Needless to say I was happy Charlie wanted to have a few Benny Goodman tunes added to the Chaise Lounge “book.” Pete helped in this request by calling either “Seven Come Eleven” or “Wholly Cats” if CL had to play a jump-tune “head” arrangement. The clean lines of BG’s playing both melodies and solos always floated over the chord changes in a natural way but still “swang” like crazy. And, most listeners can hear the BG swing style even when being played by others. I also had the pleasure of working with the late, great rhythm guitarist Steve Jordan. Steve worked with Benny and had many great stories about BG that wound up in Steve’s book, Rhythm Man. Steve said that, when on the road and after a performance, BG would practice late into the night while the rest of his band had anything but practice on their minds. Thanks, Charlie and Pete, for allowing me to perform some of BG’s more familiar tunes with CL.
This week we had a rehearsal coupled with a band barbeque. After many beers and some rather haphazard grilling practices, we got to the business of playing music. One of the new charts we tried is a Henry Mancini instrumental from the Peter Gunn series called “The Brothers Go to Mothers.” Only Tommy could have found us this unknown gem. Gary brought in a few Benny Goodman charts. I finally learned the bass/piano lick that goes under the melody of “Seven Comes Eleven.” Gary is a true master when it comes to the Benny Goodman “small group” classics. And finally we grooved on Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” I was struck by how good a songwriter MJ was. I credit The Sweater Set here. I heard Sara Curtin sing this at a party for the Strathmore Artist in Residence program and was knocked out by what a cool cover it makes. Once you take all the Quincy Jones production and indelible high-voiced squeals out of the MJ recording, you are left with a really nice, strong song. I think that with this arrangement, we made it ours. (OK—it will always be his.)