Who’s Who? Part 2 – The Band

I want to write a bit about the band! And when I say the band, I mean the rhythm section.

We recorded the rhythm section portion of Clear Day in Toronto at The Drive Shed Studios. We worked there for about a week, during which time Juno-Award winning engineer John ‘Beetle’ Bailey expertly recorded each of our rhythm section players, as well as a 6 piece horn section, percussion, and backup singers!

I took more time than I ever have to record the rhythm section. We spent a good long while exploring sounds, working the grooves, revisiting voicings. There was a lot on the paper for the players. But also, there was also SO much that they each brought to the recording that went far beyond the page. And that’s why they were there.

Generally, we had an aesthetic in mind. This aesthetic could be described as disciplined, distilled. If you listen to Unrequited, for example, you can hear this. There is a lot of space, and it’s hard to leave space. And on the pieces that are fully orchestrated, there are so many parts that need to fit together and complement each other. It’s like musical puzzle. Every one of these musicians came to the studio with a positive and open attitude. They all brought their absolute best. They also graciously accepted direction in order for us to realize the sound we’d been hearing in our heads!

I find Reg Schwager to have a very distinct sound, whether he’s playing jazz, or Brazilian music, and he is a master of both – which is rare. We’ve been working together for a long time. Reg loves and appreciates all kinds of music, and it was fun to branch out an have him play a few different guitars on this project. Listen to his exceptional comping on Mineiro de Coração, and then his trippy solo on Feelin’ Groovy to get an idea of the range he can cover.

Jon Maharaj is a special bass player. We were drawn to him for this project because of his sound and style. Jon’s sound has depth and weight but it also has clarity and precision. He has an economical style of playing that belies his vast technical ability. I’ve always loved to write bass parts, and this album was no exception. And with my collaborator Steve Webster being a bass player, he was also inspired when it came to bass lines, so Jon had a lot of written material to contend with. Jon executed these parts perfectly, and elaborated on them in the most musical and thoughtful way.

Larnell Lewis is an exciting and versatile young drummer. He’s a master of many genres, and was the perfect drummer to record for this project. He’s totally open and ready to receive direction and is also creative, enthusiastic and ready with brilliant ideas. There’s an incredible energy, sense of humour, crispness and fluidity in his playing. At times, when I listen to him, I think I must be hearing two drummers! But I watched him play it live in the studio and it is a marvel. I absolutely love the grooves he plays on Midnight Sun, and of course, Mineiro de Coração.

Chris Donnelly – another exciting young player. He’s also extremely versatile and open to exploring different sounds and genres. The piano chair of this album was a hard chair to fill. Like the bass chair, because of the complexity of the arrangements, we were looking for someone who could play economically. Someone who would be able to understand their role in this big picture, and then be able to step forward and show their personality as a player. Chris plays some absolutely outstanding solos on this record. Clear Day and Unrequited are two examples.

Kelly Jefferson and I have been working together for a long time! He’s a great friend, and I am constantly amazed at his musicianship and positive attitude. I’ve always loved the idea of the voice being able to be part of a horn section – and with KJ, the two of us become our own section. There’s a chemistry that has developed from years of playing together, but also from Kelly’s sensitivity and incredible listening skills. He GETS the way I sing. He has a calm unassuming presence on stage and will play the most lyrical, still solo – until he breaks out into a solo that will blow the roof off. I love the moment in Under Pressure where my voice fades in to the beginning of his sax solo. To me, that speaks to exactly why we’ve shared the stage and studio together for so many years.

We brought the best of the best of Toronto horn players to fill out our horn sections in Feelin’ Groovy, and Mineiro de Coração. John Johnson joined Kelly on tenor sax. We had Kelsley Grant and Terry Promane on trombones, and Jason Logue and Kevin Turcotte. Kevin plays the solos in Mineiro and also in Fix You. I find the solo he played on Fix You to be absolutely masterful. The way he weaves in and around the string lines is quite magical.

And finally, my two dear friends Melanie Doane and Kathryn Rose on backup vocals! But they’re not singing on this record because they’re my dear friends. They’re on this record because they are great singers, and because our voices have a gorgeous blend. I love singing with these two, and it doesn’t happen often enough. It’s so fun to sing these crunchy tight vocal harmonies on Unrequited and Feelin’ Groovy – and now I have to find a way to get them to come on the road with me! ; )