The Birdsongs Project began late last spring, after a spate of unusual "life bird" sightings and striking rarities like the Snowy Owl. Avid birdwatchers, such as myself, live for such things. I called my friend and wonderful pianist, Bennett Paster. I told him that I wanted to make a new recording with him and it had to have a bird theme. A few weeks later, I found myself in Brooklyn, by Bennett's fantastic Steinway, exploring songs on a list I had compiled of songs featuring birds. This evolved into The Birdsongs Project.
Shortly after that, I composed "Conversation with a Snowy Owl". So enchanted by these beauties of the Arctic, the song captures all the joy and awe I felt having observed them for the first time. Owls are so elusive and mysterious. It seems as if many of life's secrets are hidden in their large piercing eyes, awaiting discovery.
While Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" is a natural choice for a bird record, I added my own take on the tune by writing an instrumental line on the changes of "How High The Moon." This line became the vocalese "Bluejay & Cat," a silly story about a taunting Bluejay and an ornery cat whose owners turned him out when they got a new dog.
Then, I had the idea to write English lyrics to Franz Schubert's "Die Krahe" (The Crow). I knew the lieder in German, but decided to write an English "spin" on the story because the original seemed incongruous. We loosened up the feel a little, taking it out of its classical box, added cajon, and gave it a slightly haunting feeling to reflect the story.
I carefully chose the other songs for the album, a few lesser done, such as "Flamingo," "Baltimore Oriole," and "The Peacocks," several popular standards, such as "Skylark" and "The Shadow of Your Smile," and Blossom Dearie's more obscure "I Thought I Heard a Hummingbird". It is probably safe to say that you have not heard Lennon & Mccartney's "Blackbird" or Joni Mitchell's "Song To A Seagull" quite the way we present them here.
I want to give thanks to the extraordinary musicians who helped this music take flight. Thanks to Freddie Bryant, for his versatile and gorgeous guitar work, Alex Norris, for his beautiful trumpet and flugelhorn work, and Joel Frahm for lending his immense tenor sax talent (and surprising me with an ocarina!) Thanks to friend and fabulous bassist, Marcus McLaurine, for agreeing to be a part of this project, and drummers Joe Strasser, Anthony Pinciotti, and percussionist Jacquelene Acevedo, for providing the hip grooves.
I also want to thank the incomparable Bennett Paster, for his enthusiasm and musical depth. He made this collaboration so enjoyable. This project would not have grown wings and caught thermals without his creativity and willingness to delve into a wide range of musical terrain.
Last, I am grateful for all our feathered friends, who make the world a much more beautiful, graceful, and wondrous place to be.
- Jazz & Blues