevented us from getting the rest of Will’s tracks done, so we were luckily able to reschedule him for Friday in the afternoon. We got 7 songs done and had 5 to do the next day. Perfect.
The next morning we began with Peter Eldridge’s cameo appearance on our collaboration “The Deep Within.” There’s always an Eldridge/Kinhan collaboration on my projects and this one will not disappoint. It worked differently this time in that I wrote the poem and then we set it to music. It was a pleasure approaching the music this way and it came together fairly quickly. It’s very motivic and elegant. Dave Finck, this is where I’ll gush, used his bow for the whole piece and it’s just extraordinary. I conducted the song while trying to stay in my performance head in hopes of catching a final performance. The purity of the whole performance from everyone was really really special.
It was hard to leave that space, so we stayed in ballad mode and did “Another Hill to Climb.” This song is inspired by Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” and then wanders off and does it’s own thing. Including Andy, who really played his *@!! off.
Finally we finished the Ben, Andy, Dave trio with “Vanity’s Paramour.” What’s interesting about this song is it’s about 25 years old. It’s the bookend to where all this current repertoire sprouts. I’ve included it because I think it shows that I’m still the same after all these years. The music I was writing back then is still as spirited and weird as I write today. As my mother would say, “I’m the same damn dog.” And I am in so many ways. It was one of those ambitous writing assignments I have given myself over the years where I’m mutitasking goals while still trying to make a cohesive composition. In this song, the melody bounces from singing a bass line to an upper structure melody line. It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. But if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to write a lyric that was sensual, dark and troubled. The guys did a great job transporting me back while also making it current.
After lunch, Will popped back in to record the remaining two tracks. One song is a collaboration with a dear old friend from my Berklee College of Music days, guitarist Jiro Yoshida. He wrote the music and titled it “Bear Walk”. That sent me down the path of writing a lyric that touched on Goldielocks and the Three Bears, but gone wrong! I had a lot of fun with it and I think it’s a fun addition to the line up. And finally, the last song that was written is also the last to be recorded, “Pocketful of Harlem.” I had the head of the tune and lyric written and gave it to Andy Ezrin to play with. I thought this was gonna be a swingy little number, but he took it to a really groovy place. I’m still trying to figure out how to sing it, but there’s always one of those on a recording that gets born right on the spot. Oh, and Ben Wittman is featured on this one in a big way.
After dinner I asked Elliot if I coudl sing two passes to each of the songs before we called it a day. I mean, I sitll had 3 hours left before our session was over and I wanted to get our money’s worth out of the studio time. And for the record, I had already been singing 12 hours the day before and 8 that day, so my voice and body was a tad bit weary. But I was in the zone, so I just wanted to keep going. We did passes to five more songs and at 9:30 PM, Elliot called it. He was right, I was turning into a pumpkin.
Today I listened to what we recorded and I’m still scratching my head in wonder at what we accomplished. Everyone played so beautifully and gave so much heart to every note. I am so thankful to Elliot, Andy, Ben, Dave and Will. A special shout out to Aki, Elliot’s assitant and Melissa, my assistant. Because of them, edits were made efficiently and meals were at the ready.
I can’t wait to begin the overdubs and sprinkling in our special guests!
Thank you one and all for your support in this musical adventure.
Yours Sincerely, Lauren