Personnel Credits for My Ship
All guitars, bass, drum and percussion programming, vocals
Flugelhorn on: My Ship, Fortunate Few, Let Me be the One
Stan is a world-class musician, no question. I love his flugelhorn playing, always have. It's a romantic, gorgeous sounding instrument, and Stan plays it gorgeously. He improvised all the solos, and came up with the flugelhorn parts on My Ship with nothing more than a verbal prompt from me - no charts, no rehearsal, no previous listening. That's the way I like to work, maximum return for minimum investment! But that only works when you're dealing with musicians of Stan's caliber. I have played intermittently in various ensembles over the years with Stan - but not nearly as much as I would like!
Several years ago, I came to work at my teaching studio one day and there was this bizarre message on my answering machine. It was somebody singing a parody of If I Only Had a Brain from the Wizard of Oz. Only now it was, If I Only Had an Ear. The lyrics were very creative, as weird or even weirder than Weird Al. I thought to myself, "Here is someone with waaaay too much time on his hands!" It took me a couple of weeks to figure it out, the fact that the lyrics were musically knowledgeable meant that it was a musician, the guitar referents (Mr. Scofield, Wes Montgomery) threw me off, I figured it had to be a guitar player, maybe one of my students, but it was none other than Stan Kessler.
All saxophones on:
My Ship, Into the Mystic, Feel the Flame, Daddy's Money, We'll Never Say Goodbye, Everyone Knew
I've been working several gigs a week with Phil for many years. I first met him when we both played in one of Kevin Mahogany's bands around 1989. Kevin moved on and Phil joined Mark Valentine's band. A couple of years later when Valentine needed a guitar player Phil referred Mark to me. The three of us have been playing together ever since in various incarnations.
Besides my 1990 release, Industrial Moon, which was recorded when we were working together with Kevin Mahogany, as well as this latest release of mine, Phil can be heard on Kevin Mahogany's release, Songs and Moments, on ENJA Records. He is also featured with the Boulevard Big Band on the Seabreeze label titled, Take Only for Pain.
From the MasterGuitar NEWS entry for Feb. 12, 2006: So John Bukaty calls me this afternoon and wants me to play tonight! Short notice. It's for his Dad's 70th birthday party at a local country club. He says Mike Harvey will play too. There will also be a duo from Denver there, two girls who call themselves Honeysuckle Rose. I like John, I'm comfortable with Mike (Mike and me go way back) so I say ok (the money is cool too!). So I get there and I hear Honeysuckle Rose going over some tunes. Guitar and fiddle. I decided to seize the day. I need a fiddle solo on one of the tunes (James and Grace) I'm doing on my next CD. I also need a female vocalist for some harmony parts on another song (and they looked hungry!). So Honeysuckle Rose came over after the gig to do some recording. It was serendipity. Thanks John. Honeysuckle Rose is Bridget Law and Bonnie Paine. Check 'em out. The session was a success.
As it turns out, I wound up not using Bonnie's vocal even though she gave me just what I wanted. The tune was Hymn for Her and I decided that it was better to just leave it with one lead vocal and no background parts. It seems more intimate and appropriate that way.
Working with Bridget and Bonnie was a delight, the fiddle was just what James and Grace needed.
Vibes on Mexico
I've worked with Kent now and then over the last 25 years. When I decided I wanted a vibes solo on this song I said, "Kent is the guy!" He's very easy-going, we've recorded together before. He just came in and did it. As is my method when I'm wearing my producer's hat, I let him do several takes with no input from me just to see what he would come up with, and then I dictated what I had in mind. I used about half my stuff and half his stuff.
Mike "Mouse" Mayoski
Harmonica on What the Blues are all About
I've known Mouse Mayoskey for about 15 years, I've performed with him a handful of times. He's got that blues harp thing down. I hear he's got a reputation in Nashville and does a lot of session work there. We did 4 or 5 takes in about 10 minutes - all of which were usable - so I can believe it.
Pedal Steel on Feelin' Kinda Country
I generally don't work in the country music circles in this town. Not that I wouldn't if someone called, it's just that the trajectory of my so-called career has not taken me in that direction. I knew I wanted a pedal steel on this tune but I don't really know any pedal steel players. But I know guys who do. So I called my good friend Terry Hancock, and he gave me Kevin's name. I'd never met Kevin until he showed up at my studio to do the track. To be honest, I was a little nervous about how he might react to being asked to play on a tune that parodies country music. No problem. What he brought to the tune was exactly what I was looking for. He seemed to be a laid back, easy going fellow, and we got along just fine. If I ever wind up in a country band, I hope Kevin's the pedal steel player.
