Steve Slagle Quartet
The quartet that I have with Dave Stryker has been one of the most creative experiences any musician could ask for. Although we have been lucky to have several great rhythm sections, this latest with Bill Moring on bass and Tony Reedus on drums is among the best.
A week before making this recording we had left New York City on a grass-roots mid-west tour. Riding long hours in a van packed to the hilt with instruments and suitcases doing one-nighters, we finally made it to the studio in Louisville. It is always a challenge to capture the kind of energy that our band comes up with (for example in a club in Chicago the night before) in a more sterile studio situation. But Jamey and all involved in Double-Time Records made us feel “at home”. In fact amazingly everything you listen to on this recording is a first take! Even though for insurance we did other takes, in the end what we played the first time through couldn’t be beat. It reminds me of what Duke Ellington is quoted as saying when he recorded the album with Coltrane - “Don’t bother to do another take, he’ll just end up imitating himself” (!) Anyhow its always a good sign when a band that is creating music at the moment can accomplish that. I guess it takes a bond that even transcends music - so maybe those 10 hour van rides payed off! Sometimes there are things you can work on in music that don’t include actually playing your instrument and that’s what you try to deal with on the road. Every musician playing jazz has confronted this, I think, and it has to do with timing, which is so much a part of life, and energy and passion. All of those qualities that you go for all day long, you try to put into the music when the time comes. Sometimes it works.
For this project, Jamey D. Aebersold asked us about the idea of putting new arrangements on older songs that are standards in jazz. So other than my original “Eve”, Dave and I came up with these new views of different material. The common thread running through them is that along with being great compositions on their own, they are also vehicles to send us off into our own thing. For me, when I write a song, it has to come up to that standard or else it ends up on the cutting floor. (Sometimes my floor is pretty busy...). With arrangements, whether for a small group like this, or the Mingus Big Band (which I presently arrange for) it’s a similar process. Arranging someone else’s composition isn’t any easier than arranging your own - it’s a process that takes being inspired and wanting to throw a new light on something you dig. Sometimes you have to sleep on it awhile. Sometimes it will come to you in the middle of a crowded subway. You never know....
I hope this music can grab those of you with big ears to hear what the four of us are about and where we see jazz in the mid 90’s.
really glad to have recorded this music and want to thank our producer
Jamey D. Aebersold and his company Double-Time Records for the
1. I Didn't Know What Time It Was (6:42) - Dave came up with some dark chord substitutions against the melody and on his solo (as well as Bill’s on bass). I play on the original changes that I first heard ‘Bird play on record, and later Wayne Shorter (with Art Blakey). So this version has the best of both worlds - and all time zones!
2. Eve (6:16)- I composed this on New Year’s Eve ’94 playing very quietly (on piano) because, believe it or not, a woman was meditating next door and didn’t like the sound of the piano! Music can come out of some odd situations for sure. This composition in 3/4 time has a gentleness to it that also makes me think of Eve, the “original woman”. We’re all out here trying to deal with her, right? As Sidney Bechet said about music (and women) “Treat it gentle.”
3. Little Rootie Tootie (6:20) - This Monk composition which is based on rhythm changes with a very odd Monk-ish bridge has been something I have liked playing for a long time now. With the melody doubled on bass, Dave also put some harmony on the out chorus with guitar that I think the maestro himself would dig. I especially like the interplay between guitar and sax on this take. You know, that interplay combined with the right rhythm section is really what makes Our Sound.
4. Theme For Ernie (5:59) - This great ballad was composed by Fred Lacey for the departed altoist Ernie Henry who played with Monk and Kenny Dorham among others. I always dug Ernie’s sound as well as this very deep kind of haunting melody. I’m glad to have recorded this - a tribute from one alto player to another.
5. Crazy She Calls Me (8:14) - I first heard Gordon Jenkins ballad arrangement of this, sung by Billie Holliday on record and it knocked me out. With this version I play soprano sax and I put some bass pedals on the changes and made it rhythm oriented. Check out Tony on this - Righteous Reedus!!
6. Haitian Fight Song (6:55) - After arranging and playing lead alto for the Mingus Big Band I’ve had a great chance to get into the spirit of "Mingus" music. This piece which starts with the lone bass (check out Bill’s Mingus tribute) and builds to a huge climax with the guitar (Dave reaches for it on this one). This is one we really put our own signature on. I think it captures the fire & spirit that we often get to on live performances of this masterpiece.
7. Lush Life (4:46) - Dave and I have only once before recorded a duo and Lush Life is fitting on this CD-down to the bare essentials. One of the most classic “songs” of the 20th century, I believe this masterpiece by Billy Strayhorn will endure as long as love. We did this in one take at the end of the session while people were kind of restlessly milling about the studio, but I think our experience playing together is evident. No wasted words here.
8. All Or Nothing At All (8:45) - This is a great love song in its lyric and a unique composition by J. Lawrence/A. Al\tman. Here Dave made a unusual arrangement that uses a bass figure and some rhythm section hits against my melody. It’s a feel on drums that is interesting to play on top of and puts the song in a slightly different vien than any versions I’ve heard.
9. Beautiful Friendship (8:23) -
I decided to play this on flute, and the flute and bass are a great match
at the beginning. Tony said in rehearsal “I’ll sweep for you on this one,
baby” (brushes, that is). I love playing the flute and often play it, but
in the loud world of night clubs and strange sound systems, I feel it
doesn’t get across the way I want so I don’t often play it in clubs. I’m
really happy with this example of how I view the instrument through a song
that is so pretty. Dave also plays some incredible lines on this that
might make a lot of guitarists out there go back to the wood shed!!
Also check out the tag at the end. First take again!