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Grant Clarkson: Liner Notes

Liner Notes for Featured Albums

176. Spheres

This album and Thy Will Be Done were worked on simultaneously in the summer 2018, while doing 9 public gigs a week.

Both were recorded on my new Zoom R 24 and later mixed and mastered at Blitz Studios.

Spheres also featured my new keyboard and drum programmes and was set out to be another funky but harmonically straight-forward electric album.

This one was also designed to feature much guitar work, also bringing in new tones courtesy of the new MXR Phase 90 and the Steve Vai Bad Horsie 2.

175. Thy Will Be Done

So it was on my mind to do a new original suite of compositions featuring the acoustic bass. I put down the rhythms as my metronomic scaffold anticipating playing arco, adding more strings and orchestral instrumentation and eventually finalizing the score in Sibelius as another chamber work like Thought Criminal.

Then I got the jazz bug. After gigging constantly in jazz trios on the acoustic bass, it had been too long that I had performed some original stuff in the studio on Felicity, and longer still that I composed something with my familiar improvisational method on the upright bass in the pizzicato jazz style.

I was inspired by watching a lot Chick Corea’s acoustic bands on youtube, and particularly watching Stanley Clarke play acoustic with Chick. For me with things like this, it doesn’t take a protracted study of multiple albums to get the flavor but just an evening of taste-samples leading right into my own playing for preparation for the recording session.

The second attempt yielded the take - done in one uninterrupted pass. I sent the Wav’s to Richard Sellers for the drum session, which he did also in one take featuring his largest and newest kit.

I proceeded with Rhodes on my new Casio keyboard which I found to be a better Rhodes than even my real Rhodes 73. Eventually I crafted an octet ensemble sound.

After the bass, drums, electric piano rhythm section it was the reduced-big-band sound of trumpet (with the Harmon mute because that is a better tone in my Midi bass arsenal), tenor sax, and trombone. Then came then second woodwind section of two flutes, either in harmony or just featuring one flute.

All of these subsequent instruments also got solos and in the end was a very novel sound and arranging style for me.

The mixing and mastering at Blitz was one the most fun sessions we’ve had, and in the end I had successfully crafted a 10-song 40-minute jazz suite, very much featuring my upright playing as it feels here 2018.

The music thematized on The Lord’s Prayer.

174. Harmonia

Now having done one album with the Pedulla T Bolt that was very restrained in the bass part, it felt like it was time get expressive on this relatively new instrument. My first thought was to make essentially a “jazz” record, with this bass getting into almost “Coltranesque” expression.

The next thought was to use real piano instead of any electric piano sound, and given my lack of keyboard chops, do two tracks of piano to achieve some interesting harmony.

And then harmony became one of the primary developmental themes. So then it was two tracks of organ with the same thinking as with the piano. Then two guitars, all along thinking about harmony - in terms of lines, chords, and structure.

Once again, the question of bringing in acoustic drums after all the composing was done was pondered. But after two tracks of percussion, and the usual arranging edits it became clear that this was the finished sound and finished record.

The bass, even with all the harmony surrounding it, remained the voice that carried the sound and the compositions, with many junctures of bass solo as all the other parts yielded to it.

Once it was clear that I would need to enlist no accompanying musicians the making of this album became one of the most fun and satisfying experiences I have had recording my own music, maybe since Ever So Much Fun from 2003.

One very significant improvement since that time almost 15 prior, besides my own musical evolution and maturation, would be having 16 tracks of digital masters and a very professional and friendly facility to create world-class mixing and mastering at Blitz Studios now being an organic extension of my work at Licitysplit Studios.

170. Atlantis

This was a quick and easy follow-up to The New Buzz, again featuring a new bass - this time the Pedulla Thunderbolt.

It was summer and it was hot and I was lazy. So the bass parts were as simple and as minimalistic as I could possibly make them. Then it was multiple keyboard parts, two guitars again but with much more prominence.

The signature sound of the album came next and was rather unplanned - two chromatic harmonicas in harmony for each tune of the album.

The first tune in particular has a relatively hit-single quality which emerged out of the layering and quite by surprise. But all of the rest have their own satisfactions - plenty of funk and atmosphere.

And for the second time, the mixing and mastering at Blitz Studios was a smashing success, particularly bringing forth the great sound of the electric bass.

169. The New Buzz

The New Buzz refers to the Pedulla “Buzz” fretless bass which makes her recording debut on this album. Of course it also something of a double entendre referring to the “buzz” of creating this kind of music. There is no drug reference here whatsoever, except perhaps the idea that this ‘new buzz’ is one of making progress in reality and living life on life’s terms without any substances.

This bass did yield some new inspiration when it came time to lay this album’s bass part. This session was free, expressive and melodic - unafraid of the difficulty that would lie on the other side apropos the subsequent parts and overdubs.

The electric piano came next, in two layers combined. This was an interesting constant against multiple layers of changing Midi-bass synth sounds. Two of the tunes however featured the more jazz-ensemble sound of Hammond B3 organ and flute - again courtesy of the Midi bass.

Again we have two guitar tracks - a clean and a dirty. But on this album the guitar is more subtle, featuring a smooth presence deep inside the ensemble.

After this came the percussion and lots of edits, including removing some of the foundational drum programmes. At this stage I beheld another step forward in where my compositional life is leading me.

It seems the evolution of my composition is becoming more organized, more detail-oriented, and smoother at the same time that it is becoming more individuated - both in terms of the sound and in terms of the process.

The thought of bringing a drummer to replace my programmes seemed unnecessary, and maybe even a risk of diluting the cogency of the arrangements.

Likewise the thought of a having a flautist replace my Midi flute seemed in the end to be an unnecessary and again risky extravagance.

