Toronto is a plethora of excellent singers and musicians. I’m so happy to feel still part of the Toronto music scene, and to enjoy the community,camaraderie and artistry of many singers and great musicians in Toronto – most of whom are much younger than I am.
Over 10 years ago, Lisa Particelli began a regular evening of jazz jamming for singers, backed by live musicians. Entitled “Girls’ Night Out (Where Men are welcome too)”, it became a very successful endeavor, and the singers who showed up to ply their voices on those magic evenings (featuring Peter Hill on piano, and Ross MacIntyre on bass) were able to hone their chops, play to an audience and get their names out there. I became a great fan of many of the regulars, including Sam Broverman, Ilana Waldston, June Garber, Gigi Marentette, Heidi Lang, Linda Carone – and so many others, including the beautiful Lisa herself.
Having reached the eighth decade of my life here on earth, I felt it was time to do a final legacy recording while I still had a strong voice. But what? I had already recorded many projects, including three solo projects, three with Hampton Avenue, my jazz vocal group, and three with ChoirGirlz, a roots-acoustic trio I assembled and led. All these albums largely consisted of my original songs and material.
When I sing, I cover so many styles – from R&B, classical, roots/acoustic to jazz. I’m not a purist in any of those styles, and there are great singers all over Toronto, who do far better than I do in their specialties. So what could I do, which would set me apart from the rest of the great talent surrounding me?
My answer came, just after I sang one of my favourite songs (A House is Not a Home) at a jam somewhere, and one of Toronto’s most talented jazz vocalists, Maureen Kennedy, said some kind words to me about my performance, adding “I could never sing Bacharach – it’s really difficult to do well”. BINGO. There was my moment of truth. I would do a tribute album to Bacharach/David – two of the finest writers of music in the 20th century.
You see, I’ve been singing Bacharach/David songs since the 60’s when Dionne Warwick, one of my idols, released so many songs written by the prolific duo. When I started singing in nightclubs in the mid 60’s, backed by my husband, Gordon Fleming, on B3 and keys – Dionne Warwick was at the top of the charts every week, and it was her hits which people wanted to hear. So I learned those songs, as a “pup” and never felt intimidated by the challenges the music presented. (You don’t, when you’re in your 20’s – EVERYTHING’s possible!).
As my career became more successful (mostly as a studio and session singer), I continued to sing Bacharach/David songs at corporate functions where I sang with various bands. We had to include a few “oldies” for the families of the bride and groom or bar mitzvah boy, who grew up with those wonderful songs.
I decided I wanted to work with the best musicians – and because of his brilliant arrangements on other albums (esp. Pat Murray, and her Beatles tribute), and his intoxicating jazz voicings when he played keys, I wanted Mark Kieswetter to play on, and do some of the arrangements for the songs to be chosen.
Mark and I got together in September 2015, and discussed song possibilities – and oh, there were SOOOO many to choose from. I already had a few in my mind, which were “MUSTS” and we narrowed down our list of songs to do.
I wanted to give the songs a new twist from the originals. For most of them, I had definite ideas in my mind — new chords, feel, tempi etc. Once I got the charts together, Mark would suggest some wonderful chord changes here and there, and we were ready to record the first six tunes. I turned “Anyone Who Had a Heart” over to Mark, because I couldn’t switch the song up enough from what it was originally. MAGIC!!!! This song was a total challenge for me to learn, and for the band to play, but it turned into a stunning track, complete with Peter Mueller’s total rock-dude guitar solo to add even more “punch”.
Number 9 Audio Group was the studio in which I chose to record. Most of the studios of my past are now gone, razed, no more. Manta, Eastern, RCA, McClear etc. RIP. I knew of the one-of-a-kind Beckstein grand at Number 9, and felt we MUST have the best piano for the best pianist around. Good decision!!!
For the first 6 songs, I wanted less “jazz” and more R&B/Groove feel. So I hired Charlie Cooley on drums, along with Ross MacIntyre on bass (both electric and upright), Peter Mueller (an old dear friend) on electric guitar, and Mark Kieswetter on piano and all keyboards.
We laid down the bed tracks first, and even though Bernie Cisternas was new to me at the time, it didn’t take me long to discover that Bernie is a wonderful recording engineer, with great ears, and above all – total respect for the ideas and musicians he’s working with. Bernie and I quickly became a real team, and for that I’m so thankful!
Then came the sweetening of the tracks – I brought in horns – John MacMurchy and Chase Sanborn, with the addition of my dear old friend and mentor, Russ Little on trombone for You’ll Never Get To Heaven. Mark Kieswetter added some gorgeous strings and horns to Alfie, and suggested adding a sound of gentle wind at the beginning of Windows of the World. Mark’s magic touches were the icing on the cake!
There were backup vocals added by Choria, some GREAT solos – including the one by Mueller, and by John MacMurchy, Chase Sanborn and Russ Little!
Before moving onward, we mixed the first 6 tracks, and took a break for the busy Christmas season.
In January, came the “Jazz” treated songs, where Mark played a larger part in the arranging and feel.
This time we had Ben Riley on drums and Ted Quinlan on guitar, while still having Mark and Ross as the hubs of the rhythm section.
Five tunes were recorded with this swingin’ section, (Close to You, One Less Bell To Answer, I Say a Little Prayer for You, The Look of Love and Promises Promises). We sweetened those tracks with Art Avalos on percussion, John MacMurchy and Chase Sanborn on horns and The Hampton Avenue-4 adding vocals to Close to You and Look of Love.
By this time, it was quite apparent to all of us, that we had something very special, and much bigger than we’d ever predicted. A combination of the magnificent songs themselves, as well as the excellent musicianship and great arrangements created a gestalt, far bigger than the sum of it’s parts. And I swear, I’ve never sung better in my long life!
Next step was mixing the final 5 tunes, and mastering the whole shebang, which Bernie did with aplomb.
Now the cover art is complete – the new head shot, by Yanka photography, is pretty sassy, and the design – implemented by Neale Ramakrishnan at Number 9 – is simple and satisfying.
The royalties have been paid to Mr. Bacharach and David, and we’re ready to manufacture.
The CD’s should be ready for sale on April 16th.
Keep your eye on the shopping cart on this website, where you’ll be able to order your own copy of this special CD, featuring the most melodic, heartfelt songs of the 20th century. I’m proud of this fitting tribute to Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
Congratulations Debbie. I look forward to hearing this.
I’ll let you know as soon as they’re in my hands, Tony!