"Life on Mars" was a nice change from doing CD's with primarily original material. It offered me a chance to explore a few of the classic rock tunes from the 60's and 60's and try some different arranging approaches and groves. The whole album really started when Mitch Dulin, the owner of a The Avenue Restaurant in Wilmette, approached my duo (with bassist Mike Staron) our first night and asked us: "You guys play any Hendrix?" Not your typical request in the restaurant scene, so as the requests kept coming in - Cream, Dylan, Deep Purple - the material for the album kept growing. Here are the liner notes for the CD, which offer some thoughts and stories for each of the cuts:
1. LIFE ON MARS (6:20) David Bowie-Medium Swing-Saw the Bowie exhibit in Chicago at the MCA and liked this tune. Loved the way the bass line climbed down then back up. The sequences in the melody reminds me of Bill Evans & Michelle LeGrand.
2. TANGLED UP IN BLUE (4:36) Bob Dylan-Driving Funk Groove-At first played this like a fast Latin but rearranged it for a 12/8 funk with a few altered chords. When I showed it to Heath he said “ I think I’ve done something like that before”... I added a few hits and Donn added a cool open chord pattern on the bridge.
3. VISIONS (5:11) Stevie Wonder-Medium Slow Ballad-Always loved this song and the lyrics ever since I discovered it in 2003. It was stuck in my head for days. I loved that he used those altered (maj7) chords, which are my favorites.
4. CHELSEA MORNING (6:20) Joni Mitchell-Medium Up Light Latin-Originally attracted by the lyrics, but the melody and phrases are beautifully written too. Decided to do it in a light Latin groove, swinging it on the chorus. Used some suspended chords along with crawling, chromatic parallel altered chords.
5. OLD COUNTRY (9:00) Nat Adderley / Curtis Lewis-Medium Swing A really “deep” feel to this piece. My mom used to sing the old song “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” when I was a baby. A beautiful tune whose sound and mood matched this song perfectly. Used phrases from it as an intro, interlude and ending.
6. NORWEGIAN WOOD (3:27) John Lennon / Paul McCartney-Bright, Up-Tempo Jazz Waltz-This arrangement is not that far from the original, but faster and swung. Added a chromatic descending lines in the bridge. Heath is featured in a drum solo near the end.
7. IF SIX WERE NINE (5:50) Jimi Hendrix-Medium Funk/Swing-Got started arranging this tune the first night of a duo gig with bassist Mike Staron at a restaurant called “The Avenue” in Wilmette, IL. The first thing the owner, Mitch Dulin, said to us was “You guys play any Hendrix?” Arranged a few Hendrix tunes, and soon followed with Cream, Dylan, Mitchell and others .That gig ended up being the springboard for this whole project.
8. IT MIGHT AS WELL BE SPRING (6:16) Richard Rodgers / Oscar Hammerstein II- Medium Swing-Been playing this standard for years and gathered quite a grab- bag of licks and shapes over the years. I enjoy these tunes with such a long form.
9. DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY–(5:47)-Jack Bruce / Pete Brown-Moody Medium- Slow Latin-Another request from Mitch at the Avenue Restaurant. Came up with this arrangement with a kind of brooding light Latin groove. Heath plays a lot of toms, which makes it sound Middle Eastern, so I obliged with a few exotic scales over the many minor chords.
10. FOOL ON THE HILL–(6:39) John Lennon / Paul McCartney-Medium Swing- Always identified with this tune. When I was working on my Doctorate at the U of M I would sit on this hill by a pond by the woods and watch people walk by. That’s why I make the bridge quiet and mysterious.
11. SECRET LOVE–(8:24) Sammy Fain / Paul Francis Webster-Medium Swing- This is just a beautiful, simple tune. Created an intro section that had suspended chords that eventually explode upward to symbolize love finally escaping and bursting forth. Used it for the intro, interlude and ending.