As I introduce my third album, Interludes, I enter another chapter of my singing career with a new title: Producer. I did not take the task lightly for I wanted to create my best album yet by capturing the nuances of the sublimely complicated subject known as Love.
This project came to life during January 2015 in NYC at a jazz conference hosted by my publicist Jim Eigo. Jim introduced me to Hendrik Meurkens, the harmonica player extraordinaire. Hendrik volunteered that he would be performing in California in April, so I invited him to record with me during his trip. Three months later on April 20th, he joined me and my other musicians at United Recording Studio A in Hollywood where we were recorded by Al Schmitt.
I chose all of the musicians on this album for their personal styles and approaches to jazz. The accompanying work of pianist Bill Cunliffe is a vocalist’s dream for he offers the perfect support needed to let the singer and song fly. John Chiodini, a fantastic guitarist who worked with Peggy Lee for years, has become a beloved new friend. We get along musically so very, very well and I could not imagine doing another album without him. Chuck Berghofer offers top drawer bass lines and easy swing that added so much to these songs. Ray Brinker, our drummer on nine of the songs, offered great support and creative dynamics; he was a jewel to work with on this album. Percussionist Brad Dutz was one of the most enthusiastic musicians. The “tools” he brought to create imaginative images and illusions added a third dimension to every song. The contributions of Bob McChesney are outstanding. This is the second time I have engaged Bob (he is on my album Lost In Romance) and I do not know of a better trombone player anywhere. Hendrik Meurkens plays the sweetest harmonica, reminiscent sometimes of the famous Toots; but he has his own unique style that adds a tender, musical touch. He’s simply amazing. Cellist Cecilia Tsan made the songs on this, her first jazz album, come to life in a way that would not have been the same without her.
For Interludes, I looked for songs that express the many facets of love’s entrances and exits, pieces that struck a chord with me. I also consulted with my trusted confidants including vinyl music critic Michael Fremer and jazz journalist Scott Yanow, asking their unbiased opinions of my ideas. Initially, I wanted to perform duets with different instrumentalists but, as the songs unfolded, they developed their own character and instrumentation based on ideas generated by the demo team.
I am grateful to Steve Rawlins, John Chiodini, Paul Kreibich, Dominick Genova and Bob McChesney for their time during the demo session when the album was truly formed, and for helping me decide which material to keep or discard. After that, the ideas were given to Steve, John, Tamir Hendelman, and Bill Cunliffe to write the final musical roadmaps.
“Lyn Stanley’s recent Interludes is her most adventurous and exciting recording yet. Her expressive and versatile vocals pay justice to the lyrics that she interprets, her voice is at various times quietly emotional, seductive, saucy and inviting, and she sounds comfortable no matter what the setting.” –Scott Yanow
Within these liner notes I have integrated some of the comments jazz critic Scott Yanow mentioned in his review of Interludes. I took a “gutsy move,” according to Scott, by beginning the album a capella. Starting the recording that way is a risk, but also a creative twist I felt compelled to try. Steve Rawlins, the song’s arranger, agreed to my plea to begin with a rubato (free form) vocal. Glad we did.
The pieces on Interludes came to me from different sources. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was suggested by my friend Dimitry Shapovalov who said that it would be good for my voice. This 1932 song about the Parisian nightlife of the day hit home with me. I could transpose the characters to my own experiences living in Hollywood, California when I recorded my first album a few years ago. The streets of Hollywood are lined with hopefuls, many of whom sing a song or dance. Alas, most of their dreams never come to fruition. I instinctively knew that a cello and harmonica would be beautiful on this song. I also wanted to perform originals written by famous singers about their own troubles with love such as Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” and Frank Sinatra’s “I’m A Fool To Want You.” In addition, Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood” was a natural choice for the album. I did it in his original key, which is something that you typically do not hear from a female vocalist. “More Than You Know,” was a must. It is my mother’s favorite song and one that I am sure reminds her of a challenging but deep love in her life.
