Confessions

Brawler- A new kind of song

This September I am releasing a new EP called “Hot Damn Romance”. It contains five songs, all of which I recorded in Toronto at the beginning of June. The songs are all originals, but they were written at different times.

One of the tracks, “Brawler”, is the oldest. In fact, it was part of the same stream of inspiration that created all the songs on my first album, “Songs for a Ladies’ Man”. So why did this song take so long to see the light of day?

The answer is that I could never quite nail an arrangement that sounded like the version of this song I could hear in my head. Whenever I write a song I have a sense of what it should sound like… the tempo and the instruments. This always gets refined when I work with a producer who comes up with the arrangement, but somehow this one never sounded quite right. I tried it again on my second album, but it still didn’t quite pop.

When I started talking about this EP project with producer Bryant Didier, I sent him a bunch of songs I had written but not released. He grabbed this one and sent me an initial treatment that I loved. The musicians he brought in to play on it included the sizzling trumpet player Alexander Brown, who brought the hot horn sound I had always imagined for this song.

It’s different than many of my other songs in that the lyrics are a character description from beginning to end. I don’t really think of it as a love song, but then again it might be. You decide!

Hot Damn Romance- the EP

I am excited to announce that there is new music almost ready to release. This year I released some songs as singles, and now there is an EP of five more songs that will come out in September.

These tracks are special because they feature the incredible skills of some very fine musicians from Toronto. Producer Bryant Didier of BMusique Studios is a friend of a very good friend of mine, who made the introduction. From the beginning, I loved his interpretation of the songs I had written.

At the end of May I flew out to Toronto to meet Bryant and his team, and tackle the very ambitious goal of creating this EP in a weekend. Needless to say, there were some very long nights in the studio. Strangely, when you are completely engrossed in doing something you love, the time slips by lightly and the late nights don’t seem to weigh as much. Some of the video footage we took of these recording sessions was taken at two or three in the morning, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter.

The EP has songs like “Sweet Man”, with a Billie Holiday vibe, and “Brawler”, with a funky jazz strut. As a special treat, the track “Water” fuses poetry and music to create something a bit different from the vintage sound I usually go for.

Mike Kavalerchik brought an astonishing range of skills and emotional depth to the guitar pieces. He also likes to sing, so he even had ideas for little vocal variations in some of the songs. Mark Hundervad was an incredibly precise drummer who held us all together. Alexander Brown’s trumpet brought exactly the pop and sizzle and attitude these songs needed. Meanwhile Bryant recorded it all, mixed it all, and even played a mean bass on every track. He is truly a man of many talents.

It’s always deeply satisfying to have a project complete and ready to bring into the world. I hope you enjoy my new EP, Hot Damn Romance, which will be available on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, and all the usual online places.

Writing “I Will”

My single “I Will” was released in May, and it’s completely different from anything I’ve done before. Well….depending on how you look at it. It’s not jazz, which is very often what I do musically. It’s something else. There is a strong element of gospel style, along with some blues and old school country influence. At least, most people call Lyle Lovitt a country musician, and he was a major inspiration for this song.

Lyle Lovitt didn’t only do country though. Check out his song “She’s no Lady” and listen for the jazz. The lyrics are fairly hilarious as well. However my favorite Lyle Lovitt song I first heard on the soundtrack of the film “The Apostle”. The track is called “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.” Just try to sit still and not sing along!

It turns out that song was originally a much more traditional gospel song, sung by the Blind Boys of Alabama, among other covers. But none of them have that infectious ear worm quality that Lovitt’s version bottles.

I wrote the song “I Will” in a hotel, while on holiday. I had a bad cold, and ended up sitting out on the balcony in the evening writing these lyrics and singing them in my raspy, phlegm-laden voice. As a result, the melody started low and stayed there.

When I was writing it, I could hear a strong rhythm and a toe-tapping, hand clapping kind of vibe. I knew right away that I needed some back up vocals to give it the right texture, and in particular, someone with a gospel background. Fortunately I found exactly the right man.

Tresor Otshudi supplied the starring guest vocals for this song, and his range is amazing. A seasoned performer and songwriter himself, with a wide range of musical styles, he was a gift to work with on this, and makes the song so much more fun.

While this song isn’t jazz, it is acoustic and old school in the best sense. It has all the earthy elements that make jazz and blues appealing to me, and I hope you enjoy it too!

