Swingin' with Legends
Liner Notes from Swingin' With Legends: From the first time I heard Angela sing, one of my dreams was to produce her in this exact setting. What a thrill it has been for me to have my arrangements, along with Frank Foster's and Dennis Wilson's, performed on such a high level with such great talent. I think you, the listener, will feel the love and sincerity in this music. These notes were written with the hope that they will give the listener some insight into the making of Swingin' With Legends. Ron Aprea Lionel Hampton celebrated his 90th birthday in April of 1998. On this album, Angela DeNiro had the pleasure of recording with Hamp on his classic composition, Midnight Sun. In the fifty year history of this jazz classic, Angela is the only singer to record this song with Lionel Hampton Angela and the musicians were inspired by Hamp's presence, and Hamp seemed to enjoy being there as much as we enjoyed having him. Listen to Angela's interview with Hamp on track 15. This memorable conversation was recorded at Avatar Studio in NYC following the session. The alto solo starting at the bridge is mine. Angela has known Frank Foster since 1982, but my friendship with Frank started back in the early 60 when he was still with the Basie Band. He has had a strong influence on both my writing and playing, and his contributions to this project are monumental. Frank has not only written five classic arrangements for this recording but he actually took the time on two occasions to rehearse the band, and he really cranked it up at the session. The two songs that I had the pleasure of arranging for Frank and Angela were Naima and Avalon. Naima, a Coltrane composition, was a perfect choice because of Frank's similarity to Trane's style. You can almost feel Trane's presence. Angela's simplistic approach to this classic song is haunting, and the interaction between she and Frank on the "tag" is a thing of beauty. Avalon is a sort of throwback to the Jumpin' at the Woodside days with the Basie band. This is Frank's meat. Frank played four choruses, and we got the feeling he had forty more. This cut gives me the same thrill that I used to feel when I was a kid sitting in front of the Basie band at Birdland, listening to Frank (also a kid) build chorus after chorus on Woodside. That ripping sax solo really got Foss off to a flying start. After the session, Angela told me that she was so excited listening to Frank play that she almost forgot to come back in. Check out her comments at the end of Avalon, and listen to the band yelling and applauding. We left that on the tape, so that the listeners could get some idea of the excitement and love that was ever so present on that special day. Lew Tabackin and I have been friends since 1972, when we did a tour with Les Elgart's band. After playing alongside Lew for a few weeks, it was no surprise to me that he went on to become a major force on the jazz scene. You'll hear Lew playing on The Song Is You. This is a difficult arrangement that features Angela scatting with the brass section (no saxes or rhythm), and she and the band really nailed it. That tenor solo is vintage Lew Tabackin...one of the bright spots on this album. Ill Wind, written in 1934 by Ted Koehler and Harold Arlen, starts with Derrick Gardner (trumpet) and Steve Greenfield (alto) playing some bluesy four-bar phrases, before Angela steps in and kills you with phrasing that I haven't heard since Sarah. How Insensitive, written in 1946 by Antonio Carlos Jobim, with English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, is a Frank Foster arrangement. The woodwinds work beautifully with the flugel horns, and create a soft pad which complements Angela's breathy interpretation of this classic. The tenor solo is by Frank Foster. A Ballad for Matthew was written by me in 1994. This song was originally an instrumental recorded as a baritone solo, and was part of Angela's first album, Just For the Fun Of It. Angela has always loved this song, and decided that it needed lyrics. The words came easily, as they were written for our 8-year-old son Matthew. We in this wacky business of music occasionally get a pleasant surprise, and this was one such occasion. You see, this new album was complete and ready for the final stages of mixing and mastering. Angela walked into my practice room and asked if I would like to listen to the lyrics that she had been threatening to write for the past three years. A few minutes later, we were both in tears. Not only were the lyrics a perfect description of Matthew, but here phrasing and poetic passion absolutely floored me. We called pianist Pete Levin, and without batting an eyelash, he met us at the studio. Pete, having never laid eyes on the music before, played as if he'd been performing it all his life. And as for Angela's performance, well...they say "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Well, heaven hath no passion like a woman singing to her child. Will You Still Be Mine, written in 1941 by Matt Dennis and Tom Adair, is an up-tempo, straight ahead swinger that I arranged for Angela. This cut features Glenn Guidone on tenor saxophone. Glenn ahs been a regular member of this band for the past four years, and is destined for the big time. I loved Angela's "Snookie Young" impression on the last chord. Young and Foolish, written in 1954 by Arnold B. Horwitt and Albert Hague, is a Frank Foster arrangement that Angela really sinks her teeth into. It's a tune she has always loved. She finally got her opportunity to record it, and I think you'll feel the love. Lover Come Back to Me, written in 1928 by Oscar Hammerstein II and Sigmund Romberg, is another Frank Foster gem. The band's swinging, Angela's ripping...see if you can stop tapping your foot! Travelin' Light, written in 1943 by Johnny Mercer, Jimmy Mundy, and James Young, was arranged by Dennis Wilson. This Basie-style chart is a killer. Check out the ensemble after Angela's first chorus, and that spirited trombone solo by Mike Fahn. Don't Talk about Love is an original composition by John Mauro Calabrese. This medium tempo Sinatra-type swinger moves along nicely with a flashy trumpet solo by Derrick Gardner. I wrote this arrangement for Angela, and we'd like to dedicate it's performance to the composer...John Mauro Calabrese. I'll Close My Eyes, written in 1945 by Buddy Kaye and Billy Reid, was arranged by Frank Foster. A beautiful song...beautiful arrangement...beautiful rendition. Bring On the Raindrops was composed and arranged by Frank Foster. It's a medium tempo blues that builds in the fashion of the sixties Basie Band, and why have anyone other than Frank Foster himself play the tenor solo? Check out the way Frank sets up the solo with a little Guy Lombardo. After the solo, Angela starts to really "feel the spirit" and goes up the ladder into a register in which I have never heard her sing before. The trumpet solo fills were supplied by Derrick Gardner. It should be mentioned that all of the wonderful people who congregated at Avatar Studio on the 22nd and 23rd of August, 1997 ranged in age from 30 to nearly 90...so much for generation gaps! I also wonder when the last time was that so many great band leaders all got together under one baton and played their hearts out the way Lew Tabackin, Frank Foster and Lionel Hampton did on this date. It may have been done before, but the baton certainly was not held by me! For this honor, I will be forever grateful. Angela DeNiro and sixteen great musicians were truly...Swingin' With Legends!