I also listened to many popular female jazz vocalists who record today. I decided to cover a few of the same standards that they perform but adding something different. For example Cole Porter’s “Just One Of Those Things” has lyrics that convey the dismissal of a superficial relationship. It was given an arrangement, at my request, that builds up gradually, culminating in the middle before dropping off (or musically dismissing) the players at the end.
My friend Walter Bloom heard Nat King Cole’s version of “I Was A Little Too Lonely” on the radio and requested that I record it. Walter is a dancer and liked the swing nature of the song. I typically add a fun and saucy tune to each of my albums and this one fit the bill. Composer Artie Butler, who has become a special friend, suggested 1992’s “It’s Crazy” which he had composed with Sammy Cahn. It was Sammy’s last lyrics written before his passing in 1993. To my knowledge, this special song has only been recorded two other times.
After meeting Alan and Marilyn Bergman last February at a show put on by my friend Joe Rothman that featured Alan, I decided to record their “Nice ‘n Easy.” They have had such a beautiful relationship and marriage. Steve Rawlins then suggested “The Island,” a Portuguese classic translated by the Bergmans, I asked that the arrangement add extra bars between certain lyrics so that I could linger with the words. Also, it gave Brad Dutz a chance to create the atmospheric sounds of a beautiful isolated island scene where two lovers could meet and share themselves intimately.
The final stage of the album was the addition of four songs that featured the great keyboardist Mike Garson (who was David Bowie’s musical director) along with John Chiodini, Chuck Berghofer and drummer Paul Kreibich. We recorded these during a three hour session at Capitol Recording Studio A. I wanted to include some contemporary songs that dealt with the love’s makeups and breakups theme. I had heard a blues version of “Whole Lotta Love,” a song popularized by Led Zeppelin that begged to be reimagined as a jazz arrangement. It was masterfully created by John Chiodini. We recorded what was a totally spontaneous and perfect moment when all of the musicians came together freely and created something quite memorable. That same session produced “Last Tango In Paris“ which I first heard sung by jazz pianist-vocalist Judy Roberts during one of her California shows. Steve Rawlins created one of the best-ever arrangements of that tune for me. “Black Velvet,” came from my idea about creating a Beatnik-sounding feel to this song a la “The Pink Panther.” I am the co-arranger and the finger snaps by Steve are a tribute to one of my favorite vocalists, Peggy Lee.
The cherry on the cake for the project was the vocal help I received from Windy Wagner, known for her work as a singer on the TV show Glee. Windy coached me on nine of the songs and, through her encouragement I developed new wings to fly higher in my vocal recording techniques.
My associate producers for the album, Paul Travenner, Steve Rawlins and Steve Genewick, were closely involved and caring about every aspect of the project’s success. Thank you! Many thanks to Al Schmitt for his wonderful work and advice. He mixed Interludes during the time that he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and I got to participate in the activities.
Help in the development of Interludes came through a team of advisors I created from my fan page. They gave me feedback on every question and were always willing to assist me with ideas, critiques and support. I’d like to thank, in alphabetical order, Chris Caddick, Lynn Chevalier, Nuri Ergenekon, Frank Iacone, Ron Jackson, Wilson Leung, Piero Mangini, Sunil Merchant, Joshua W. Miles, Yoshihisa Mori, Thomas Novak, Jake Purches, Stephen Quesnel, Bill Reeve, Robert Rensch, and Patrick Warpinski.
Personal thanks also to my family and friends for your encouragement, especially Alex Vardin and Annette Warren Smith. Your support for my potential as an artist is very appreciated and I thank you for everything you’ve done for me.
I am dedicating this album to my dear audiophile mentor, Bernie Grundman, who cares about my work and teaches me about audio and recording every time we are together.
And finally, I am very grateful to everyone who was involved in the album and especially to you, dear listener, I hope you enjoy Interludes and gain a deeper understanding of what love endures and the joy it can bring.