The Making of a Christmas Album, Part 2
"Only sacred. I hate all those terrible Christmas songs you hear from November on in every store in America." "Only classical." "A mix of sacred, traditional and fun!" These were just some of the answers I got when polling friends about what kind of Christmas album they liked. I quickly stopped asking. The answers were all over the map and I was getting confused. I knew I wanted to have a good mix of sacred and secular tunes, unlike most of the albums I'd listened to. The secular tunes were quick to come. If anything, I had too many to choose from! So many of the old favorites were written in the 1930's and 1940's and my first album was all songs from that era. So those fit me like a hand in a glove. It was the sacred tunes that were slow to come, for reasons stated in the previous blog post. There came a point during the song selection process that I got very stuck. I realized I'd been operating in a silo at home and I needed to bring in some friends to help me get unstuck, take the next step and build momentum. The first person I called was my engineer from the first album, Paul Kim.
I needed to gauge his interest and availability in doing another CD with me. Before I could even get it out on the phone Paul said, "I'm in!" Paul is a musician as well as an exceptional engineer with state of the art recording equipment in his home studio. Our working relationship on the first album went so well that I never considered anyone else. Next on my call list was Chris Hughes,
the drummer on my first album.
Chris lives close by and I thought he could help me get unstuck and begin to work on some of the tunes together. Chris, originally from Nebraska, is a fine drummer and arranger who has played in the New York area for many years, performing with the likes of Skitch Henderson, Doc Severinson and Pete Seeger, to name a few. He's also got a lot of studio recording experience so I knew he'd be a good collaborator with a wealth of information. We began meeting almost weekly. Contacted next was Tom Jennings, who played piano on my first album and who has played all the gigs I've done since then.
Tom is the Music Director of Redeemer Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and also a fantastic arranger. I brought in my concepts for different tunes and Tom, with the ease of an extraordinarily talented musician who does this every day, ran with them. So the pieces were beginning to come together.
There is nothing like a great team, and I had it in spades. Gregory Jones, bassist extraordinaire, who played on my first album, came on board.
Gregory is not only a fine musician (played with Savion Glover, Carly Simon, Catherine Russell, Eileen Ivers, etc.) but is a person you just want to be around, with a warm yet cool vibe.
Rounding out the rhythm section was Sungwon Kim, joining us on guitar.
Sung has collaborated with such music greats as Valerie Simpson (Ashford and Simpson), John Patitucci and John Scofield. His superb performance for the recording came with a bonus: an expert's tutorial on guitars. We rehearsed several days before our recording session. I'd not had a rehearsal before recording the first album ( I was pretty green then!) Chris suggested it. It was a good call. This album was more complex than the first one and the rehearsal gave us a chance to work out many of the kinks before recording. Rehearsal was May 29th, recording on June 1st. That "red coat" dream in late November was now becoming a reality!