In other random notes filtering through The Sky, I thought it’d be cool to share a glimpse of the activity over here at SpragueLand. Sometimes at gigs folks ask me “Peter what have you been up to? I bet your scene is pretty easy going up there in North County, land of sprouts and mantras”. Yeah sure, it’s a great ride, but it’s also a full house baby! Here is a little collapsed time warp filling you in on some of the projects that we’ve worked on in this last bit of time.
Singer songwriter Maureen Fleming showed up one day and hired me to help make sense of some of her compositions. I was blown away at this women’s voice and songwriting abilities. Where had she been all these years? Out of at least my view of the circle of musicians in the San Diego music scene, that’s for sure.
It turns out that she was in L.A. in earlier years studying at the Dick Grove School of Music and after fighting the war of open mics and showcases, the struggle of the creative artist in a saturated town, she decided to become a Physicians Assistant and move to San Diego. “Basically a doctor”, she told me and this is where a big chunk of her time was spent. After a spell of this more traditional lifestyle she felt the nag of music tugging at her, and in between patient rounds at the hospital she found her way to me and the studio.
We played through her songs, made adjustments and tweaks, and then organized the usual suspects (Bob Magnusson, Duncan Moore, Kevin Hennessy, Sarah Watkins, Tom Aros, brother Tripp, and others) for some recording and some dreamtime. Over the span of a couple of months we completed the project and the CD Dreamers was born. Maureen’s style reminds me of one of my favorites, Joni Mitchell. Great lyrics and melody, embracing the folk and jazz styles, a gorgeous voice floating over a sensitive band. At another moment she’s singing her original jazz tunes with a tongue in cheek, Mose Allison-like lyric. “Golden Gate Park” is one of my favorites and on the tune “Family”, I’m even in there singing ethnic background vocals.
Folks, you are missing it if you don’t have this one in your CD player! This might sound like hype, like I’ve got some back-end financial deal running (which is sort of true in that the project slipped over budget because I, not really Maureen, had to get the music absolutely perfect. When I feel strongly about something, my insanity keeps me going until it’s right.) Sales angles aside, Maureen Fleming’s CD Dreamers is one of the highlights of this year.
Full Moon’s Daughter is the second CD that singer / songwriter Randy Phillips has recorded with me at SpragueLand. For this outing, Randy and I did some co-writing and she also teamed up with Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins for the song “In The Mystery”. Her regular collaborator is a fellow named Craig Silberman and the two of them wrote the remaining set of tunes.
Randy’s style is in the folk tradition but because she was hanging with us, the music took on some jazz and Brazilian influences as well. She sings about everyday events and how they have hidden truths tucked away. Her song “The Cross at the Curve of the Road” is an acoustic rocker connecting the dots between an old boyfriend and the perfect car. Sarah Watkins shreds a fiddle solo and we all did some Beatles-like background vocals.
Pianist Barnaby Finch was part of this session and on the tune “No Words”, plays some beautiful piano accompaniment to Randy’s singing. This is one of my favorites. The other players are, again, the Usual Suspects, with guest appearances by saxophonist Charles McPherson, Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sarah Watkins, and a big league cellist named Marsha Bookstein.
As the last song “Whispers of 4 AM” makes its final turns in the CD player, the serenity that Randy seeks is realized. “Let me ease you from your dreams with the whispers of 4 am”. This is a great moment, the cello and its gentle beauty are the last sound we hear on this wonderful collection of songs.
Full Moon’s Daughter
Violet Star Records
Jazz trombonist Alan Ferber came to SpragueLand for mixing on his recording called Playground. Alan is from New York City and was referred to me through trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. (Gilbert recorded his last CD at SpragueLand.)
Alan’s music is severely special. His band is made up of great L.A. jazz players and they are rehearsed to the “T”. The band plays mostly Alan’s original tunes but also does a fabulous arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “The Best Thing For You”. The music is straight-ahead jazz but with a modern harmonic angle to it. Check out the tune called “East Coast Love Affair” by the NYC guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. This is one tremendous tune and Alan’s version stirs up the mystery of why someone would bother putting up with the Big Apple’s twisted version of life. The band is made up of Alan on trombone, Jerry Pinter on tenor sax, Matt Zebley on alto sax, Jaime Rosenn on guitar, pianist Joe Bagg, Christoph Luty on bass, and Alan’s brother Mark Ferber on drums.
