Last Call

by Rick Smith

Released 2012
Little Apple Records
Released 2012
Little Apple Records
A modern jazz guitar album that contains seven original tunes performed in a contemporary trio setting
Most of these tunes were written quite a while ago; the oldest was written in late 2007, and I think the newest was written sometime in 2011. I had a songwriting burst in 2010 and wrote most of them then. When I was writing these songs, I wasn’t really thinking of recording them. I wanted to bring them to gigs to give myself a break from just playing standards all the time. So I wanted the experience of playing one of my songs to be like reading a lead sheet; very flexible in terms of instrumentation, feel, and tempo. On some of the songs, I was thinking of certain instrumentations that were quite different than what we ended up with, so a lot of the challenge for me when we recorded this album was making these songs work with the trio setting.
One of my goals in writing all these tunes was to cover the whole gamut of human emotion, and I think I can be proud of succeeding. You name an emotion, whether it be love, hate, jealousy, anger, regret, happiness, confusion, lust, whatever…you can probably find it in one of these songs, somewhere!

About the music…
“Um Marongo” – On this one, I tried to write a nice happy tune that we would have a lot of fun playing at the coffee shop. This was one of the first bossa novas I wrote after getting back from Brazil, it literally means “Strawberry,” which was one of the first words I learned; I just liked the sound of it.

“Bourbon and Coke” – Like the title suggests, this song is all about having a boozy, sleazy, good time. The first 8 measures of each chorus are more raucous, and then it starts to get a little lightheaded. This song started out in 3/4, but at the time I wrote this, I was playing a lot of medium waltzes and kind of thought, “oh man, do I really need one more?” So I rewrote it to work at a medium swing in 4.

“Ray and the Recalcitrant Redhead” –Ray has a crush on this redhead, and she’s giving off very mixed signals; he has no idea whether she likes him or not. The two of them make up the melody. The form is ABAC, and the A’s are Ray, just being the same old guy the entire time, and the B and C are the redhead, giving two completely different reactions. So after I came up with that form, I started thinking of Charlie Brown and his redhead, and I thought, “what if Vince Guaraldi had written something really weird?” So that’s kind of what I went for, music for a more twisted version of Charlie Brown.

“Cherry Pizza and Pepperoni Cheesecake” – This song has a strange history. It started out as just “Pizza and Cheesecake;” I have this ritual of eating a slice of pizza and a slice of cheesecake for lunch on Sundays. I knew it was a good song, but it didn’t quite work, and I didn’t know why. I was stuck. So I took it over to Dr. G’s house and we spent about an hour on it together, bouncing ideas off each other, and he came up with a lot of good stuff for the spots where I didn’t know what to do, and by the time we were done we had a great song, and the “weak” spots were gone.. But it was a lot more angular, dissonant, and “Monkish” than the original version. A lot harder to play, too! He thought that with all of that in mind, I should change the title to something weirder. So, “Cherry Pizza and Pepperoni Cheesecake.”

“Coco and Bella” –Coco and Bella are the names of two cats; and the song is sort of about them, but they’re also symbols for something else—the idea of two different instruments playing the melody in two different keys, each one representing the different cat (in this case, the guitar is Coco, and the bowed bass is Bella.) I started out by stealing the changes to Dr. G’s tune, “Cecil’s Dream,” another song about a cat, but by the time I started writing my melody, the changes mutated quite a bit. The melody started out as a pair of phone numbers, but the first 3 notes, “785” are about all that’s left of that. I tried to write a ballad that was sweet and gentle but also a bit nostalgic and bittersweet; the melody that I snuck in on my solo, Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss” fits that perfectly.

“Nao Obrigado” –The melody was inspired, oddly enough, by Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” which also has a pretty catchy melody that’s fun to play on guitar. (You can hear a snippet of it in the solo if you pay attention.) I consciously tried to imitate the way some of Jobim’s tunes are very sexy and lustful but dark and melancholy at the same time. Some schmuck in Rio goes up to a beautiful lady and asks her to dance, and “Nao Obrigado,” Portuguese for “no thank you” is her reply.

Blues for G. – This song started out as a tribute to Dr. Goins. He brought in a song to Della Voce, a really slow blues in E minor, with an unexpected chord in the 5th and 6th bars. For my tune, I kept the changes exactly the same, but sped it up and wrote a new melody to reflect the tempo change. When my trio started playing it, I tried to invoke the really good times we have on Sunday nights. At some point, it kind of turned into a double tribute, because I realized this song is a perfect vehicle for playing Grant Green licks. I’ve “borrowed” a lot of his vocabulary and use his ideas whenever I play, but on this particular song it ended up being a little more heavy-handed. So really this song is a tribute to my two favorite guitarists, Goins and Green.