I started to make a laundry list of all the recordings on which I've been a guest. But then I thought, why not just talk a little bit about each project, the people I worked with, and what it meant to me to be part of their musical vision. And, when possible, let you hear a sample of each CD.
Before delving into the music that is available on CD, let me tell you about some unreleased projects that certainly paved the way for my currrent recording experiences.
I first met Kenny Barron when he was playing piano in my father's band in the early sixties. He'd see me running around backstage when I'd come to see my father play. Our paths crossed again at Rutgers University, where Kenny was one of the jazz professors. My major was Anthropology, but I took loads of music classes, and I was placed in Professor Barron's keyboard harmony class.
In 1990 I gave Kenny a demo tape, just so he could hear some original tunes that I was performing with my band. I was both thrilled and intimidated when he told me he was planning to start his own record label and wanted to record me.at the legendary Rudy Van Gelder's studio, no less! On the session were bassist Ray Drummond , drummer Victor Lewis, and Ted Brancato sharing the piano duties with Kenny. It was truly an unforgettable experience in THAT studio, with THOSE musicians. I look forward to its release as my very first recording.
Ater that year, I made my first trip to Europe , when a Dutch producer, after hearing my recording with Kenny, invited me to sing with the SkyMasters, an eighteen-piece big band in Holland. The concert was broadcast live, all over Europe. The concert was so successful, two more concerts were scheduled for the following year with the famed Metropole Orchestra. They arranged ten tunes especially for me (including an original) and recorded them all live. What a thrill to play with a full orchestra. We even had a harpist!
Those sessions will also be released at a future date.
Now, for music that you can actually hear! (smile)
Geoff Keezer , "Other Spheres" Columbia/DIW Records 1991
Geoff recorded this CD on his twenty-second birthday. What an incredible talent! The song I recorded, "We Are Dancing", was a collaboration between Geoff and my mother, Connie Bryson, who wrote words to his haunting melody.
Larry Coryell, "Fallen Angel" CTI Records 1993
Don Sebesky, who produced and arranged this record, heard me on our New York area jazz station (WBGO), and recruited me to sing the title tune, "Fallen", as a duet with Klyde Jones. The band did several fun gigs around New York City , and Larry was a gas to work with. Don would later involve me in another wonderful , high-profile project.
Blanchard "The Billie Holiday Songbook" Columbia Records 1994
Terence and I knew each other at Rutgers - he's a teeny bit younger. (smile.) I was just graduating, and he was just coming in, yet we hung out with a lot of the same cats from school. When Terence asked me be "the voice" on his tribute to one of my idols, I gladly accepted. For six months we toured the world . We performed at most of the major jazz festivals at home and abroad, and topped it off by doing the Tonight Show!
Playing with Terence and his superb band remains one of the most enriching musical experiences of my career.
Grover Washington Jr., "All My Tomorows" Columbia Records 1994
Freddy Cole brought me to this project. I often refer to him as my "Fairy Godfather", because he has been so helpful and generous to me. (I had a fabulous gig in Rio for nearly three weeks on Freddy's recommendation!) Freddy and I sang a duet together ,"For Heaven's Sake", on Grover's first traditional jazz record in years. It was a record close to Grover's heart; one he had wanted to make for some time. I am very grateful to have had the chance to work with such a fine musician and wonderful human being.
Kevin Mahogany , "You Got What It Takes" Enja Records 1995
Kevin and I have been buddies for a while. I have always admired his singing, and we sure did have a lot of fun recording the title tune to this record! And, to top it off, he sent some SLAMMIN' barbeque sauce from Kansas City as a "thank you". (It WAS yummy, Kevin!)
Burrell, "Live At The Blue Note" Concord Jazz 1996
Kenny Burrell is a "guitar-player's guitar-player", and in my case, a singer's guitar-player too. I was honored to be included in his live recording at the Blue Note, especially in a duo setting with "The Master".
Don Sebesky ,"I Remember Bill: A Tribute To Bill Evans" BMG/RCA Victor 1998
Don called me and told me he had put together a tribute to the great Bill Evans. He wanted my voice on "Blue and Green". The tracks had already been laid down: strings, Larry Coryell on guitar, and my hero, Hubert Laws, on flute. I would be singing lyrics (beautifully penned by Gene McDaniels) to both Miles' (do-able)and Coltrane's( nearly impossible ) solos. Miraculously, I managed to hold up my end, and the finished product is something I am very proud of. Incidentally, one of the cuts from this album won yet another Grammy for Don.
Scarlett "Scarlett" Scarlett Fever Records 1998
I co-produced this recording for a dear friend, Scarlett Moore. We sing together on a raucous original written by my mom, called "One Good Man". This often-recorded tune has been a favorite of audiences for years. And, I got my feet wet as producer for the first time.
Salt Brothers "The Right Move" Sound Up Productions 2000
Coleman Mellett (one half of the Salt Brothers) and I have been making music together for almost five years. I first heard him at a jam session at the Cape May Jazz Festival in 1996, and he has been my "first call" guitar player ever since. When he asked me to sing a few tunes on his incredibly musical debut CD, I jumped at the chance. Never mind that I had to twist his arm to make " You Got Me Too" a duet, he and his partner, trumpeter Jeff McSpadden are sure to make some serious waves with their new and refreshing sound.