The minute Alan showed up at the studio with the Adat tapes I was in heaven. He’s one sweet fellow and upon hearing his trombone sound I knew I was hanging with a special cat. We mixed for a couple of days and the project eventually made it’s way to CD. Go hunt this one down and hear what some of the unspoken young jazz cats are doing these days.
Alan Ferber Septet
Jazz House Records AF8624
On my daily ocean ritual excursions I’d occasionally bump into this fellow who also favored long hair and the serenity of the blue pacific. I soon learned his name and discovered that he too loved the bossa nova. Tony Lasley told me his influences are Paul McCartney, Stan Getz, and Joao Gilberto. What an odd blend and this combined with Tony’s cool personality really grabbed my attention. I had to hear what this cat was up to. Tony dropped by SpragueLand later in the week with some tapes of his music and I immediately began to smile. This fellow has something different going on.
Tony was raised in one of those hip, tucked away, beach communities in L.A. near Topanga Canyon. His old man is an artist and a sax player and his mom danced professionally. Tony’s artistic roots go deep and he found his way growing up writing and playing music. He’s lived in New Mexico and the San Juan Islands and has had so many bizarre adventures it’s hard to believe he’s still in one piece. On our mixing sessions, we’d take periodic pauses to explore some of Tony’s incredible stories of near misses and amazing hits. He recorded music for a new age record label and had one of his songs placed in a Hollywood movie featuring big time stars. On the other side of the coin he’s had years where he’s run alarmingly close to empty. I love this cat’s polarized dance on planet Earth!
Alicia is Tony’s most recent release and we did the mixing here at SpragueLand. He tracked the project at his little Leucadia, one room, hippie commune spot and brought the tapes to me for some added sugar and spice. I fell in love with his music. Truly a blend of McCartney style vocals over a bossa nova, “Desifinado” era rhythmic bed. All of the tunes are his originals and they have catchy hooks and clever loops to them. “Bailo Bailo” is a samba that features Tripp Sprague on tenor sax cooking along like Getz over a percussion groove by Allan Phillips. Most of the other instruments on this CD are played by Tony including guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, and of course the vocals. On “I Don’t Want To Cry” (one of my favorites), Tony totally does the Paul thing beautifully even down the Hofner electric bass fill and the Beatles-esque background vocals. Pretty versatile cat who also did the art design on the CD cover himself.
Hunt down Alicia and venture into some alternate lifestyle influenced bossa nova Beatles music. This one is great!
Wheel Records B-002
Wow, I’m running out of time here. This is a lot of news to report. The evening glass off is just starting to kick in and I’m still in front of this computer spinning tales of SpragueLand music lore. Here are some of the other projects that have come through and details on how to find them.
You Got Style
Whole Aggravation Music
This old jazz bopper plays some mean, greasy guitar and tracked this one late last year. I’m sad to report that his health is declining. He is one sweet fellow and we’re sending good thoughts his way..
4 The Fun Of It
This is a recording of a jazz vocal group from Las Vegas who spent time down here doing their CD. They have great arrangements and sing some pretty slamming, tricky stuff. Great band too, Duncan, Kristen Korb, John Rekevics, etc.
Eva Beim Productions
Eva is a high-energy gal who writes and sings her own tunes set in the style of folk rock. We had fun on this project gathering a whole spectrum of players with Eva leading them to the truths of her songs.
I met alto saxophonist Mark Isbell at the Bellefluer Restaurant a couple of years back when he sat in with our group. He sounded wonderful. He was visiting California from his home in Japan and later decided to return and do a recording at SpragueLand with me on the guitar, Mike Wofford on piano, Bob Magnusson on bass, and jazz hero John Guerin on drums. We laid down some great straight-ahead jazz and with a band like that, how could you not!
Trio Alchemy is made up of Bob Weller on piano, Rob Thorsen on bass, and drummer Tim McMahon. These guys are the real deal! Hitting hard with deep tunes written by each of them. A collection of very creative music executed by totally dedicated jazz heads. Search this one out and live their world of fourth chords and stretched harmony.