I discovered Nancy Wilson when I boarded the Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley train, that iconic recording they made together in 1962 that transported us to another swinging' dimension. It was a magical partnership, the arrangements were shaped to frame the singer and song in a way that had a substantial instrumental exclamation point behind every detail. It’s no surprise given the company that was on that date: Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Louis Hayes, Sam Jones and Joe Zawinul. But I didn’t really know that, I was just a kid sitting on the living room floor getting my world rocked by her voice and the music. Back then, I didn’t know what arrangements and star crossed pairings meant, I only knew the way the music made me feel. That kind of collaboration and repertoire strikes rare and true in the music world. Nancy had many powerful recordings in her career, but the era “A Sleepin’ Bee – the Nancy Wilson Sonnet” will focus starts at the very beginning and goes through her first Grammy awarded for her performance of “How Glad I Am” in 1964.
This era was rich in other musical collaborations, such as the record she made with George Shearing, “The Swingin’s Mutual.” The tasty arrangements and heavy swing factor on this record embody the art of saying just enough, each song was a perfect recipe, not too much salt, and just the right amount of pepper.
That’s the recipe that we used when re-imagining some of the most notable songs from her storied career. Thoughtful shaping and re-purposing of solos and arranging motifs, creating deep conversations and trust between band and vocalist and always having the song and lyric lead the way are at the forefront of our ripe playground.
Perhaps another tickle under the chin was the honor in having recorded a tribute to Nancy’s version of “Save Your Love For Me” with the New York Voices and then being selected to perform it at her National Endowment Award Jazz Master presentation in 2004. That night was terrifying and exhilarating when thinking about singing this song for her sitting only a few feet away. But it also felt right, and unbeknownst to me, became a recurring dream that needed further exploration. So in celebration of her 80th birthday this year, I am embarking on this dream that took a lifetime to collect all the experience and courage to make and jumping right into the deep end!
The early stages of this project were spent collaborating with my long time friend and trusted pianist, Andy Ezrin in 2016. I came with a handful of 'must do' songs and a point of view on how to approach them. His lush voicings gave the sketches more depth and led us further down the Wilson highway. And speaking of Wilson, we were blessed to have Matt Wilson join us on a handful of gigs, helping us build the sound and approach with a all his groovy vocabulary. And Ben Allison was also part of the shaping, lending his unique ideas to collaboration.
On January 1, 2017, I phoned Elliot Schiener to wish him Happy New Year and we jumped right into how are we going to get this project recorded. We decided to pitch it to Berklee College of Music as an educational exchange with the students and suddenly found ourselves in the studio February 5th. Opportunity knocked and we answered. Enjoying the use of their new state of the art facility, The Shames Family Scoring Stage, we blocked out two days to record the full record from start to finish. Hal Leonard raised their hand to video tape the 'making of' and we were off to the races. And so the record happened before we even had formal backing from YOU, just a chance to seize and a hope the rest would fall into place later....
There is still so much to do!!! Mastering, Artwork, Licensing, Manufacturing, Marketing, Promotion. We need YOU!
The band is stellar: Andy Ezrin (p), Matt Penman (b), Jared Schonig (d) and Ingrid Jensen (tpt). They played the music deeply and we found a spirit in the room that was both spontaneous and rich with structure. I'm proud of the sound we found and can't wait to share it with you.
We continued to invite the students into our creative sanctuary, inviting them to Elliot's home where the mix took place. Their involvement has become a part of the story and love that went into those magical two days in the studio, and I am forever grateful to them for their sweet dedication and enthusiasm.
Your support will help us greatly with fully realizing the project. There remains so much to be done! We still need to master, create the artwork, manufacture, and market this for it's August 2017 release date. Everything happened so quickly before I could make the plan. So now the 'art is ahead of the cart,' and we are playing catch up! I would be so grateful if you joined us in completing this homage to the Great Nancy Wilson on her 80th year on the planet with all the streamers and balloons we can muster.
I think you'll be pleased with the set list we came up with culled from her first recording up through 1964. Future posts will tell you more about the making of and what's to come very soon.
Thank you for your consideration on jumping on this train that's already left the station, destination “A Sleepin’ Bee – The Nancy Wilson Sonnet.” We hope you'll join us 'as love comes a calling on you.'
Yours Most Humbly,
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges of any musical endeavor lays in the advance conception and preparation. Art takes time, ideas flow out of life lived and stories that need to be told. This project has benefited from ample time in the creation phase and needs only a viable chance to exist.
Your faith and generosity are most humbly appreciated. I will surely deliver a finished product should it be funded.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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