And then this album heralded what turned out to be another quantum leap forward in my world of album-making. Given that I do not record my master tracks on a DAW but instead a Zoom R16 which records 24bit 96K Wavs on a traditional mixer deck, I know there is much to be gained by running my masters through Pro Tools, or some-such to clean up those things too small to hear after I’m done recording, even beyond my traditional Licitysplit Studios analog signal processing. But not all DAW operators are equal.

On the basis of an excellent-sounding mix of a live album I performed on with a colleague, I called Richard Livoni at Blitz Studios in Mission Hills for mixing and mastering for A New Buzz. Not doing so would have been a terrible mistake.

We proceeded to address all the musical and sonic issues from beginning to end of this 40-minute program with precision, efficiency, common-sense, musicality, and with sense of ease and fun. And it shows in the final record. A new buzz indeed.

168. Recollection

After the last two quintet albums which were both acoustic, I wanted to feature this band in an electric and funk setting. This idea coupled with the thought of reviving some of my old tunes which I still liked but were never recorded very well is what gave form to this album, Recollection.

Some of these songs were written as long ago as 1994, and none more recent than 2009. I transcribed the original versions and then crafted these arrangements with this particular quintet in mind.

With the exception of a few licks, the band is playing my complete arrangements with all the ideas therein true to the original writing of these songs, many from half a lifetime ago.

However the two solo piano pieces are flushed out beyond the ink as I suggested to Sky which makes them much more interesting. "That Jam" is another exception - an old vehicle for everyone to cut loose and be themselves in the Now.

The meaning and feeling of it all is to have this material brought forward by truly excellent musicians and recorded by our contemporary high standards. This fusion of circling back to another time with bringing it forward to who were are today is the mission of this record. A memory and a re-assembly - hence, "Recollection".

Thanks to Sky, Derek, and John for their dedicated and inspired performances to record this album in one day as we have always done. Thanks to Valery for being a brilliant engineer and essential collaborator in the recording process. And huge thanks to Richard for being my right hand man as a drummer extraordinaire as well as the mixing and mastering genius to make it all possible to be heard and shared in this form.

Grant Clarkson - January 14, 2017

162. 12" Gleaming ----- 2 tracks released June 2015 ***

Grant Clarkson - acoustic bass
Richard Sellers - drums
Sky Ladd - piano
Derek Cannon - trumpet and flugal horn
John Rekevicks - tenor and soprano sax, flute

Music Composed by Clarkson, Sellers, Ladd, Cannon, and Rekevicks
Album Produced by Clarkson and Sellers
Recording Engineer - Valary Saudinov Flight 19 Studios
Mixed and Mastered by Richard Sellers Chef's Soul Kitchen

This album for me represents three threads coming together - the first being Richard and my collaborative improvisations in the studio, beginning with "A La Carte” in 2009.

The second thread is the evolution of the acoustic band, which began with the trio with Sky ("Dearly Beloved” 2011), then to "Free Quartet” (2012) with Derek, and culminating in "Hearts Of Light" (2013) with John.

The third thread is taking that Hearts Of Light quintet beyond just my compositions and into group improvisation and composition, which is what we have here in 2015 with this album titled, “Gleaming”. It is the layering of parts that I have done countless times performing the overdubs myself now performed instead by this real band that this album signifies. And what a band!

156. 12” Hearts Of Light ----- 12 tracks released February 2014 *****

This album is a collection of songs written over the last few years directly on staff paper without any instrument. I thought of titling the album "Fluff" because the compositions seemed light and fluffy. But in fact each composition is inspired by a different spirit - some gone, some still here. Thus, "Hearts Of Light".

The fun and adventure really began when assembling this quintet for rehearsals and the recording date. And so, special thanks to John, Derek, Richard, and Sky. And thanks to Valary for the brilliant engineering and hosting his space. And thanks again to Richard for not only being a dream drummer but also a mixing and mastering genius. And thanks to everyone who helps support our art.

138. 12” A La Carte ----- 2 tracks released April 2010 ****

Richard and I went to Valary’s studio and layed down the bass and drums
for this album on Protools. Richard took the tracks back to his studio and
I got them on my Licitysplit deck.

I recorded Rhodes, but needed more so Sky added the DX7 part. Then came the guitar. These three were edited and crafted as one layer. Then came the MIDI bass horn sections which ended up including tenor sax, trombone, trumpet, organ, bells, flute, and chromatic harmonica.

Richard’s drum performance is the best of my whole catalogue and the fretted Fender sounds funky and well-suited to the many stylistic idioms we traverse through this record.

144. 12” Dearly Beloved ----- 9 tracks released July 2011 ****

Breaking in the upright in the studio in the form of a pure - acoustic jazz standards album, featuring Sky and Richard. Sold really well and got airplay on KSDS. Was also the featured program of my 40th birthday concert at Dizzy’s, also featuring Lori Bell and Mikan Zlatcovich.

Performed and recorded acoustically with no overdubs, punches, or post-processing and in two takes or less - March 15, 2011

141. 12” Famous Cats in Literature ----- 6 tracks released October 2010 ****

After the sucess of A La Carte, we went back to Valary’s studio but this time for Richard to record drums to my otherwise finished album. My archane digital deck was patched in to get the drums in three channels. A quick session, and I was absolutely blown away with “Franchette” in particular.

The idea with this theme and these six songs was to feature a different horn for each, with each accompanied by organ, also featuring guitar and my fretless Fender bass.

The “Famous Cats in Literature” which sounds like some kind of Jeopardy category, was a matter of depicting different personalities for the different tracks, and was also inspired by recently seeing the movie “Bell Book and Candle” which featured the cat, Pyewacket.