On May 14, 2018, the esteemed musicians I had recorded with on my second (ZMR Award-winning) album, Dreaming of Now, joined me at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley to record Lilac Skies.
Frank Martin (piano)
Celso Alberti (drums)
Kai Eckhardt (bass)
with Adam Muñoz (recording engineer).
Fantasy Studios (Berkeley, CA) was the home of Concord Jazz. The legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans recorded there in the early 70 and we used the Bill Evans piano on Lilac Skies. You can hear the warm tones of that piano played masterfully by pianist Frank Martin.
I came into the sessions prepared. I had recordings of each song we planned to record in a prototype version; these were tracks I had recorded over the past 3 months at my home in San Diego. I also had fully written song arrangements with parts for each player. A song arrangement articulates what the composer wants each musician to play as well as where you want a player to create freely or improvise a section; you indicate it. The music is a roadmap. When everyone follows the map, the song comes to life. A puzzle comes together.
We arrived for set up at 8 am; the studio was set up perfectly by engineer Adam Muñoz, who I had worked with on Dreaming of Now, some five years earlier. We started recording around 930 am. One by one, we read through and recorded the songs - 12 new songs in all ; 8 of them appear on Lilac Skies. Truth to tell, I was in awe of the talent in the room and hoped my own performance would cut it.
And with 45 minutes budgeted for completing a track, there was little time for error.
Rehearse through a song,
make sure the arrangement worked,
get a feel,
and then just go for a take. Boom!
If a take worked, we all knew it. Then we moved into the studio to listen. Each musician then fixed any small glitches (a bad note, measure or section) as Adam Muñoz did his magic at the console. One by one we made it through the song list. Song by song, the magic just kept happening. We finished recording at 630 pm. As we were packing up, Kai Eckhardt said, "Gentlemen, thank you for bringing your A Game." We all kind of knew it was a good day.
For me there is a wonderment in hearing a song being born in the studio the first time. The magic in a song emerges through each player's interpretation and performance, and then in the overall unified groove the we create together. In the moments of this recording, musical magic happened across the songs of Lilac Skies. Welcome!
I drove back to my hotel after the session with the raw sessions on two disk drives. I would start listening to them in detail a few weeks later on Maui (for my birthday).