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Lorraine Feather: I Love You Guys

Carl L. Hager By

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The other tune Grusin did with her for Attachments came from an idea he had one day as they were wrapping up a rehearsal for "Memphis Stomp." He began playing J. S. Bach's "Air on the G String," and asked Feather what she thought about the possibility of writing words to it. The devastating lyrics she wrote for the resulting song, "True," and her heart-rending delivery, would make Bach himself weep—for joy, with grief, or from profound awe at the human spirit, it's hard to say—and would certainly change the way he heard his own composition the next time he listened to it. As Grusin explained, "the Bach 'Air' is something I had done with Bobby McFerrin, who did it as a vocalese. I told Lorraine about it, and played her the beautiful Josh Bell recording. She went home and came back the next morning with this lyric—another example of the genius that inhabits this woman. [N.B., Feather demurs on this point, and says she hadn't quite finished it by morning.] We decided to add Charlie Bisharat's violin to this version, even though Lorraine's vocal is the original violin melody. I think the result is beautifully satisfying, without too much alteration of the intent of the original.

"The other songs on Attachments are all amazing examples of how she creates with incredibly talented writers ... Russ Ferrante, Shelly Berg, and Eddie Arkin. They all have a great sense of 'song,' and sensitivity to Lorraine's stories. My hope is to do more work with her, and continue to be amazed and inspired by her phenomenal abilities."

Shelly Berg

Shelly Berg is a musical and educational force of nature. As a pianist and arranger, he has worked with such a diversity of people that just fitting all their representative genres into a single sentence is difficult: Arturo Sandoval, George Benson, Natalie Cole, Chicago, Gloria Estefan, Bonnie Raitt, KISS, Nancy Wilson ... After eight years spent chairing the jazz studies department of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, he moved cross-country in 2008 and became dean of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. His non-traditional teaching methods separate him from the dry, stultifying musician mills, because he thinks music students should spend more time practicing and playing, less time studying and thinking about it. He is a brilliantly impulsive composer, and plays stride piano like a white Art Tatum.

But because he and Feather live at opposite corners of the continental U.S. (she on an island north of Washington state's Olympic Peninsula, almost in Canada, he in Miami and a boat ride from Cuba) the question for curious minds is: how do you write songs together?

"It is a marvel to Lorraine and me that our songwriting process goes very fast. We write two or three songs in one session of a few hours. I don't come in with musical ideas worked out in advance, because I don't want to become attached to an idea that doesn't resonate with Lorraine."

Feather commented similarly, that while working with Berg, he typically doesn't get involved in composing until "the end of the process, because I almost never see him. I always say this, but it blows my mind how close we are and how well and fast we work together, no matter how long it has been. As far as 'The Veil' goes, I had never intended to write the lyric, and when we were finally going to get together, toward the ending of the writing for the album, I had it in hand, so showed it to him and asked if he thought it could be a song. He said he thought so, but wasn't 100% sure. So 'The Veil' took a little longer. It had evolved in a way I hadn't heard yet, when we got to the session, and now it's one of my favorites of ours."

On the other hand, she says, "Because Gregg Field will be the drummer when Shelly and I do a group piece, I think of something that would be great to hear Gregg play, 'I Love You Guys' being a classic example, a fast swing with a lot of fills. Shelly practically wrote it before I'd finished reading him the words."

Berg says, "She often has rhythms in mind, and so I ask her to speak the lyrics to me using the rhythms she imagines. Sometimes we talk further at that point, but usually I dive into a chord progression or intro figure that expresses the vibe of the song. As musical form emerges, Lorraine will sometimes alter a lyric so it can fit into the form we are constructing. I think our songs have gotten more complex over the years, and are now becoming like miniature musical 'plays.'"

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