about the recording...

The Messenger is the product of my working trio with Ed Withrington and Andy Watson. My association with Ed began in 1999 when we were both studying music at the City College of New York. Andy joined the group in the fall of 2003. Soon thereafter it became clear to me that this was the band I wanted to record my compositions.

The tunes were written over a seven-year period, most of them since the inception of the band in 2001. Here are a few thoughts about the recording and how the music came together...

Papa George- The opening of the melody is a descending chromatic line disguised by bebop melodic devices. I used an octave divider which doubles the top note with two more an octave and two octaves below it. That's where the low-end mass comes from. It is dedicated to the memory of my father-in-law, Georg Martin.

The Messenger- That's Horace Silver. I wrote it as an exercise while studying jazz composition at music school. It combines two elements of Silver's style. One involves connecting two seemingly distant tonal centers with a melodic line that takes you logically from one to the other (like he did in Silver's Serenade.) The other is the inclusion of a brief swing section in an otherwise non-swing tune.

Indigo City is my little New York love song. It attempts to invoke a late-night sense of peace when the sky is dark blue and the city is quiet.

Sensory Awakening- As far as modal music goes, I wanted to avoid doing another spin on So What with the Davis/Coltrane half-step up modulation. Mine goes down a whole step instead and includes a refrain, which I wanted to give the tune shape and a sense of movement.

The Secret Life was inspired by Jim Hall, one of my big heroes on guitar and a wonderful composer. I liked the idea of writing a march with counterpoint as the start to a jazz tune. It also employs two different grooves on the head, going from march to Bossa. I sometimes enjoy switching between two time feels in my writing.

That Greasy Stuff does this somewhat, as well. The main section is based on the ostinato bass groove, then it loosens up, mostly set off by the organ playing long pads at the bridge, then eight bars of swing before the end. Someone recently told me that the tune reminded her of John Scofield's writing. I wasn't thinking about him, but it is hard to escape your influences. I suppose I should take that reference as a compliment.

I first heard Andy Watson's mallet work on Satoshi Inoue's composition Costa Infinita, which they recorded with Larry Goldings on Plays Satoshi. The rhythmic drive and sonic textures coming from the drums provided the main impetus for The Black Rose. The title was (somehow) inspired by Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal.

Perfect Moment was written for my daughter Nina. The title came to me during a long walk home together on a beautiful day. I was recently told that it's a real guitar-player song, something she would like.

Shorter Steps, of course, was an attempt to compose in Wayne Shorter's style, or at least to use some devices that were Wayne-like. When I think about it, Shorter's tune Mahjong was probably the inspiration, though rock guitarist Jimmy Page, another hero of mine, certainly showed his influence on the rhythm guitar part behind the organ solo. That's the thing: my heart really beats for rock music, so hopefully the almost Goth-like verse and swing bridge work together. It's a lot of fun to play live.

That, in essence, is The Messenger. Thanks again to Ed Withrington for his tireless commitment to preparing the record, and to Andy Watson who brought such a definitive sound to the drum chair in this group from his very first night with us on the bandstand. Thanks, too, to Dr. John McAtamney, D.C., a true innovator who is doing marvelous work in teaching people to take charge of their health.

Nick Moran
November, 2006