One of the outstanding songs on Attachments
is the tune "159," a quirky, rhythmically catchy song about a family sitting around their kitchen table while the drummer son lays down the groove to "The Clapping Song" with his metronome set to 159. The tune opens with bassist Michael Valerio doing some fetching Slam Stewart-style scatting along with his swinging bass melody that bumps right into the groove, which Feather says her husband Tony recorded to assist her in writing the song's lyrics. It's a tune destined to be one of those Lorraine Feather instant radio classics, so I asked Arkin how the lightning-in-a-bottle composition had evolved.
"Lorraine wrote the lyric and Tony sent the groove, which he called a 'jump swing.' With this tune, I came up with a couple of 4-bar progressions before we got together, ones that might work as a basis for building the song. When we met, Lorraine immediately picked the progression you hear in the finished tune. My idea, musically, was to pick something that was hypnotic or trance-like, that had a certain subtle smoothness and an ostinato-montuno
repeated bass line. The melody came very quickly on this particular song.
"While working on '159' I happened to go to a jazz club to see pianist Mike Lang play. Mike Valerio was playing with him, and much to my surprise, he was featured singingvery wellon one of his original tunes. I told Lorraine about his excellent singing, and we both thought it would be cool to have him open '159' playing a bass solo and scatting. What I love about this track is that it grooves like crazy, and yet never gets above mezzo forte
, so Lorraine [was able to] sort of glide above the track, using the lyrics much like an added percussion instrument to punctuate the rhythm."
The arranger's pallette grew rapidly on this and her previous CD, when Feather added Bisharat and his imaginative violin work. But her regular troupe are increasingly willing to try anything, as demonstrated by Valerio's scatting or Grant Geissman's magician's sense of guitar swing, or the drummers' various approaches to exactly how to "fill" a request (e.g., from Shelly Berg to Gregg Field, to "Throw another bucket of fish on" a wild section of "I Love You Guys"). I wanted to know from Arkin how the recording was influenced by writing with these personnel in mind.
"I find Lorraine's CD to be a virtual treasure chest of talent. There can be no better example of the phrase 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' On my compositions, the band consisted of Russell Ferrante on piano, Grant Geissman, guitar, Charlie Bisharat, violin, Mike Valerio, bass, and Mike Shapiro on drums. It's very rare indeed to find a group of musicians so accomplished that they can play anything you put in front of them, no matter how technically sophisticated, and at the same time introduce ideas and embellishments to these charts that go far beyond the written page. Simply put, their mastery and creativity blow me away." Russell Ferrante
Producer, arranger and multi-keyboardist Russell Ferrante is the last remaining original member of Yellowjackets, the legendary fusion (and beyond) band formed in 1978 that, among other things, was one of the seminal 1980s aggregations to keep the flame alive along with groups like Weather Report, Chick Corea's Elektric Band and the Rippingtons, but which unlike those bands, keeps the flame alive still. The band's tastefully adventurous work is largely due to Ferrante's guidance and vision as a composer. In addition to his work with Yellowjackets, he has also written and produced records for a wide range of artists, including Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, Michael Franks, Diane Reeves and Sadao Watanabe.
Of the co-writers Lorraine Feather works with, Ferrante is perhaps the most stylistically eclectic and likeliest to compose something not immediately recognizable as his. His broad mastery of harmony and orchestrational theory result in a fountain of compositional ideas that might bear a strong resemblance to Rachmaninoff at one moment, Zawinul the next, Debussy the next, and still remain uniquely his. Watching his instructional videos, you get the feeling that you are listening to a musical scientist, a particularly analytical intellectual who lives and breathes harmony, rhythm, melody, and especially compositional narrative. Then there is his staggering pianistic technique. He can play anything that he writes.