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

I put this cover together on a whim this month because it’s a fun jazzy tune to sing, and I have a lot to sing about.  This version features Marc Rivest on guitar.

2018 has been a very exciting year musically, with my first fight scene music video (Molasses), a trip to Italy to perform live jazz, and new music and collaborators in the mix. This is a way of saying thank you to all you wonderful people who listen to my music and brighten my day with your comments and shares. Here’s hoping 2019 will be full of even more music and beautiful moments!

Right click here to download the mp3 of White Christmas for free:

Transparency

You were opaque to me that first summer
All smooth surfaces, firm limbs
And eyes that glimmered like the evening sea
I moved along the edges seeing
My own face in twin mirrors
The angle of your approach

Observation drew me deeper
The long scar—white testament
To a fight you wouldn’t lose
An arm broken before resolve
The particular shape
Hours of effort gave your hands

I have gathered all these signs
The face of a child who had your name
A summer of wild-water grief
The whisper of work past midnight
The tiny lives you bend to save

Every year I fall deeper beneath your skin
Chasing your depths
And time itself recedes
A ripple, a rain on the surface
I am taken by your shining
Fathoms below sight

Here I Go Again

Jazz is such a large umbrella term for music. You can find the French gypsy style of Django Reinhardt, the New Orleans trumpet, melodic jazz guitar, meditative midnight sax, and even the club pumping style of Electro Swing. One of the well established sub genres of jazz is Brazilian jazz, and bossa nova in particular. “The Girl From Ipanema” is probably the most well known song from this tradition.

When I was working on “Here I Go Again”, as part of my second album, I knew it needed to be slow and lovely. I had the melody and the words, but it was my producer Paul Claxton who suggested arranging it as a bossa nova. The idea captured me immediately. That tempo and phrasing was exactly what the song needed to make it complete.

Photo: Tiziano Mammana

To produce this song, I needed to find a real Brazilian guitarist who understood the form and the feel we were after. Coincidentally, I then saw a post from Flavio Veloso, a musician from Brazil who had recently relocated to Vancouver. When we met and he played through the song, I knew he was the guy we needed.

The final product, with Flavio’s guitar and Paul’s piano, came together beautifully. It may be one of my most romantic songs to date, about how disappointment and loss can be transformed. You can see all the words in the lyrics video below. The song is available on my second album on iTunes, Amazon, and all the usual places. Enjoy!

What Endurance Hiking Taught Me

 

Yesterday I performed what has become a December tradition: attempting to finish a 50 kilometer hike through the mountains on Vancouver’s north shore.  “Why?” you may ask.  It’s a good question.  A non-stop march through rugged terrain that takes between 13 and 18 hours to complete is no laughing matter.  It helps to love mountains of course, but there is no denying the fact that such a trip will involve a certain degree of discomfort, and even grimness.  I find that these hikes teach me a lot about life.

I have attempted this hike 5 times, and completed it 3 times.  After all, if success were guaranteed, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.  There is usually a point, somewhere along the journey, where I hit a physical wall and find it very hard to go on.

This time it was at the halfway point.  We had been hiking continuously for 8 hours in the rain.  It was seeping into all the layers of clothing, saturating gloves and boots, and creating a clammy, heat eating layer right next to my skin.  We had been hiking downhill for more than an hour toward the Cleveland Dam, so my body temperature had dropped because there was less exertion.  When we stopped at the dam to pull some food out of the backpack, I began to shiver, and my teeth chattered uncontrollably.  Basic motor functions like doing up a gaiter strap became very challenging.

Leaving the dry, heated bathroom in which I was shivering to head out into the pouring rain for another 8 hours of hiking seemed almost overwhelming.  However, I clenched my chattering teeth together and doggedly began walking uphill toward the next part of the trail.  How I was going to finish another eight hours of this I did not know.  There was some dry gear I could put on (replacement socks and another shirt) but even pausing long enough to attempt that seemed impossible.  Movement seemed to be my only hope of controlling the cold.

My hiking partner suggested we divert from the trail and duck into a nearby café to change out our gear and warm up.  I was simply focused on staying moving and getting to the end of this ordeal as quickly as possible, so I didn’t jump on the idea.  He prevailed though, and insisted that we stop.  I complied.

