MICHAEL KONIK AND HIS TASTY BAND: There'll Be Some Changes MadeSongs of love and regret.
Whisky and wisdom.
The infectious pulse of a bass guitar. The ringing cries of a piano. The textured rhythm of a set of drums.
The will to swing.
This thing we variously call "jazz standards," "lounge music," "bluesy-laid-back-toe-tapping-head-nodding-torchy-mmm-hmmm singing" - it's the harmonic expression of life. Of what it means to be alive and sentient.
Selecting merely a dozen or so tunes from the great American songbook was, for me, like being asked to choose between the New Yorker cartoonists: You can't go wrong no matter what you decide, but you still want them all. The numbers that are on this album represent a cross-section of torch songs, swingers, straight-ahead jazz, blues, and even a little bebop. All 15 songs on this compendium, however, share one trait: I love them all. Someone - Sinatra? - once said you never get tired of singing a great song. I've heard these tunes a thousand times, and I still marvel at their elegance and grace, their simplicity and profundity, their cleverness and their obviousness. Their truthfulness.
This album is called "There'll Be Some Changes Made" because the song - and this project - are something of an anthem for me, a man on the cusp of 40. I've made a good life doing things other than singing the songs I adore. And now I want to sing the songs I adore (and continue to make a good life). "There'll Be Some Changes Made" was popularized by the ineffably wonderful Fats Waller in 1935 and subsequently recorded by singers like Billie Holiday. The idea for the arrangement came to me after seeing Tony Bennett do this number at Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas, many years ago. Bluesy and dirty at the start; jumpy and unleashed at the end.
One of the few recordings extant of Sinatra singing the Cole Porter tune "At Long Last Love" is from a network television special that aired a few years after I was born, in the late-1960s. Frank's guest on that show was Ella Fitzgerald. On the bootleg videotape I've seen, they take turns singing some of their most beloved songs - and Sintara swings hard on Nelson Riddle's arrangement. Andy and the boys somehow capture that kicking big band feel with only three instruments.
Torch songs are my favorite, and if I could get away with doing an entire album like Sinatra's sublime "Close to You," I would. Instead, I've picked a couple of the most achingly beautiful tracks from that classic Capitol recording. P.S. I Love You is one of the tenderest tunes I know, and the band plays it with the melancholy sweetness it deserves.
A song as good as "Call Me Irresponsible" is almost foolproof, no matter how you approach it. But Tony Bennett, on his Sintra tribute album "Perfectly Frank," found a way to do the tune that just sends me. With the masterful Ralph Sharon massaging the piano, Tony lays back behind the beat - and with my Tasty Band, I can't help doing it just that way, too.
"I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" was written in 1930. Of the many recordings of this sweet tune, Louis Armstrong's remains the zenith, and our arrangement tries to capture some of the magical phrasing Pops made in his collaborations with trombonist Jack Teagarden. If you stick around long enough, you might find a "vintage" version later on this album.
And speaking of making a joyous noise, our drummer Kenny is a one-man percussion section on "The Coffee Song," a "novelty" number from Sinatra's first release on his own label, "Ring-a-Ding-Ding." As far as I know, we're the first group to record this tune since then. (And even if we're not, it's a pretty rare treat.)
Lots of great singers have approached Ray Noble's "I Hadn't Anyone 'til You" from a variety of angles. Some swing it. Some do it as a square ballad. The take that's made the strongest impression on me is Billie Holiday's version on the Verve label. The combination of short and long phrases, the space, is what always gets me, and I try to capture some of that feeling on our version. We feature Chris's virtuoso bass playing on this track, and I'm almost convinced we could do a whole album with only his masterful plucking.
The Chairman made a classic bossa nova album in 1967 with Antonio Carlos Jobim. "Change Partners," a simple Irving Berlin ditty, is one of the unexpected gems from that landmark recording, and we faithfully reprise it here.
"Nobody Else But Me" was cut and then added onto the revival of Jerome Kern's "Showboat." It's a wonderfully goofy song, and several exceptional singers have discovered it. The version we do is inspired by Sarah Vaughn's rendition, which is truly sassy and divine.
We originally did the gorgeous torch number "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" as a Shirley Horn-esque ballad. Andy opened up the tune a bit by giving it a subtle stride feel. Now it's in the groove; but it still has got that "they don't write 'em like they used to" sentiment.
Jule Styne's Broadway masterpiece "Gypsy" has a score full of terrific songs. One of my favorites is "All I Need is the Girl," which, in the musical, is an up-tempo tap-dancing number. We do it bluesy and way behind the beat - like Sinatra once did with Count Basie. Some of the lyrics near the end are made up, but we didn't think Stephen Sondheim would mind.
I'm a huge Harry Connick, Jr. fan, and our arrangement of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" is a straight homage to his stellar version. With apologies to Harry, Andy's piano playing here takes this Ellington tune to a whole new realm.
On "Until I Met You," popularized by the Count Basie Orchestra as "Corner Pocket," we wanted to capture a combination of the stop-time feel of Dizzie Gillespie bebop and the vocalese noodlings of the Manhattan Transfer. Don't blink: It goes by fast!
If "Maybe You'll Be There" weren't such a tough tune to sing, maybe more artists would record it. Rube Bloom's ballad is everything a torch song ought to be: longing, heartbroken, and hopeful. And the boys play it beautifully.
I feel likewise about Cole Porter's "Every Time We Say Goodbye," although this one makes me more weepy. Doing it acapella meant being aurally exposed and emotionally naked. And it seemed to me to be a fitting - and perhaps haunting - way to say farewell.
Thank you for joining me on this brief journey through some timeless music. I hope we'll be saying hello again very soon.
Check out the artist's website:
1. There'll Be Some Changes Made
2. At Long Last Love
3. P.S. I Love You
4. Call Me Irresponsible
5. I'm Confessin'
6. The Coffee Song
7. Hadn't Anyone 'til You
8. Change Partners
9. Nobody Else But Me
10. Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night
11. All I Need Is the Girl
12. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
13. Until I Met You
14. Maybe You'll Be There
15. Every Time We Say Goodbye
16. I'm Confessin' (1930s Mix)