Old as New – Songs from the Imaginary Great American Songbook
The title “Old as New” has a few meanings. On one level it recognizes that styles – musical and otherwise – move in cycles, and styles that were once out of fashion periodically cycle back into the public sphere of interest. On another level it’s about the fact that I have created brand new compositions in a style many would consider old. And lastly, while I’m technically a new artist, I’m old (at least my kids think so!).
The concept of the album – especially the subtitle “Songs from the Imaginary Great American Songbook” set the tone for what type of songs I wrote for the record. With a couple of exceptions, I wanted these songs to seem as if they were written as vocal numbers in 1940s-60s and then used by a jazz quartet as vehicles for improvisation.
1. Al Fresco 3:43 “Al fresco” is short for al fresco dining, or eating outside. The song is not simply about eating outside, but rather about the wide variety of meaningful conversations I’ve had with friends and loved ones around a table with food and drink. This song is meant to give you an opportunity to reflect on meaningful moments of your own that have occurred around a table with friends and family, and perhaps to realize that creating more of these moments leads to a richer life.
SOMETHING ABOUT YOU
2. Something About You 4:05 This song is about the mystery of affinity. There are some people you like from the moment you meet because, well, there’s just something about them, an inexplicable affinity that makes you feel like kindred spirits.
SUMMER FOR SO
3. Summer For So 3:28 I heard my wife, who is from Guyana, use the expression “fuh so” – or as my American ears heard it, “for so”. The phrase is used when there is an overabundance of something; “traffic fuh so” (that’s a lot of traffic!), “people fuh so” (so many people!), etc. I think of this expression especially in summer, when so much is happening at once – people crowding the beaches, outdoor concerts, people biking, walking or running – “Summer For So!”
4. Silver’s Lining 4:10 Although I was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, I moved east and chose to raised my family in Norwalk, Connecticut, a decision I have never regretted. As I investigated the history of my adopted home town, I learned one of the most accomplished jazz musicians of our time, pianist and composer Horace Silver, was born and raised in Norwalk! This song is my tribute to him. Any similarity between Silver’s Lining and any of Horace Silver’s works is purely intentional.
5. Sunny Days 4:38 I have many wonderful memories of sunny days. But this song is not about those days. Sunny Days is my reference to an attitude I call “clueless optimism,” a mindset that paints a rosy picture of one’s surroundings by ignoring nearby unpleasantness, or worse, injustice. I think of the WWII era in particular, when we had a lot of feel-good entertainment – “sunny days” types of movies. I enjoyed the optimism, patriotism, humor and the invariably happy endings of these types of films. It was only later in life that I realized these movies would have little appeal to large segments of our population. We were unwilling at that time, or perhaps ill-equipped, to tell more nuanced stories about inequality, inequity, and the challenges of creating a post-war society that would work for all Americans.
SPRING AT LAST
6. Spring At Last 3:26 I wrote this song at the tail end of a particularly long winter, as I longed for the warm breezes, beautiful blossoms and the various shades of green that are just some of the gifts of Spring. More than just a longing for a literal spring after a harsh winter, Spring At Last is about the expectation of a new emotional beginning (Spring) after a period of suffering or hardship (Winter).
7. Sand Castles 4:05 The title Sand Castles comes from the image in my mind of my daughters making sand castles on the beach. They often chose to do things together – just because they liked each other’s company. So Sand Castles is a metaphor for the kind of cooperation we engage in with others simply because we like them.
GIVE TONY A BREAK
8. Give Tony A Break 4:12 This is a story about Tony. Tony is a guy that follows the same routine every day. He eats the same food. Goes to the same job. Goes back to the same home, and goes to sleep at the same time. This sounds very dull. And it surely is most of the time. Why does he do it? Well, Tony has goals. Goals you and I don’t know about. And, to be honest, sometimes he forgets them himself in the midst of the drudgery. But Tony has loved ones he wants to take care of. So Tony works. It’s a struggle. A big struggle.Give Tony a break. He’s trying – he really is.
THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS, SON
9. That’s Just The Way It Is, Son 3:25 From time to time I have been told to just accept the way things are; a system, a situation, a relationship – whatever – “that’s just the way it is, son.” And it’s true, there are things I can’t change. But I choose to use my own intellectual and spiritual resources to decide what I will or will not work to change. This song is a “shout out” to all those who have helped American society advance by not accepting things as they are and have chosen to work for change. The abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, and equal rights for everyone, to name a few, are all causes helped by people passionate enough to get involved.
10. Waiting 4:07 If you’re like me, you have spent a lot of time waiting in lines. Reflecting on this, I realized that I have experienced a wide range of emotions while waiting – frustration, empathy, compassion, rage, boredom, anxiety, worry, regret, hopefulness. What emotions have you felt while waiting?