Compositions for guitar by Duck Baker, by various artists
A 2-CD set of Duck Baker tunes, featuring solo and duo performances by Duck Baker and 5 Italian musicians.
Barcode Records, Italy
Release date: September 1, 2017
|CD 1 (Duos)|
|01||Asking Too Much||Val Bonetti, Massimo Gatti||3:27|
|02||Deja Vouty||Duck Baker, Michele Calgaro||3:54|
|03||Costanza||Davide Mastrangelo, Massimo Gatti||3:29|
|04||Making Ends Meet||Duck Baker, Massimo Gatti||3:53|
|05||One for T-Bone||Val Bonetti, Davide Mastrangelo||3:37|
|06||The Corner||Val Bonetti, Davide Mastrangelo||2:47|
|07||Pareto Waltz||Luigi Maramotti, Massimo Gatti||3:32|
|08||238,857 Miles||Duck Baker, Michele Calgaro||4:31|
|CD 2 (Solos)|
|01||Count On It||Michele Calgaro||3:20|
|02||The Heat||Val Bonetti||4:50|
|03||Walking Down Bill St.||Duck Baker||2:50|
|04||Micky and Lou||Davide Mastrangelo||2:54|
|05||Mez a Mez||Duck Baker||3:32|
|06||(i can’t go on) I’ll Go On||Michele Calgaro||4:12|
|07||Losers Keepers||Val Bonetti||3:31|
|08||The Blues Is The Blues Is||Duck Baker||3:34|
|09||Growing Pains||Michele Calgaro||3:45|
|10||Six of One||Val Bonetti||2:44|
|11||Marking Time||Duck Baker||4:48|
|12||The North Side of Broad||Michele Calgaro||3:25|
In early 2014, an Italian patron of the arts known as L. S. asked Duck Baker to compose a body of new material called Pareto Sketches. Little was specified about this commission though the assumption was that the focus would be fingerstyle guitar pieces, since Baker had already produced about 100 of these. But the production within 2 years of over 100 new pieces, of which some 80 were fingerstyle solos, surprised everyone, including the composer. And since it was obvious that Baker the composer had outdistanced the capabilities of Baker the interpreter, Luigi Maramotti offered to back a recording project somewhat along the lines of the Donna Lombarda, the collection he had produced in 2012, which featured several American guitarists interpreting folk tunes from Emilia Romagna. For the new project, four Italian guitarists would join Baker himself in performing a cross-section of the new material, with mandolinist Massimo Gatti joining on a few numbers. In all, 21 of the new tunes were recorded, including 13 solo pieces and 8 duets, during 3 different recording sessions between November, 2015 and December, 2016.
Among those asked to participate was Michele Calgaro, a jazz guitarist from Vicenza who has amassed quite a list of credentials as a performer (with, among others, Claudio Fasoli, Paolo Fresu, Franco Cerri and Enrico Rava) and teacher (Thelonious Jazz School, Vicenza, Castelfranco Veneto Conservatory, Vicenza Conservatory). Michele first met Duck Baker when he attended a fingerstyle seminar in Mestre in 1981, and the two have been friends ever since. Since they have performed together many times over the years it seemed natural for them to record a couple of duets as well as for Michele to arrange a few solos. Also invited was Val Bonetti, a Milano-based player who has studied classical, jazz, and traditional blues guitar styles. Bonetti has worked extensively as a soloist and also in duo with vocalist Sara Mambrinias, and bassist Cristiano Da Ros, with whom he has toured in Italy and abroad. Bonetti’s style seems to owe something to Woody Mann as well as to such earlier figures as Lonnie Johnson, but he is a very interesting arranger and interpreter in his own right. Davide Mastrangelo has earned a reputation as one of the best fingerstyle acoustic players in Italy, more for folk, blues and swing than for modern jazz, but he is probably even better known for his teaching activities and for his nine didactic books. Davide’s CentroStudiFingerstyle in Arezzo was the first guitar school in Italy dedicated exclusively to teaching fingerstyle. Graduates from the CFS program have established other schools around the country. Davide came in to perform a couple of very demanding waltzes (Pareto Sketches includes a total of ten waltzes), and Luigi Maramotti himself contributed a third, demonstrating that, though he is not a professional performer, Maramotti certainly “knows which end of the guitar to blow into,” as American musicians like to say. Davide Mastrangelo also joined Val Bonetti for fascinating duo arrangements of two blues tunes. These reflect not only influences of blues and jazz players but also something of the “folk-baroque” style developed by Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn. The recording engineer on this project, Massimo Gatti, is best known as a mandolinist, in the world of bluegrass, new grass and “Dawg” music. Massimo has worked over the years with Bluegrass Stuff, Abacus, Hot Stuff, Euro Grass, and other groups. It was natural to invite him to add his mandolin on two of the waltz tunes, and he shows his versatility on “Making Ends Meet,” the blues tune he plays with Baker, and even more on “Asking Too Much,” the 5/4 jazz number with Val Bonetti.
