New release, Something I Said, remastered from the original cassette, a collection of poetic jazz songs, now available at my Bandcamp page.
Once upon a time, I used to sing in jazz clubs six or seven nights a week until the wee small hours of the morning. And then I’d pull myself together Monday mornings and head off to my day job in the pink collar ghetto, or more precisely the underpaid area of secretarial jobs in the arts. My lifestyle was not dissimilar to my adolescence when I went out to jazz clubs to hear tons of bands on the weekends and then emerged, seemingly unscathed, into my high school schedule where I managed to get good grades. Perhaps it was all to prepare me for the parenting of newborns that was to come later.
Anyway, in those days of faux pearls and black dresses I had a lot of trouble suspending my disbelief in my day job, utterly confused by why the universe wanted me locked to a desk all day doing this thing called word processing. Or shipping or reception or bookkeeping or office managing. I did, however, get embroiled in such complicated accounting issues that I developed a certain business sense and started to daydream of having a record label. It was what got me through the dramas of day to day.
And so I banded together with Michel and my brother Reg and we started our music label, Jazz from Rant, making small runs of cassettes with covers printed by this big miraculous new machine, a colour laser photo copier! Michel spent hours consulting the man whose business depended on one, the Metal Dragon in Village by the Grange.
I found this cassette back recently and listened to it and was still irritated by issues with the sound that had plagued me at the time. But now with all my trusty tools and new software I have been able to restore it and polish it to sound the way I wanted even then. It’s interesting as a recording because of the compositions it contains. At the time I had a little bit of funding to make a demo with Factor and so of course if you give jazz artists a few hours in a studio they have no trouble churning out a full length recording in a few takes. And I am proud of the collection of songs I gathered from these musicians. Writing lyrics for their songs was a fun creative project plus I even dared to include one of my own, Was It Your Song?
Fast forward to today and I tossed the remastered tracks to JJ to sequence, asked Theo what the new cover should look like and changed the title track. The infrared photo of the original seems too ghostly to me now that the sound is more crisp. It’s just streaming for now or downloadable and new hard copies might come in the future. It’s a nice document of what we were able to do in those days of the bleak recession of the early 1990s, trying to pay Toronto’s tiresomely high rent and keeping someone else’s business afloat during the day. It was also a time period in Toronto that was not especially open to vocalists, with few critics enjoying vocal jazz and the jazz police not being especially keen on hearing anything but standards.
We did record some of these songs again later on, on Jeannettically Modified Christmas songs (where I decided to add anything that mentioned snow regardless of seasonal feeling) and Reg’s collection Songbook. Others are utterly rare, like the title track, Something I Said, written by film composer and pianist Jonathan Goldsmith. It’s nice too to have a document of Mike and Perry White playing jazz arrangements together. You can hear them also on our later, freer Lonely Universe à la plage recording. Until Today was written by pianist Bobby Fenton who was my piano teacher at one point (although that didn’t stick). I wrote lyrics to his song for my friend, vocalist Arlene Smith who recorded it on one of her albums.
Not long after recording Something I Said I did leave my last day job, retiring into self-unemployment and never looking back. Two years later to the day exactly we recorded Ask Her and made one of our first compact discs, this crazy new format at the time. Little did we know what was in store for us next.
Weird formats haven’t stopped coming. Excuse me while I go figure out NFTs. And work on Genius Loci North!