I’m grateful for our liberties, given by God, enshrined in our founding documents, because of which, given the sacrifices of those who came before, I can sing my own voice, without compulsion, any song I please to sing.
Not too many years ago, when I first heard her, I thought Judee Sill could not sing. I even thought, oh God, another hack. That plain tone, Ohio accent, the focus on the bridge of the nose… (Can you imagine me doing this as a younger man? I’m sure you can.)
But I listened again, almost in contradictory fashion to my own will, having heard something very close inside of me. And then her voice opened within me. Or should I say, I opened to her voice.
I had forbidden, for some reason, myself to be touched at the level she reached in the way she chose to reach it. I learned to listen differently, beyond the notes and the words, if I might say, without resistance.
That’s what I learned from Judee Sill. I am sure, from what I’ve read about her, that she would never have entertained the possibility that decades after her death anyone would remember her existence on this planet, or that someone might be improved by what she’d recorded so many years before.
I have this past year gone back to writing ballads, making new discoveries in language and melody I’d not known to be possible before. Whoever said life begins at 40, hadn’t yet gotten to 50.
Just today, I went back to the song “Age.” I’d written a first draft in 2012 and rewrote that several times over the past few years. Something wasn’t right and I could never put a finger on it until today, when like manna in the wilderness, it arrived. I hope to record it next year with bass, keys and strings.
But I was blind as any bat and deaf as any post
You caught me like a tiger I loved you like a lamb
And knowing I still do just shows me up for what I am
In 1947, Jimmy Giuffre, working as an arranger for Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd, wrote “Four Brothers” for Woody’s sax section of three tenor horns (Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn) and one bari (Serge Chaloff).
The “brothers” play the head together and then each player solos. But since Jimmy Giuffre was a stellar clarinetist, we thought we’d do it like it’s never been done before: with a clarinet!
Some singers, like Anita O’Day, Sarah Vaughn and the Manhattan Transfer have done their own versions in which they scat, but here we feature Ernesto’s solo, while Richie plays the rhythm section. (And a great solo it is, too!) 18 players usually make up a big band. Talk about economy!
The Texas connection: Jimmy Giuffre was born and raised in Dallas and attended North Texas State Univ., which is still providing music instruction to jazz musicians. We recorded this at SugarHill Studios in Houston. Our recording engineer was Cody Franz; our videographer, David Gaona.
An out-take from the video that will drop on Nov. 1, with Ernesto Vega, clarinet. We’ll see a lot more of Ernesto in the full video!
Richie Kaye Music and AudioTheater Services LLC