|You Can Pretend
You Can Pretend started off as a kind of biting vocal tune addressed to people that completely misinterpret your kindness. After toying with the lyrics for a while, I decided to abandon them; generally I think it is more beneficial for the universe for folks to be nice than it is for them to be grouches! The piece itself is a somewhat dramatic, slow gospel-like 3/4.
I wrote this tune for the Organic Trio’s third CD that should come out sometime near the beginning of 2019. It is a classic soul-jazz piece that is super-fun to play on. The title came from my archive of prospective song names - it seemed to have the right amount of double-entendre for a tune in this idiom.
Top Down kind of languished on my desk for a couple years while I searched for the appropriate melody. I was quite fascinated by the chord changes - I liked how it transitions through keys without screaming out “Key Change!” The feel was inspired by a piece from the group James Farm that I am a big fan of (and anything else Aaron Parks or Joshua Redman are involved with). One day I want to cruise the 101 in a 68 'vette with the top down while jamming out to this.
I have a dear old friend in the Netherlands that I’ve been playing music with for more than 20 years. We also are big fans of Belgium beer and Indonesian food – so, needless to say, we know how to make the hang.
A few years back we engineered a couple of transatlantic mega-hangs to create some
guitar and drum only music together. This piece got its start during those sessions. It has an overtly swampy vibe and was originally intended to be played on lap steel. There is a pretty cool recording of it on another (unrelated) Dutch artist’s record: Thomas Pol in America.
This tune is the first piece that I wrote entirely at the piano. It was one of those compositions that just sort of owned me - once it got started gnawing at my brain, I couldn’t stop thinking about it until I finished it.
I’ve had the opportunity to do a few tours in Europe with an organ trio that features Jean-Yves Jung on the keys and Paul Wiltgen on drums. These guys are both incredible players and super-beautiful people, which makes touring with them a total dream-come-true. I wrote this tune for that trio and have dedicated it to Jean-Yves’ wife, Yolanda, who is really sweet but can’t stand listening to organ! The feel is a semi-driving quarter note thing ala Motown from the 60’s. This tune appears on the Organic Trio’s first CD, Home Remembered.
I wrote this on Christmas Eve, 2011. I was working on another tune and then this one started happening, and I rolled with it. I decided to add words to it, and went for something on the dark side. I like how it came out. Alex Bosworth included it on her very cool album Here for You.
Home Remembered was the result of a small burst of writing I did for a gig with my good friend and musical wizard Jesse Lewis a few years back. I was looking to write something heartfelt that the band could really vibe out on. In 2009, New Orleans vocalist Cindy Scott put words to it, and it appears on her disc Let the Devil Take Tomorrow as Start Again. She prefers it in Bb, but for me it just doesn’t lay in anything other than C. Happily, she curses me under her breath on our gigs together and does it in C! That’s a real friend. This tune also appears on the Organic Trio’s first CD, Home Remembered.
This is a tune of mine that doesn’t get played that much and hasn’t appeared on anyone’s record yet. I would say it fits neatly in the category of Arena Jazz. It’s a blast to blow on and can be pretty over the top energy-wise. I think the bridge changes are kind of crafty - I’ve toyed with the idea of recycling them in another tune, but now that I’ve put it out there I probably won’t do that!
I’m always amazed at how good this one feels, as it is sort of a 5/4 version of swinging New Orleans meets Hillbilly. Sounds potentially awful, right?
Perhaps the coolest part of teaching at the National Guitar Workshop is getting to hang hard with amazing musicians that are from circles beyond your regular sphere. David Hamburger is one of those folks; I totally admire his musicality, and feel blessed to have gotten to know him some. I wrote this tune so we would have something to play together at a faculty concert. We sounded good!
One of the things that I “practice” is free association voice leading in two or three parts. It’s an ear thing, and also a technical challenge wrapped up in pure musical expression (hopefully). Saturn’s Spell evolved from one of those practice sessions. The title comes from the vibe that Saturn supposedly casts on the Earth, if you’re into that kind of thing. The piece is the title track of the Organic Trio’s chart topping 2nd CD.
