from the album "The
Photos of Jack Dejohnette,
Steve Khan and John Patitucci byy: Richard Laird @ Avatar Studios, May 23rd,
Believe it or not, I have actually had the fundamental 'germ' for this
piece, which appears at [I] since 1984,
after "Casa Loco" was
recorded. I have NO idea as to just WHY I was never able to finish composing this
tune until 2005.
when I returned to New York from a European Tour in March of that year, I knew that
I would be dedicating every waking moment to the completion of my original tunes,
and to the arranging of the others. And so, I was confident that this piece would
finally come into its finished form. I chose to frame everything within the contest
of a minor blues, and, I even put to use some "solo changes" which are reminiscent
of harmonic devices Wes Montgomery had employed in the past. Obviously,
it is dedicated, and with all due reverence, to the great Elvin Jones!
And so, "El Viñón" was
born. It was designed to feature all the significant players, and, at the end, to
give Jack Dejohnette a chance to express himself in this regard. As
it is with everything I wrote and/or chose to play, the most important thing to
me is that it must have mood and attitude!!! Those two elements arrive immediately
with the basic vamp at [I]. If you follow the lead sheet, you'll see that
this 'groove' is truly the cornerstone of all that surrounds it.
I suppose that it's a little
ironic that this tune ended-up in the key of Eb minor, which is the same key as
Roy" was played. It is no less ironic that, when we began to
develop that tune, my 'instructions' to Steve Jordan were: "It's supposed
to be kind of an Elvin thing!" Of course, Steve ignored me, and came-up with something
very much his own. In this same regard, the only thing I said to Jack was that the
tune is dedicated to Elvin, nothing more. I remember, after we had recorded the
tune, going into the control room and clearly hearing Manolo Badrena's
tubular whistle and thinking to myself that we had just recorded a spacier, darker
type of 'theme' for one of Clint Eastwood's early "Spaghetti Westerns." Again, a
little detail like that contributes mightily to the mood. You can also see that
Patitucci was free to ignore the little bass sketch I wrote to give
him a place to start. Mostly, I just told him to keep a bluesy attitude while playing
what felt right to him.
Though we do end-up soloing
over a 12-bar minor blues form, the melody statement does not resemble that at all.
I simply went by what 'felt right' to me. We do have the im7 chord, followed by
the ivm7 chord, and a return to the im7 chord, but letter [C] gives the turnaround
a very different look to the form. It is during this section that the only overdubs
are introduced. Here I used my ESP Strat, in conjunction with a volume pedal, a
much brighter sound, and the tremolo bar, to create a spacey wash of harmonic color.
Along with the voicing that was played live, I added,spelling up, B-C-E against
the F#m7b5; and G-A-B against the A7(9) sonority. In each case, a more interesting
cluster of notes was created.
When writing and arranging
a new composition, I try to never succumb to getting "a case of the clevers." In
other words, trying too hard to make the music constantly new and interesting. What
I want to accomplish is to keep everything within a very basic flow, but, of course,
maintain a level of surprise and interest too. So, the various 'break figures' we
all had to negotiate bear a resemblance to one another, but some vary from the basic
figures, which appear at the end of most of the [I] sections. The first little
detour occurs during the 2nd ending of the [I] just before [B]. In
bar 4 of [C], the figure on beats 3 and 4 mirrors what is to come in the
break which precedes the guitar solo break, and the arrival of [D]. The last
point of interest is the final break figure, which appears 2 bars before [F],
and serves as a 'rocket' into Jack Dejohnette's solo, his personal salute
Another very small detail, which we arrived at during the rehearsal, and
refined prior to recording, appears in two similar spots during the melody statement.
With the strong accent on beat 4 of bar 4 of [A], located on the 4th system
of Pg. 1, I felt that it would be best if John and I left beat 1 empty on the 1st
bar of [I] in system 5. So, keep this in mind if you are following along
with the music. This same device appears again on Pg. 2, just after the last bar
of [B2]. Since these pages were first launched, I have updated the lead sheets
to more accurately reflect what we actually played. All this reminds me of something
someone once shared with me that Stravinsky had said, when he asked, rhetorically:
"What is the most important part of the pencil?" To which he answered, "The eraser!!!"
What remains as so impressive,
that which has not changed nor wavered since we recorded "Got
My Mental" together in '96,
is the relentless fire, creativity, and energy that both
Patitucci and Jack Dejohnette bring to each performance. When
one has to function as the artist, and the producer, it is such a relief to know
that these are qualities you can just take for granted with players like this, because
it is a given that they are going to put out, and give everything. They both also
know that I am not one to abuse this privilege by doing more takes than is necessary.
Like our prior recording together, most of what you hear was done in one take, and
that was it. "El Viñón" somehow required 3 takes, and, in some regards, it was difficult
to choose between the latter two because of Jack's tremendous playing. However,
one must always "serve the song" and so, Take 3 was executed far better from
that point of view.
Recently, while preparing
for some potential live work, I decided to face the inevitable and compose an actual
ending for this tune. So now, when you look at Pg. 4, you will see a [Tag],
which represents the new ending. As I would normally do, the ending incorporates
and extends a fragment from [A] which gives the group a solid, forceful and
definitive ending. This to me is usually better than a long, drawn-out chord. So,
for those of you who want to play this tune with your own group, or even just a
rehearsal group, you now have an ending to use. Have fun with it!!
The fine art of sequencing
a recording is never easy and there is no exact science for this. Generally speaking,
one wants to begin with a piece that well represents the general focus and thrust
of the entire recording. Usually one would choose something with a brighter tempo,
and an engaging melody. When "The
Green Field" had been completed, and all the tracks were chosen to fit
within the constraints of not wanting to exceed 78-minutes, my process of selection
began. In the end, I felt that "El Viñón" was the best way to go, even though it
defies the qualities that I have just stated. However, it is rich with other elements,
and certainly mood and attitude are principal amongst them. But, in
addition to that, it seems to set a most serious tone for what is to come, and that,
for me, became the key consideration.
I guess I also have to add,
where the title is concerned, that this pronunciation of Elvin's name is really
one of my most treasured and early memories of working in New York. At times, during
those early years, I had the great privilege of working with "Chino" Pozo,
and I recall one night being invited by him to go see "Elvin Jones at the Village
Vanguard." But, all I can tell you is that, to my then uneducated ears, that
sentence, coming via a thick Spanish accent, did not sound that way to me. So, the
way this song title is pronounced is, in great part, a recollection of those great
times with "Chino." He was truly one of the great, great characters on the scene
here. He never actually ever rented an apartment, he always lived in midtown Manhattan,
in a small hotel room, with a kitchen. I guess that he too believed in the temporal
nature of things. He was a really great cook. Gracias hermano!!!
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Publishing Date: 12/08/2006