Friday, August 19, 2011

A Place for Perfectionism

There's this disease called "perfectionism", where someone is just never satisfied no matter what. No one wants to be a perfectionist! But as an artist, there are times when you know deep down that something could be a ton better than it is. The question is whether it's worth fixing. Sometimes, the answer is, "Yes it is!"

I've had that situation a couple of times in producing this album. My very first recording session was for the song Morning Aire. When you hear me play it on the piano, it sounds like a classic jazz shuffle, like a "big band" tune from the '40s maybe. But the rhythm I heard in my head was more agressive. During the session, I tried to convey this to the drummer, but he could only hear that big band sound.

I was so happy with James Howard's guitar and bass work, and so excited to have a studio recording of one of my songs, that I let it go. But after a few months, the drum rhythm was bugging me more and more.

Actually, it's more than just me worrying about being a perfectionist. It was about my confidence as an artist. I'm an amateur working with pro musicians. Who am I to know better than the drummer?

A few months ago I found the drummer Garey Williams for an upcoming track. In an email exchange, I sent him the recording of Morning Aire and explained the rhythm I wanted. I wasn't feeling confident that what I wanted even made any sense. But he replied, "I think a 'Bernard Purdie' type of Funk Shuffle will drive the tune more than the current drum part."

"Bernard Purdie shuffle?" I had to search YouTube. Holy crap - Bernard Purdie played on Steely Dan's Aja album! That was exactly the sound I was looking for!

Long story short, I finally got Garey into the studio this past Monday, and with the wonderful support of engineer Jay Kenney at Audio Logic, Garey was able to replace the original drum track on Morning Aire.

Here's a sample of the result:
Morning Aire (sampler) by Leo Brodie

This was one case where I am so glad I insisted on the vision. Tell me what you think.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summertime Highway

This week I finished tracking the piano duet, "Summertime Highway." I recorded one of the piano parts back in April, and the second part this week.

Summertime Highway (Sampler) by Leo Brodie

In keeping with the theme of "Across the Years", I wrote the main melody of this tune back in college or thereabouts, and wrote the B section in the mid-nineties.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Foresight in hindsight

Wow. I was just searching my hard drive for something, and found this description of my current CD project instead. I wrote it on February 09, 1995. 16 years ago! That’s when I first decided to do this project.

I want this album to have really beautiful songs, played with a jazz sophistication (not really in jazz style, just the sophistication). Not insipid or repetitious, like New Age Music, or elevator music either. Strong, powerful and full of beauty. I won't be doing "It Shows" or "Laura Laur," or probably even "Tears At Last," because I think of them as more rock tunes. This is my mid-forties album (and it will be published before I'm actually 45, or even 44! Promise.

Amazing how well that describes what I'm now in the process of creating. It's a log time to have an unfinished dream. I’m glad I’m doing it now.

Meanwhile, I've got a tentative agreement with a fantastic drummer here in Seattle to do all the remaining drum tracks. Will keep you posted.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Alamitos Bay"

I loved playing this track with Jon Hamar.

Like my other tracks, this was recorded by the magnificent Jay Kenney at Audio Logic Studio in Seattle.

Song copyright 2011 Leo Brodie

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New song: "Alamitos Bay"

It's been a while since I wrote a new song, but last month I happened upon a fun little chord progression. This is a demo recording of the main section:

Since this recording I added a very beautiful "B" section. I plan to include this on the CD, featuring only the piano and upright bass. I've arranged a recording session with a great acoustic bass player named Jon Hamar.

I can't wait.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cello Session - March, 2011

I liked the sound of the cello and piano together on "Monica's Song" so much that I tried the same approach with another song from the album, "Across the Years."

The version on my original CD from 1998 sounded quite a bit different. One problem when you are using MIDI synthesizers is that you can click the mouse and get a completely different instrument so you tend to go overboard using lots of different sounds. Plus, everything sounds so dull and unnatural, you want to spice it up with multiple instruments. (Harpsichords and French horns, oh my!)

Here is that recording from the 1998 demo:
Across The Years (1999 synthesizer version) by Leo Brodie

With the cello arrangement I took a much simpler, cleaner approach. I also played it much slower, and decided to try something that -- at the time -- I thought was quite daring: switching from straight-quarter time to a jazz rhythm for the final section. It turns out to sound so natural and right that I bet most people won't even notice the change.

I bought a copy of a music scoring software package called Sebelius First, so that I could print out the arrangement. Here's the last page of "Monica's Song":

Jay Kenney, my recording engineer, recommended a cellist named Kevin Krentz. Kevin agreed to play my arrangements, and on March 2, 2011, we went into Jay's studio.

Here's a portion of the arrangement of "Across the Years", with Kevin playing both cello parts.
Across The Years (Sampler) by Leo Brodie

Then we recorded both cello parts on "Monica's Song." It turns out that this arrangement is really challenging for the cello, particularly one solo line that is very high-pitched. Kevin was on the highest string, almost as low on the fingerboard as you could be. But Kevin pulled it off beautifully.

Here's the last minute of "Monica's Song":
Monica's Song (teaser) by Leo Brodie

"Morning Aire" Session - Nov, 2010

Finally the calendar rolled around to our "Morning Air" recording session date: November 3, 2010.

I had emailed James the chart. The chart was very simple because for this particular song, the piano is the lead instrument and plays the main melody. James would improvise a guitar solo. He only needed the structure of the song and the chords, not individual notes.

When you're working with pro musicians, you don't need separate rehearsal time, as you would expect with amateurs. In fact, I had never visited the recording studio until the session, although I knew people who had recorded there (including James), and had worked with Jay Kenney, the owner and engineer, before. Jay is great to work with, and I love his place. The studio features a nice Yamaha C3 grand piano and a drum kit.

At the session, James and I recorded the basic track, with James playing bass guitar.

It took about an hour for us to find the right groove and get a good take. Then James overdubbed lead and rhythm guitar.

We spent a couple more hours on that, and finally Jay mixed it together.

I'm really happy with the result. James did an outstanding job.