I’m a huge fan of drummer Paul Motian, and have spent a lot of time checking out his different projects over the years. Sometime around 2005, Johnny Vidacovich, another drummer that I can’t get enough of, asked me to help him put together a tribute to Motian. We’ve kept that project alive since, doing one or two shows a year. I wrote this one for that group, trying to channel as much PM as possible. This tune appears on the Organic Trio’s first CD, Home Remembered.
This tune was inspired by some tracks I’ve heard from the early 70’s
that I suspect were fueled by more than excitement. I wanted something that really would get the Gentilly Groovemasters’ juices flowing, and this seems to do the trick. What doesn’t work is guitar playing the head at A – the melody notes really need to be sustained for it to have the effect I was going for.
During the lead up to the recordings for Stanton Moore’s
instructional book and DVD, he told me he was looking
for something that could be played with a brass band
and also as a more straight up funk tune. Shortly
after that, I was hanging on the beach one night in
Florida when I came up with this tuba/bass figure,
and the rest of the tune just fell into place. It
really does lend itself to a variety of grooves, and,
it’s an incredibly easy tune to play. This tune appears on the Organic Trio’s first CD, Home Remembered.
of an Era
A modal ditty with a rolling ostinato bass figure, End
of an Era more or less plays itself. I was kind of worried
that it was too much of a good thing, but cats seem to like
playing on it. Many of the melody notes work well as the lead
line of a quartal structure, which also helps blur the shades
of its minor-ness. I wrote the bulk of Era one night
at the Stationhouse when Charlie and James were doing the
gig. This tune appears on the Organic Trio’s first CD, Home Remembered.
I wrote this tune sort of as a dedication to my good friend
Mark DiFlorio. Mark was a great drummer that used to live
in New Orleans. He had an incredibly individual sound, and
was one of a handful of New Orleans guys that had a broken
swing concept together. This is a medium to medium up
waltz that works well in that style.
(This chart has been
slightly edited as of 9/5/02)
This is a piece I wrote while on the subway late one night, heading
out from Manhattan to Queens. It sat around on my desk for about a year,
until I added the chord changes to it. Its a ballad, but one that
moves along, if you know what I mean. I particularly like how this one
Inside was my attempt to write a burnout type tune, although
according to my dear friend Jesse Lewis, it really is just fast,
happy jazz. Whatever, I make no claims to this ones
enduring qualities! I do know that it is fun to play on, and pretty
much can be read down in one shot, even by blind guitar players.
This chart is apparently kind of a pain to play, especially for drummers.
It is supposed to have a very slow triplety feel, like some Elvin thing
way slowed down. Many of the chords in the center of each bar are pushed.
It was one of those tunes that I just heard, pretty much the whole thing.
One day Ill find the perfect groove on someones record or
something and then it probably will all make sense to the rest of you.
This is a tune that has been around since the early 90s. It started
out as a weird blues head that was meant to go into a free thing.
it was discovered that the chord changes could be interesting to blow
on. Then, it became a funk version that was part of the repertoire
Stanton Moores band, Moore & More. It appears on Stantons
first record All Kooked Out with Charlie Hunter and Skerik.
This chart reflects that version. (ps - I was tickled to
find out recently that they’re using this tune for the Funk Combos
at the Berklee College of Music’s five week summer program. If anyone
out there has a copy of that chart, I'd love to see it.)
I wrote this tune for Stanton because he said none of my stuff was dumb
enough. He didn't think this was dumb enough either, but, he liked it
in spite of that, and decided to include it on his Verve debut, Flying
the Koop. Karl Denson and Skerik sound awesome on this track.
I think of it as sort of a swinging go-go/batman feel, but it really
can be played with a straight ahead organ trio type vibe.
This piece consistently gets the most comments of all of my compositions.
I wrote it around Christmas of 1992, basically in one inspired sitting.
If any of my tunes just came out, this would be the one.
It is basically a slow folk tune with a couple of smarty-pants type
changes. It has been recorded on Theresa Anderssons Vibes
CD (that version has words, is on the faster side, and is called Brians
Ballad), and on a disc that never quite saw the light of day,
by the group Passage (you can hear that cut on the Recordings
This is my tip of the hat to the excellent guitarist Grant
Green. It is somewhat funky, in a subtle sort of way, I can
imagine it being played quite nicely by Idris Muhammed. I
wrote this one early in 2001. A few different groups around
New Orleans have made it part of their books. It appears on
the STR Digital disc Funk Yard, by Gatemouth Brown’s
great organist Joe Krown (although if it was up to me, it
probably would be a little slower!)
is one of the older songs in my collection that actually still gets
played. I wrote this one in 1991, just before I moved to New Orleans.