Duck Baker’s own reputation as a fingerstyle jazz guitarist is secure, and the present collection should help solidify his position as a composer. Even his earliest, folk-oriented records featured Baker originals, and by the time The Art of Fingerstyle Jazz Guitar appeared in 1978 he was starting to write sophisticated, contemporary music. He has continued to evolve his approach over the years, and his immersion in the music of Herbie Nichols and Thelonious Monk has helped sharpen his harmonic sense.
San Francisco, CA
Notes on the tunes and titles, by Duck Baker
The naming of jazz tunes is often a matter of finding a colloquial turn of speech that will fill the need, sometimes in a way that seems almost arbitrary. Such is the case with such titles here as “Making Ends Meet,” “Asking Too Much,” “Marking Time,” “Count On It,” and several others. Sometimes a title is a matter of word play, as is “Walking Down Bill Street” here (from an older song, “Walking Down Beale Street”), or “Losers Keepers,” (from the expression “finders keepers, losers weepers”). There are also in-joke titles like “Deja Vouty,” (the nonsensical word “vouty” being an important ingredient in the great hipster-era performer Slim Gaillard’s word salads), and “238,857 Miles,” so-named because it is based on the harmonic structure of “How High The Moon.” Along somewhat similar lines, “Six of One” derives its title from the expression “six of one, half dozen of the other,” because it is written in F#, the key signature with six sharps, which can also be written as Gb, with a half dozen flats. There are also tunes here named for people, like “Helen,” for my wife Helen Roche, “Micky and Lou,” for my good friend Luigi Maramotti, and his wife, Michela, and “Costanza,” for their daughter, as well as “One for T-Bone,” named for the great electric blues pioneer, T-Bone Walker. We also celebrate a couple of places, with “Pareto Waltz” and “The North Side of Broad,” the latter referring to Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia. Finally, “(i can’t go on) I’ll Go On” is the concluding line from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable, and “The Blues Is The Blues Is The Blues Is” is what it is.
Stylistically, the range here is from the ragtimey swing of “Bill Street” through blues tunes like “One for T-Bone” and tunes with an almost R&B flavor like “The Heat,” to more modern numbers like “Marking Time” and the lyrical intent of the waltzes and ballads. It’s worth saying something about one subset of the Pareto tunes that is represented by the two duos I did with Michele, “238,857 Miles” and “Deja Vouty.” Like many jazz pieces, these two are contrafacts, which is to say new melodies written over the harmonic progressions of standard pop songs which are familiar to all jazz musicians. The use of contrafacts became widespread during the early modern era of jazz, with the style known as bebop or bop. Many of the tunes written by such well-known beboppers as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell were contrafacts. But none of these bebop contrafacts were written in 3/4, and at some point I got intrigued by this and decided to write a few myself.
I am very grateful to L. S. for having commissioned this body of work, to Luigi Maramotti for having produced the recording, and Massimo Gatti for all his work recording, mixing, and mastering. Thanks also to Luigi and Massimo as well as Michele, Davide, and Val, for bringing the music to life and adding so much of themselves to the interpretations.