1. Lookear was composed during a long walk up the beach at Westport, WA, Molly’s favorite “peace refuge.” Often, the wind blows such that if you lean into it, it holds you up. Though I did not know it at the time, Lookear turned out to be a tribute to Thelonious Monk, one of my favorite composers, who I was privileged to hear live in 1964.
2. Capistrano is one of many beaches perfect for a long swim. This song attempts to capture the invigorating feel of surf, sun, and warm breezes, as you gaze back at the palms and cliffs from out beyond the breakers.
3. Rivers – everyone has their favorite. Mine is the Dungeness – the second steepest river in the U.S. – where Molly and I hike each week. The ferns, moss, cedar, and fir speak a love language as clear as the roar of the rapids along the upper Dungeness. This song pays homage to Herbie Hancock’s epic LP “Maiden Voyage,” which wiped us all out in 1965.
4. October is the earliest composition on “Capistrano Sessions.” It was written in 1978 to honor Stan Getz’s fabulous “Getz Au Go Go” band, which I had been thrilled to hear live ten years earlier. “October” emerged during an idyllic period for me. I was swimming daily in the ocean at Laguna Beach and playing in a band called “Storyville,” which boasted both Paul and Brian among its ranks. (Other veterans of that group include John Ferraro, Dan Barrett, and Karen Hammack.) This is the third recording of “October,” and it is fascinating to hear how a song evolves over the years.
5. Paris Buffet is a double entendre, recalling both French jazz of the 1950’s and the wonderful clarinet I play, which Buffet hand-crafted in Paris.
6. Himalayan – which some call my finest melody – was actually given as a gift to me while showering and listening to Canadian news radio. “Himalayan” was written in under fifteen minutes as an étude for my fascinating student from India. But I just could not get the chords right. They were a gift from the talented pianist, George Radebaugh, who plays in my “Dream Band” in Port Townsend, WA. Joel’s bass solo on this cut really knocks me out.
7. Migration: A listener from Alabama asked if this song was inspired by John Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps” LP. I wrote it as an audition piece for John Clayton’s Centrum Jazz Workshop. Traversing all twelve minor keys within its forty-measure chorus, this is the most technically-demanding piece on “Capistrano Sessions.” Though it took me months to master, Brian sight-read the piece in the studio, a fete that both awed and irked me!
8. Molly Ann is fast becoming our band’s “flag waiver,” because of Brian’s brilliant trumpet unison to my altissimo tenor melody. Named after my wife, “Molly Ann” was inspired by her joyful, exuberant smile. The piece was originally intended as an étude to help students experience the excitement of the Ray Charles performance I caught in 1982. Paul was Ray’s drummer for several years, and he perfectly nails the now-Latin-now-swing groove which makes “Molly Ann” an infectious dance number at our gigs.
9. Quiet Passion was written as a birthday gift for my Canadian road manager Neil, whose incomparable sense of humor conceals a man of great sensitivity and depth. This piece is a riddle whose solution involves finding a smoothly-flowing melody to fit over the labyrinthine harmonic structure. The challenge is akin to the way the canvas of a circus tent creates a smooth curved surface over the jagged tent poles beneath it. As usual, Brian’s effortlessly silky mallet work on the vibes belies the tune’s conundrum.
10. Well, I’ve never been to Spain, but Madrid Session is my tribute to that wonderful Phrygian language, which I discovered in the Miles Davis / Gil Evans collaboration “Sketches of Spain.” The tune took three years to write; incorrigible complexity evolves only grudgingly toward the desired elegant simplicity. I am pleased with the arrangement on this one, which allows each player to shine alone as well as in the ensemble. Dave, in particular, sparkles during his much-deserved alone time.
11. With Harbor Cafe Blues we come to the end of our Pacific Coast jazz journey, arriving home at the fabled bistro opposite the Black Ball Ferry terminal in Port Angeles, Washington. My octet spent a memorable year in residence at the café – now called Rick’s Place – where this blues became our nightly closing theme. Note the juxtaposition of a West Coast dialog followed by a New Orleans collective improv. section.