Vocal on Feelin' Kinda Country
I wanted a female voice, EQ'd to sound like it was coming through a telephone, to say, "I'm just fine". It had to be delivered in such a way that it communicated disdain and detachment both. I did 8 takes with my wife, Andrea, but she's too transparent to be able to act. I did several takes with one of my nieces, Camilla EuDaly. I got a good one, one that was very usable, but not quite perfect. My daughter Rachael came in, said the line one time, and refused to do it again. Darn if that wasn't the one!
Artwork, design, layout, graphics, etc.
Dean lives in Athens, Greece, where he does illustration, design - all manner of commercial art. We've never met in person, but we've known each other for several years, and I consider him a close friend. It is my fervent hope that I will meet him in person sometime. Our relationship over the past 6 years has centered around various philosophical/theological pursuits, which is something I'm very interested in, and Dean has considerable expertise in that field. He has been a marvelous help and resource to me in that area.
As I was considering what to do about cover art, I thought that this might be an opportunity to broaden my relationship with Dean into something other than theology. Besides that, I had been to his website and liked what I saw. So I gave him a proposal, he graciously accepted for what I am sure is much less than the going rate in Europe, and sent me four designs for a cover. They were all very good, I picked the one I liked the best and he took it from there.
Percussion and Drums
All the drums and percussion sounds are samples. I used a Roland R-8 drum machine. Without getting into a lot of technical jargon let's just say I am very meticulous with the drum and percussion tracks. I typically spend more time on drum stuff than all the other stuff put together. I try to avoid programming anything a real drummer couldn't play. For some of my stuff there would need to be two drummers! One playing a kit and another on various percussion instruments.
I have paid very close attention over the years - still do - to what drummers play. On this CD, most of the drum sounds are ethnic percussion instruments - djembes, congas, and various other Latin, African, and Indian instruments. I would like to mention three guys who I've worked with over the years that have influenced the drum and percussion tracks on this CD, even though they did not actually play on it. At various points in this project when coming up with the drum and percussion parts I would think to myself, "What would so-and-so play here?"
First and foremost would be Ray DiMarchi. Ray is known as a jazz drummer around town, and he IS an awesome jazz drummer. He also plays congas, cocktail drum, and other instruments at the acoustic "Brewjam" that happens every Sunday night at the 75th St. Brewery. Besides playing the Brewjam several times a year, I've been working with him in that capacity (acoustic guitar and percussion) every Wednesday night for the last several months and have thoroughly enjoyed his playing. He heard some quick mixes of a few of these tunes and jokingly said, "Hey, you're stealing my ideas!" Well...yes I am! And I hereby unashamedly acknowledge it! "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
Secondly, Jaisson Taylor. Years ago, I played an every Thursday night gig at The Levee on acoustic guitar with Jaisson on djembe. A djembe is an African drum with a deep boomy kind of sound. I was amazed at the different sounds and textures that Jaisson got out of that one drum. Whenever I'm trying to come up with a djembe part I always try to come up with something Jaisson would play.
Thirdly, Chico Battaglia. When Richard VanSant and I (along with Jim LaForte and Mike Brammel) first started the jam at Harlings on Saturday afternoons back in '84, Chico was on that gig. Since there was a lot of jazz involved, whenever I'm programming conga drums on a swing tune or a shuffle I can't get away from the way Chico played congas when the band was playing that style of music. Anyone who's worked with Chico for any amount of time will recognize the conga rhythm on "Daddy's Money."
There are others, of course, but these three are the ones that immediately come to mind when I'm programming percussion parts.
When doing a project like this I wear many hats. I'm the songwriter, the performer, the arranger, the producer, the recording engineer, the editing engineer, and the mix engineer. I suppose I could learn how to be a mastering engineer also but frankly, by the time I get to this final stage of the process I'm usually pretty burnt and not wanting to hear these songs again for a long, long time. The mastering session is the final step, the point at which I must commit to the parts, the performances, and the mix. And it's the stage where I'm least likely to be objective. If there's a screw-up here, the whole project can be ruined. So, I prefer to outsource the mastering. I can run the whole thing through a better and more objective set of ears than mine.
Enter Bill Crain.
He's more objective, and he's definitely got better ears than me. I hear crickets and cicadas - even in the winter time! I hear stuff that Bill doesn't hear, but what I hear isn't there. Bill hears stuff that I don't hear - and it is there! Here's an example: Bill: "What's that stuff below 38k doing in there?" Me: "I don't hear anything below 38k." Bill: "Exactly! Nobody does. So what's that stuff below 38k doing in there? We should just get rid of it, it sucks energy out of the mix." Bottom line, without being obnoxious, Bill is brutally honest - I want that - and I respect and trust his opinion, even when we disagree, which doesn't happen very often. BTW - he cut out everything below 38k, the stuff that no human can hear - and darned if the mix didn't sound better! He has a really nice studio and he knows how to use it. Outsourcing the mastering adds a significant chunk of bank to the overhead of a project like this, but I've never regretted it. And I've never regretted putting my project into Bill Crain's hands.