Waiting to Continue wasn’t initially intended to be the title of this album. We were originally scheduled to go into the studio at the beginning of April 2020 but had to cancel due to the pandemic. At that time I planned to call the record Play Date. But after several months at home, living in limbo, Waiting to Continue proved to be a more suitable title that better conveys the feeling the album represents.
The first half of 2020 was going to be one of the busiest times in my career. I had tours with Makoto Ozone, Maria Schneider, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Slide Monsters, and my own band that were all canceled in a matter of days. One of the tunes herein—“Longing for Home”—is about my anxiousness related to being apart from my family during those types of touring stretches. The upside of the crisis is that I was able to spend more time with my kids than ever before. That kept me positive and inspired me to keep practicing and writing at home. In fact, I was more motivated than I’ve been in a long while. Of course, there’s only so much time in a day when you’re in lockdown with a one-year-old and three-year-old!
One day in mid-June, several months after the scrapped recording dates, I was standing in my kitchen and thought, “Why not write The Bunker Studio and see if they have any plans to start recording again.” Clarence, Yasushi and I had already met and rehearsed several times before this was all canceled, so we were ready to go! I received a reply from the studio that they were going to start doing sessions again at the beginning of July. I immediately wrote the guys to check dates, and we decided to go in on July 1st and 2nd. This was going to be a recording session like no other for us.
The studio, in an effort to prepare our group for the changes, sent us social distancing guidelines: Masks were to be worn at all times in common areas; one client in the booth at a time for no longer than 10 minutes; no communal meals; temperature check at the door each day when entering. We all appreciated the precautions they were taking and did our part to accommodate. I actually suggested that they set up playback monitors in the main room. They did this, so Clarence, Yasushi and I would listen back spread apart from one another while wearing masks. We never went into the control room during those two days.
To cut down on numbers in the studio, I decided not to bring a photographer or videographer to the sessions. I brought a few cameras and tablets instead, and we each pressed start at the beginning of each take. I’ve never really liked when people were walking around the room while recording was in progress, so I didn’t mind that change. As for meals, the studio asked us to eat in our recording areas. I made care packages for Yasushi and Clarence and packed a bunch of sandwiches each day. For the record, in case any of you are making sandwiches for a pandemic recording session, Clarence likes mayonnaise and Dijon.
With all of these guidelines and things to think about, not to mention the fact that I hadn’t played music with other people for four months, I was a little nervous about how it would go. We started out with “Longing for Home,” and from the first note it was an amazing feeling! It was at that moment when I realized how much I’d missed making music with others! We were all locked in from the get-go and my nerves were immediately calmed. We almost never did more than two takes of any piece, and for some we only did one. It was the most comfortable recording session I’ve ever been a part of.
This is a project I’ve wanted to record for quite some time. A trio is my favorite type of setting to play in, and Clarence Penn and Yasushi Nakamura are the perfect bandmates for this configuration. Clarence adds his own orchestration to each piece and Yasushi has a huge sound that lays the foundation. They are incredibly versatile and can switch seamlessly between whatever styles I write—straight-eighth, material in 7/8, or swinging-your-butt-off! We did some touring with this group in 2019 and I knew I had to record it.
Most of the music on this album was written before the pandemic, but two tunes—“Waiting to Continue” and “New Normal”—were penned during quarantine. For “Waiting to Continue,” I decided to add a couple of trombone chorales. I recorded those parts at home and then brought them to the studio. That piece is about the situation that 2020 brought upon us. I think all people, especially musicians, are wondering when we’ll be able to move forward and are feeling unsure about what’s on the other side of this. If I look at my original calendar, those canceled gigs and tours seem like such a foreign concept right now. The title track is a piece about pondering the future while lamenting the current crisis.
“Archie’s Theme” was written while my wife was pregnant with our son Ethan. My wife is from Hungary and, at that time, she asked me what a typical American name is. I replied with “Archibald,” and throughout the course of the pregnancy we referred to him as “Archie.” In composing this tune I had an image in my mind of a hip little dude coming into the world swaggering and strutting. It turns out I was right about that attitude, but he also cried and needed diaper changes like all other babies.
“Longing for Home” is a pretty self-explanatory title. As mentioned, I wrote this before all of my tours and concerts were canceled when I was facing the prospect of being apart from my family longer than ever before.
“Taconic Turns” was born while I was navigating the tight curves of my usual route into New York City. One day I had the idea for this tune while driving down the Taconic Parkway and I sang it into my phone. Just like the road, you can’t take your eyes off the music for a second on this tune or you’ll end up in a ditch or blow out a musical tire.
“Ha Mam” is a piece I wrote a few years back. My nephew Domi in Hungary would always say “ha mam” when he was hungry, and I actually thought it was how you said “I’m hungry” in Hungarian. No pun intended. Trying to show off my language skills, I started saying it around Hungary and received blank stares. I thought I was so slick, but it turns out it doesn’t mean anything. It was just his cute way of saying “I’m hungry.”
The manuscript for “The Nod” originally said “Nasty Bass Line Tune.” It is really nasty and I don’t know what the composer was thinking, but Yasushi lays it down! “The Nod” is a reference to my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Whenever she’s asked a question, she replies “yes” with the most serious nod you can imagine.
“Anya’s Tune” was written for my wife. “Anya” means “mom” in Hungarian, and that word is spoken several thousand times a day in my house. She is an amazing wife and mother, and this piece is about just that. I added some extra trombone parts on this one to help bring out the harmony and overall intent of the piece.
“Play Date” is a contrafact based on “Cherokee” that’s up a half-step (in B major) and in seven. I’ve always loved practicing “Cherokee” changes in all 12 keys and, over the years, I grew to really enjoy playing it in B. I also love playing in seven. I tried to mask the changes with a pedal point on the A sections and by turning the ii-Vs on the bridge into sus chords. It doesn’t really open up into straight “Cherokee” changes until the third chorus of the trombone solo.
“Cora’s Tune” was written for my daughter. In its original form it was a trombone quartet piece for the Slide Monsters, but I decided to do a trio version as well. This is just about a father’s love for his daughter.
“The Usual” is a blues that I wrote some years ago. It’s different every time. The solos have a send-off that gives each soloist the opportunity to set his own tempo at the beginning of every go-round. On this particular version we ended up at a mild warp speed.
“New Normal” is the other tune I penned during the current crisis. It’s another piece about the feelings and mixed emotions that we all have right now.
While Waiting to Continue was recorded during a time of uncertainty, it also conveys the message that we will get through this and we will, in fact, continue! I hope you enjoy the music.
Marshall Gilkes, July 2020
supported by 10 fans who also own “Waiting to Continue”
Another great release of modern chamber music from Garchik. Jazz, classical, whatever it is, it is great and the writing and playing are amazing. (Tho, Moebius the French comic artist or Moebius the German musician? Inquiring minds want to know.) Erik Ellestad
supported by 8 fans who also own “Waiting to Continue”
Vanessa Perica is a new name in the big band business, and her debut album proves that we can expect a lot of pleasant surprises from her in this genre. I'm noticing with contentment that an increasing number of women pushes forward into this traditionally male-dominated realm - with quite convincing musical arguments. Sven B. Schreiber