|Modern amusement parks leave me cold. Sure, the adrenaline delivery systems have been perfected in the same way that fast food chains have perfected the hamburger, but they remain soulless corporate edifices. Real estate concerns have placed them at the edge of suburbia, where noontime suns bake vast lots of melting blacktop, and bored teens roam around in listless packs on high school prom nights. Everything is safe, chaperoned, clean and ordered.
It didn't used to be that way.
Pre-Disney, there were urban amusement parks, often at the edge of the city, offering cool ocean breezes and the casual informality of the beach. Coney Island may be the most famous, but Northern California has been host to a couple, most notably San Francisco's Playland at the Beach (where the ocean breezes were more than cool; they could be downright bitterly cold and wet).
Playland was torn down around 1972, replaced by condos. Like everything in San Francisco, it has been romanticized to death. But that's OK, because when something is no longer extant it often takes on more aesthetic weight, more cultural resonance than it ever had in life. There are bits and pieces of Playland that remain such as the Camera Obscura and the Musée Méchanique, while images of Playland are preserved in postcards, a few books and a couple of movie cameo appearances. Why Playland? Well, I like the idea of celebrating a few old traditions. I also like the idea as an abstract. Like the man said, when musicians and ball players go to work, they play.
Tim, Menno and I have been playing together in various bands for around 20 years. My God, how the time does fly. When I got the idea for a trio recording, we started bouncing tune ideas around. It didn't start off to be a tribute album, but it sort of wound up as one. The music of Bill Evans, Bud Powell, Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner and Thelonious Monk has been a huge influence in my life, but so has the music of hundreds of other musicians. Some of these players are quite well known, while others are pretty obscure. I would like to thank each of them for creating beautiful music and for passing along their dedication and respect for the art, craft and fun of making music.
So take one more ride on the Tilt-O-Whirl, blow another chorus over the changes, and try to enjoy your remaining rotations on this here mortal coil. Or as someone else put it: "We're not here for a long time; we're here for a good time."
Let us play.
1. On The Street Where You Live
(Lyric: Alan Jay Lerner. Music: Frederick Loewe)
© 1956 Lerner and Loewe
This is from the musical My Fair Lady. It isn't really a tribute to any one player, just another excuse to blow over some nice changes.
2. Waltz For Debby
© 1964 Acorn Music Corp.
Everybody digs Bill Evans; some of his trio recordings are as good as it gets. Interestingly, the piano that was used for this recording is referred to as "the Bill Evans piano" at Fantasy; I think he might have had something to do with picking it out. It's a very nice Yamaha C7.
3. Just You, Just Me
(Jesse Greer, Raymond Klages)
© 1929 Robbins Music
Evidence (Thelonious Monk)
© 1962 Thelonious Sphere Monk
Monk's tune Evidence is based on a song from the movie This Could Be The Night: Just You, Just Me (which we use as an intro). The story goes that Monk started playing Just You, Just Me, shortened the title to Just Us, changed it to Justice and then to Evidence. We used to play Evidence a lot back in our days at The Ramp (in the Menno Marringa Quintet). Monk has always been one of our favorite pianist/composers, and there was a time when he was damn near all I played and listened to.
4. Poinciana (Song Of The Tree)
) (Lyric: Buddy Bernier, Music: Nat Simon)
© 1936 Chappell Publishing
Some might say that this one has been done to death, especially in the postmodern cocktail world. Plenty of versions exist with all matter of exotica and heavy, overproduced Esquivelesque effects. But it remains popular because it's a very pretty song. We chose to do a completely straight reading of the tune, copped off an Ahmad Jamal live disc.
5. Un Poco Loco
© 1953 Earl Bud Powell
This is a fun one to play. In addition to being one of the defining 20th-century jazz pianists, Bud wrote some very cool tunes.
6. Everytime We Say Goodbye
© 1944 Chappell Publishing
This is a marvelous ballad, with a wonderful sentiment. Again, we looked to an existing version, the masterful one by Coltrane.
Recorded March 25, 2002
Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA
Engineer: Stephen Hart
Liaison: Jeffery Wood
Post Production: Fishtank Studios, S.F., CA
Produced by: Brian Schindele
Special thanks to our friends and families