October 10, 2012

New website, new music, new band. There's really a feeling of re-birth here on my side.

Here's the story on Renaissance:

They had this beautiful Miles Davis exhibit in Paris a few years ago called, "We Want Miles". It was essentially a Miles museum with various rooms, each dedicated to a different period of Miles' life. Some cool highlights: pictures of Miles in St. Louis as a kid, handwritten music charts from Miles' famous "Birth of the Cool" recording sessions, the actual drum kit that Tony Williams played with Miles in the famous sixties quintet, and video of Miles training for boxing (he looked like he could move pretty good)! There was also a huge wall that listed all of the musicians who had ever played with Miles categorized by instrument. It was obvious that they put this exhibit together with a lot of love and care.

The director asked me if I would do a concert in connection with the exhibit where I would play all of the music from Tutu. Tutu is a Miles album that I worked on as a producer, composer and played most of the instruments. We did it in 1985. I wasn't so sure that Miles, if he were still here, would have liked this idea of going back in time. He wasn't big on reminiscing, but I really wanted to participate in this dedication. My solution was to find some young musicians who were barely even born when Tutu was first released. I was hoping they could bring a new energy to this music and together we could create a sense of the past and the future at the same time.

My point of entry was finding Alex Han on sax. I discovered him at Berklee College in Boston a few years before. He was now living in New York and he basically opened the door for me to a whole community of young, hungry musicians.  

Not only did we do the exhibit but we ended up touring "Tutu Revisited" for close to two years and making a CD and DVD of one of the shows. I was loving the new energy of this new group and by the second year of the tour, I decided that for my next album, I would write new music specifically for this group.

I spent a few months writing music and working on the arrangements. I wanted this recording to really highlight my compositions and arrangements and also how we sound as a group. I didn't want the production to be very elaborate. Just the sound of musicians doing their thing.

We went into Sear Sound in New York in December of 2011 for four days then the following January for another four days. The band was Alex Han on sax, Louis Cato on drums, Sean Jones and Maurice Brown on trumpet, Adam Agati and Adam Rogers on guitar, and Federico Peña and Kris Bowers on keys. Not everyone played at the same time but these were the guys.

During the sessions, I came across a nice technique for getting good performances. We would work on two songs and do multiple takes of each. Then, the next day, before we started working on the next two songs, we would do one take each of the songs we'd worked on the day before. This worked out kinda sweet because the takes from the 2nd day had all the tightness from the day before but with the freshness, spontaneity and energy that comes from chillin’ on the tunes overnight. Most of the takes that we used on the album ended up being from the "morning after" recordings.

I decided to call the album “Renaissance” because I felt like this was a new beginning for me. Renaissance actually means "re-birth" in French. Also, I felt like we were getting back to the basics of music: good tunes and great performances.