We’ve been in and out of the studio for a couple of years on this one, but Gin Fizz Fandango, my jazz band’s new CD, is ready for release. The title track on the album is an instrumental—and the title also refers to a cocktail dreamt up by Chaise Lounge’s resident bassist/mixologist, Pete Ostle. Naturally the CD also includes vocal numbers like “Tick Tock” that take advantage of our singer’s unique way with a melody and a story.
The CD release party is on September 26 at AMP by Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland. I couldn’t be prouder of this album or this band (from left in the photo): Gary Gregg on reeds, Joe Jackson on trombone, Tommy Barrick on drums, yours truly on piano and guitar, Marilyn Older on vocals and piano, and Pete on bass. I’m also tickled with the album cover, shot by Sarah Guroff and designed by Adriana Cordero.
I recently scored a commercial for Verizon’s FiOS that features the delightful comic actress Rashida Jones. Though the spot was only 15 seconds long—and only eight seconds of that was music—it was a puzzle to put together. The lyrics the agency provided were hilariously absurd: “Fun Things to Do During Buffering.” I came up with a melody and orchestration, writing the parts idiomatically out of habit, even though I had to use synth instruments, since the time frame did not allow me to hire human beings for the gig. Except for the vocalist, of course. Those lyrics! The singer, a jazz performer named Isabel Hernandez-Cata, was terrifically over-qualified. She came with an arena-sized voice, and I needed her to sound the way June Cleaver looked: pretty and bell-like and generic. It took all of my musical vocabulary to explain to her where to put the sound to bring it down to kitchen size. Luckily she was a quick study and gave me a spot-on performance. It feels silly to be proud of such a tiny piece of work, but sometimes it feels great to simply ply your craft.
My tomato plant is rocking it. Yes—I only have one. My farming goals are modest. I am an urban creature and largely dedicated to living indoors where my piano and my guitars are. I don’t think I have the patience for adult-scale gardening. And I certainly do not have the shoes for it. But I am determined to become a new man this year. I even paid my taxes on time. If I can do that, I can do almost anything. So, the tomatoes. I watch. I water. And I will harvest when the time comes. This is the year where I become the productive old hippie that I envisioned myself becoming when I was 20.
I am also starting to write a really big and ambitious four-movement orchestral piece, on the road to becoming the composer I thought I would be when I was 20. It is nice to have a job where you can tackle your most daunting projects whenever the time seems right. I hope this summer you are watering your tomatoes and facing down some big, exciting challenges of your own.
The record is finished: one of my favorite vocalists, Gia Mora, performs some of my favorite compositions on the aptly titled Gia Mora Sings Charlie Barnett. We’re having a record release party on July 10 in Los Angeles at Room 5.
Gia is a dear friend and a constant source of amazement and inspiration to me. Since she moved to the West Coast a couple of years ago, her acting career has really taken off. She appeared on Castle recently, and she’ll be on True Detective on June 21. She also has a recurring role on a very, very clever PopTV comedy series called Impress Me. With all of that going on, she still has time to record music, rehearse and perform live shows, model, and volunteer with school-aged children as the coolest tutor ever. And she has one of the purest, most expressive soprano voices around. I’m proud of this collaboration and this album.