After 20 minutes inside with hot fluids, a change of socks, and a few extra layers, I was able to face the pouring rain outside without shivering.  This stop allowed me to gather myself and continue for another 4 hours.  I recovered my warmth and was able to actually enjoy trekking many more kilometers in the dark and the rain.

So what does all this have to do with life outside of mountains?  Well, any long journey will have its stunning vistas and its sloughs of despair.  There are moments of euphoria and moments of pain.  Your inner landscape changes as continuously as the terrain you are moving through.  The key is to keep going.  Sometimes all you can do is focus on putting one boot in front of the other.  Eventually, it gets better.

Grit will get you far, but sometimes you need more.  This trip I was reminded that we need other people.  People who will recognise when we need help (even if we aren’t asking for it) and drag us into warmer places full of light.

There may be times in your life when you feel that you can’t go on.  Times when you don’t know how you can possibly continue.  Moments when life seems completely overwhelming.  Those are the moments that you need to put yourself into the hands of people you trust.

Sometimes all you need is a bit of help, and then you can go back to facing the road ahead.

They Say (Lyrics)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time I said

I’m going to keep my cool

Not going to lose my head

Not going to play the fool

And that four letter word

I will not speak

The one that starts with “L”

And ends with “E”

 

Chorus:

But everywhere I go

People seem to know

Just what I’m not speaking of

And they say…. They say

“You must be in love”

 

Stopped by a café

One Saturday afternoon

I had a smile on my face

I was humming a tune

And the barista said

As she poured my brew

“You must have someone

Who is very good to you”

 

Chorus:  Oh everywhere I go…

 

Strolling in the park

He was by my side

When a man and wife

Came cycling by

And they called out

“Love looks good on you,

We know just how it feels

‘Cause we’re still in love too”

 

Chorus

 

Had my neighbour’s child

Sitting on my knee

She was asking about

That man and me

I said “He’s just a friend”

But then she called my bluff

She said, “Do you mean

That man you love?”

 

Chorus (double)

 

New album release

It’s been a long journey, but I am thrilled to be releasing my second album, “Borderless Sky”. A project like this is always intensely personal, but it also involves many other people along the way to bringing it into being.

There are 8 tracks, ranging from the romantic to the lively and humorous. Songs like “They Say” and “Traces of You” are classic jazz, and feature piano and trumpet, recalling the style of Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. There’s an intimate bossa nova tune called “Here I Go Again”, and a cheerful horn and piano track called “Feels Like Breathing.”

Alongside the jazz there are tracks that branch into other styles too. “Ribbons and Bows” is a toe tapping fiddle tune with laugh out loud lyrics about one couple’s ongoing conversation, which ranges from stilettos to breast implants. “Backcountry Blues” and “Saying Goodbye” are guitar ballads, full of lush images and invitations to lose yourself in summer days and fields full of dew. The title track, “Borderless Sky” features a slide guitar and story about love at the most unexpected moment.

It’s been a wonderful journey to make this album. Collaborating with trumpet player Fred Palidor, bass player Steve Smith, guitarists Flavio Veloso and Steve Fisk, the incredible violinist Mary Brunner, and cellist Finn Manniche has been a gift. I’ve been profoundly moved by the talent and beauty they have brought to these songs. I also have a huge debt of thanks to producers Paul Claxton and Michael Dewey, and to Shael Wrinch, who mixed, smoothed, and added guitar, mandolin, and all manner of magic.

It it my hope that you will enjoy listening to this music as much as I enjoyed making it!

They Say…

 

When I was a kid I listened to a lot of Nat King Cole. His smooth vocals and almost confidential tone were part of my early exposure to jazz. I also listened endlessly to an album by his daughter, Natalie Cole, whose versions of “Nature Boy” and “Lush Life” still dominate my memory.

When I started writing the songs for this album, it was inevitable that these experiences would colour my style. I think of “They Say” as a song that Nat could have sung. It would have suited him perfectly, in lyrics and arrangement. It’s a tribute of sorts to that style of jazz, and the way it made me feel.

I wrote the lyrics for this track with a good deal of chuckling. There’s a verse about a bicycle riding couple in a park that was taken straight out of a summer walk I did one evening.  The reference to a neighbor’s child is about the uncanny ability of children to read things we never tell them.  As always, while these verses are mine, I hope they sound like a feeling you can relate to.  This song was written with a smile on my face, and I hope it puts a smile on yours

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