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Three Days At The Barber Shop, Part 3

David A. Orthmann By

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Rehearsal | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

When I walk into the live room, a little early, on Day 3, Gillespie has already swapped out the piano for a Hammond B-3 organ and Leslie speaker. Three boom mics are positioned in the area closest to the window to the control room. Each one looms over a music stand. Nick and Leonieke discuss some fine points of the Hammond B-3 while she warms up. They decide to play Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'" as a means of checking the volume level. It's an invigorating way to begin the day. The energy in the room surges as Leonieke solos. A quality both very real and difficult to define runs through her fingers, something that's profoundly human and speaks to the joys and sorrows of everyday life. Noticeably absent are displays of technical brilliance that leave the listener awestruck, but emotionally distanced. At the age of fourteen, she's making music for all people, not just showing off or playing to impress other musicians.

Trumpeter Duane Eubanks and alto saxophonist Mark Gross enter the room and introduce themselves. Though they've yet to play a note, it's evident that their energy and affable personalities are going to be useful in keeping the session on a positive course. In the first of many instances suggesting the profound connection between generations of jazz musicians, Gross talks with a respect bordering on awe about some of the elders, including Jimmy Heath and Roy Haynes. Gillespie continues to make mic adjustments. Eubanks and Gross begin their warm up rituals in separate isolation booths, with the doors open. While Leonieke discretely executes a blues at a low volume, the room is awash in disparate sounds. Gross plays rapid fire, rollercoaster lines. Eubanks sounds out long, deliberate, sometimes bent tones. Gross reenters the live room, and the sound of his alto pervades the space. When Eubanks joins him, they continue to play, standing side by side, a few feet apart, seemingly oblivious to one another.

The proposed work for today's session is getting takes of Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar," Bobby Timmons' "Moanin,'" Nat Adderley's "Work Song," and Lalo Schifrin's "The Cat." When Nick originally conceived of devoting one day in the studio to a sextet featuring Leonieke on the organ, he wanted original arrangements of three of those selections rather than imitating charts off of previously recorded versions. He called on Andy Farber, who has written for names ranging from Wynton Marsalis, to Ray Charles, to Wynonna Judd, to apply his expertise as an arranger to the project.

While Leonieke hums a snatch of something she heard Gross play just a few seconds before, guitarist Mark Whitfield enters, introduces himself to all, and starts to set-up. Accompanied by the popping sounds made by his fingers on the keys of the alto, Gross tells stories about getting a spur of the moment ride on a private plane to a gig in the South of France, and playing in a concert space built inside of a yacht. Steve Davis arrives, trombone in hand, as Whitfield talks about the demands of the long sets he played in the band of Hammond B-3 master Jack McDuff.

Nick passes out copies of Faber's arrangement of "Moanin'" to a roomful of people telling stories and making jokes. There's a sense of community in the manner in which they work and enjoy themselves. I can hear bits and pieces of the tune emanating from various parts of the room. At times during the course of the day, it's like the sextet is an organism that periodically divides itself and then comes back together again. Leonieke counts off a tempo for a test take. It goes well and Gross remarks that it was interesting to navigate a difference or two between the version on the page and the way he usually plays the tune by memory. During a playback in the control room, Davis grins at Gross in response to the alto saxophonist's solo. They return to the studio and Whitfield briefly plays an "extra sauce" parody of the tune's melody. The first take features solos by everyone save Nick, as well as background figures by the horns behind Leonieke's turn. Nick slams home thunderous triplets, in unison, on the snare and floor tom-tom. Everyone agrees that the take went well, and there's talk around the room about the futility of multiple takes.


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