It is a brightish 3/4 tune that was my attempt to write a piece that
relied on strong voice leading for its harmonic integrity (One of my
friends, a brilliant pianist and musician, George Mesterhazy, once played
this for me as a ballad, and he made me sound like I actually could
write something deep!). I find it really fun to play over, and still
challenging after all these years. It still hasn't been recorded on
a publicly available product, although it has made it to the studio
a couple of times.
is a fairly warped set of blues changes that actually doesnt sound
so artificial (at least not to me!). I wrote it when I was on tour in
Brasil with Davell Crawford in 1997. There is absolutely nothing about
it that sounds Brazilian, not one thing. It works well in an Organ context,
its more or less straight up swing. Ive heard rumors that
Skerik plays it in Seattle with a B-3 player. Id really like to
hear that sometime. It appears on Quintologys second disc, Blues
By 5. It was named after my favorite beverage combination at the
Honey Island is a swamp area east of New Orleans, close to Mississippi.
This ballad, although pretty much just a jazz number, has a lot of swampiness
and blues in it. I think it is one of my better writing attempts. It
appears on Stantons first record, and he plays some beautiful
mallet stuff on it. A few other groups Ive worked with have played
it also, although I still feel that the definitive version of it has
yet to be put on disc.
Seeger Dennard Things
Charlie Dennard and I have collaborated on a number of musical projects
together, including Moore & More, Quintology, The
Seeger Dennard Thing, and some other groups. In the last couple
of years we have been in the studio on a number of occasions, recording
some Organ trio tracks, as well as some guitar and piano duets. At some
point we decided we should try writing together, and it has proven to
be a very fruitful endeavor. All of the charts below are being played
regularly, and many of them have been recorded, or are going to be in
the near future.
This is one of the first pieces we penned together. A version of it
is on Stanton Moores first Verve record Flying the Koop.
It also is in the rotation of Quintology's sets. It's a nice little
funk tune with a fairly interesting form.
This is a burn-out funk tune inspired by some of the pieces on Grant
Greens Live at the Lighthouse recording. The little
chop buster line at the end of the head was one of those inspired moments,
we were in the studio working on something else, and it just came to
me, perfectly clear, completing the tune.
I love this piece. Charlie inspired me once with his rendition of Georgia,
and I told him we should write something with that totally church, slow
6/8 vibe, with the big 4 backbeat. We worked on it a little, then a
large piece of it came to me standing on the street outside of a gig
while I was waiting for a ride home. As simple as this tune is, it is
really difficult to get it to feel just right, it takes a really special
drummer to pull it off. I know Im gonna record this one, I just
dont know when.
Hunch is a funk number that has a few more chord changes, which makes
it really fun to play, and to blow over. Its form is a little like Lets
Go, where different soloists play in different keys, but it feels slightly
more involved without being cumbersome. This tune appears on Stantons
Flying the Koop, as well as on a compilation CD put out
by Where Yat magazine.
I heard this rock guitar comping thing superimposed on top of a bright
boogaloo, and Booby Trap was born. The melody is kind of nifty and angular.
When we do this with Moore & More, the soloists trade off on the
two key areas, and it usually goes through a whole bunch of different
feels, which gives it a spontaneity that some of the more straight up
funk numbers don't seem to have.
I did an amazing set of recordings with saxophonist Ed Petersen and
drummer Jason Marsalis a couple of years back. We improvised for the
entire sessions, sometimes inventing tunes, and other times inventing
soundscapes. The form and chord changes for Wailing Wall came to me
at one of those sessions (you can listen to Pentelvin on the Recordings
page). It was a really nice modal thing with that rolling Elvin feel,
but in 5/4 time. I toyed with it for a while, getting close to making
it a composition but not quite finishing it. I decided to bring what
I had into one of Charlie and my writing sessions, and with his patience
and help, and one nice chord change, we were able to complete it.