As you probably already know if you have enough interest in big band jazz to be reading this blog, Maria Schneider is in the process of recording her followup to 2004's much-acclaimed Concert in the Garden. The new record is called Sky Blue and today was the first day of recording. I was lucky enough to be there on the scene, taking pictures and recording interviews with the musicians involved. This behind-the-scenes content will be made available to those who preorder the record, which, like the last one, will be available exclusively via Maria's ArtistShare site. (In fact, I believe some of the photos I took might be already up.)
I may have gone a bit nuts with the photos today -- Lindsay got me a new digital camera for Christmas this year and I really wanted to put it through its paces, so much so that by about halfway through the session, I'd completely depleted the battery. When I go back tomorrow, I'll have to remember to bring the charger along.
In between taking pictures, I recorded "candid" discussions in the booth and one-on-one interviews with many of the players, including trombonists and Secret Society co-conspirators Ryan Keberle and Marshall Gilkes (our schedules have been frustratingly incompatible of late, but Marshall was on the first-ever Secret Society hit), and vocalist Sofia Koutsovitis, a friend since my NEC days. Ryan, Marshall, and Sofia are all making their first-ever appearance on a Maria record. I also got interviews with Donny McCaslin, Gary Versace, and even the notoriously reticent Rich Perry. Naturally, I captured Maria's own thoughts on the recording-in-progress at various points along the line.
Anyway, if you sign up for the ArtistShare thing, you'll be treated to my mad interview stylee, in which I at one point mistakenly refer to Ed Neumesiter as "Ed Partyka" (sorry, Eds), and also evidently failed to notice that there was, in fact, a small vocal part on "Sky Blue" (sorry, Sofia) -- I'm afraid when that piece was being cut I was busy editing photos and didn't get to hear very much of the chart. (Though I did manage to catch Steve Wilson's astounding soprano solo.) Anyway, I hope the interviews turn out decently despite these highly embarrassing gaffes. I'll try to talk to more players tomorrow.
The record is being cut at the Right Track A509 Annex, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, fucking enormous. They mostly do orchestral recordings and full B'way cast albums. In my day job as an NYC copyist, I've dropped off charts there before but I've never been up to the recording floor. You can get a sense of the scale of the 4500 square-foot room from the photo on this page. While having plenty of room to spread out is obviously preferable to being cramped into tiny quarters, as big bands usually are, it presents its own set of challenges, as you'll hear from Maria and the musicians once the audio clips go up. But the recorded sound so far is pretty stunning -- the sessions are being engineered by the legendary Joe Ferla, whose work you've no doubt heard on records by Dave Douglas, John Scofield, Bill Frisell, Paul Motian, Tim Berne, or perhaps this overlooked gem.
I can't even really begin to express how amazing it is to be able to be in the studio for this recording and watch Maria and her band work. What's particularly impressive is how insanely devoted everyone is to her and her music -- after almost eight hours of intense recording, there was a still a considerable contingent of players who stuck around for an informal post-session roundtable about what was working and what wasn't, what had happened at specific live gigs and whether that could be carried over in the studio, what could be tried tomorrow, etc. In just a few hours, I'll be heading back there for Day 2.