Lots of factors can come up that complicate, hinder, or expand the scope of expectations for a project. I try not to judge when these factors emerge, but rather acknowledge and evaluate them to see if they make the project better (it’s a tool I’m working on all the time). That’s really all that matters – does it elevate the project? Then it’s likely worth chasing. But sometimes, that ever elusive flow state can happen naturally, and when everyone is on the same page, there’s a beautiful feedback loop of energy that occurs. This post, and my last post, are about projects coming together quickly.
When one of my current quarantine collaborators and friend, Miles Butler (who also owns my favorite coffee shop – it’ll be so great to get back there!), asked me to help him with something for the Philadelphia Jazz Project’s celebration of Whitman at 200, I was happy to get on board.
With a deadline looming, we quickly booked studio time and got musicians together to lay down the foundation. Miles had a sketch of a song, but nothing fully formed. Sometimes this can lead to lots of wasted studio time. In this case, with the aforementioned everyone-on-the-same-page energy, some good stuff happened. Miles, Jasmine Thompson, and Kim Pedro Rodriguez did an extended jam with guitar, piano, and drums based on the original demo sketch. Thankfully, I had all the gear dialed in, ready to go, and was recording the entire jam (so grateful to be prepared, rather than the musicians waiting on me). The trio played around for about 11-12 minutes straight. They came in to listen to the result, and that was it. Everyone was happy with it. From there, we asked Miles’ dad, Paul Butler, to record some woodwinds. He did three passes on the full tune – one take each on clarinet, bass clarinet, and alto sax. We were out of time for the day.
I took all of the files home and did my best to mine the gold and piece something together. While a 12 minute song is great, it’s a lot to ask of a listener. I was able to trim the song down to under 6 minutes, pulling the best of the best. I then added my bass part and a subtle mellotron texture. We did vocals with Miles and Waverly Alston, and had some last minute guitar overdubs with Jeff Podlogar. I asked my friend Tom Volpicelli to master the song once the mix was finished. Special thanks to Homer Jackson at PJP for his guidance, positivity, and kindness.
There’s a lot going on in the tune, but seemingly everyone knew how to find their space and allow space for others. I think there are lots of tiny moments throughout the song, tied together with excerpts from Whitman that we repeated or strung together to form a cohesive message. He was a complicated character for sure, but this particular bit of text is a great reminder about connecting with nature after being pulled away. Seems especially important right now.