featuring Andy Snitzer and Everette Harp
“Everette and I are good friends and fans of each other's playing. We've always talked about doing something together, and the idea of paying tribute to our heroes while connecting the dots to our own music was the INSPIRATION for this project” - Andy Snitzer
Saxophonist - Andy Snitzer
It’s always been a key part of Andy Snitzer’s life and career. The multi-talented saxophonist felt this wondrous sense of the surreal when he was called, all of 25yrs old, to contribute his blazing solo on Boy Meets Girl’s Top Five 1988 hit “Waiting For A Star To Fall.” A likewise feeling, upon the release of Ties That Bind, his 1994 solo debut on Warner Bros., and each critically acclaimed album since. And likewise, every night he played with the Rolling Stones on their epic Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon tours, then two decades (1999-2018) on the road with Paul Simon, soloing and creating fire with the horn section, and most recently touring the globe these past five years (pandemic era excepted) with longtime pal Chris Botti.
Thinking back fondly and looking ahead excitedly as he releases his eighth solo album, everything still seems ripe with transcendence, as if Snitzer has been both the creator and guiding force of what can only be described as A Beautiful Dream.
“The inspiration for the title and theme of the album starts with me looking back fondly on my career and being elevated by all the music I’ve had the good fortune to make, both as a solo artist and in collaboration with so many other great artists. Being in a position to share my creativity with the world, and to have an audience for that creativity. But it’s also more personal than that. It’s about loving my little family (Snitzer's daughter Madeleine helped him to pen all the titles on the album); it's about the joy of the intersections I’ve had with so many people, all across the globe. If you told me as a 16-year-old aspiring musician that this would be the story, I would never have believed you.”
While Snitzer has long felt that his 2011 album Traveler – an epic chronicle of his multi-faceted whirlwind life on the road – is the landmark by which all his others are measured, there always comes a point where the songwriter in him grows restless and he begins kicking up new tracks, never knowing where the process will lead. A few years after releasing Higher (2020), he found himself in mad scientist/musical tinkerer mode, locking himself in the studio, whipping up MIDI arrangements and saxophone parts that form the foundation of the ten tracks on A Beautiful Dream.
Once again, Snitzer’s chief collaborator in further developing these raw elements is Alain Mallet, onetime Paul Simon bandmate and Berklee College of Music professor. Mallet played smaller roles on earlier Snitzer projects- Traveler (2011), The Rhythm (2013), and American Beauty (2015)- before taking the co-producer chair on Higher. Mallet brings a colorful mad scientist aesthetic of his own to A Beautiful Dream, immersing in the saxophonist’s raw tracks for days, then emerging from the lab with his own fresh textures and flair.
“It’s a cool partnership, because the way Alain expresses himself on my arrangements varies from song to song, with exciting and sometimes unexpected results,” Snitzer says. “He may send me something back that’s fully in line with the vision I had, or he may send a completely upended arrangement, far afield from what I initially imagined. If you put Alain in a free position, with full license to express his talents, you'll be rewarded with tons of musical creativity, guaranteed.”
On A Beautiful Dream, the essential fusion of tracks created by Snitzer and Mallet are enhanced – and quite literally, “jazzed up” - by a team of longtime friends and collaborators, including drummers Clint de Ganon, Little John Roberts, Mike White, Graham Hawthorne, and Gary Novak; bassists Tim Lefebvre and John Patitucci; keyboardist Mike Ricchiuti; guitarists James Harrah and Matt Beck and trumpeters Jim Hynes and Tony Kadleck.
Snitzer shares the joys of A Beautiful Dream like a freewheeling adventure, his robust tenor (on eight tracks), lyrical alto, and sweet soprano catching fire on tunes that reflect all his trademark contemporary jazz sub-styles. Out of the gate with the edgy, jangling, and infectious mid-tempo soul/funk on 1st radio single “Groove Commission”, Snitzer then grabs visceral hold of our bodies and hearts on the clubby, thumping high octane urgency of “Tonight’s The Night” (featuring a snazzy horn textured hook). He tickles our romantic fancy on the gentle, seductive ballad “Whispered”, then whisks us off to global destinations, with the exotic, percussively intoxicating “My Melody (Minha Melodia)” and the lushly tropical paradise of “Isola Bella.”
If A Beautiful Dream had dropped during the vinyl LP era, the flip side would launch with the title track, which like the dreamscape of Snitzer’s life and career begins with a gentle rush of hope and inspiration (conveyed as a simple sax-piano duet) before building into a crescendo of adventure, possibility, and achievement. This journey within a single tune sets the tone for the rest of the album, which includes the tight, in the pocket urban jazz/funk romp “Allure,” the silky road, richly passionate “Desi”, and the alternately fiery and cool/laid back old-school soul-jazz groover “La Cavaliere.” Snitzer and company wrap A Beautiful Dream with the perfect chillout bedroom ballad, “Love Star.”
“This album is my Beautiful Dream. An expression of gratitude for my personal and creative lives, another opportunity to share my musical truths” says Snitzer. “And the dream continues, personally, and as long as I’m able to keep creating, making albums that I'm proud of, while improving as a composer, record-maker, and saxophone artist. A Beautiful Dream is my statement of gratitude, for this very beautiful life.” www.andysnitzer.com
Saxophonist - Everette Harp
As the 90's progressed and smooth jazz artists began incorporating more hip-hop and classic R&B grooves into the music which came to define the genre, Everette Harp found himself ahead of the curve. Raised in church and weaned on gospel and soul music, the Houston born saxman on his first two Blue Note recordings, Everette Harp (1992) and Common Ground (1994), was already leaning this way, combining dynamic funk edges and urban textures into the mix. His popular 1997 tribute to Marvin Gaye's 1971 watershed album What's Going On combined the best of his two worlds, modern day contemporary jazz and the classic soul he grew up with. 1998's Better Days further solidified his place among the chart-toppers of smooth jazz. While on his previous albums, Harp sought to push the envelope stylistically and show off all of his abilities as writer, arranger, producer, and player (even of straight-ahead jazz), For the Love strips away the diversions and focuses purely on Harp's ability to convey powerful emotions via lyrical playing, beautiful melodies, and sensuous rhythms.
While high ambition has always been Harp's trademark as an artist and performer, on For the Love, the saxman looked forward to the challenge of letting go of pretension, focusing on the love of song and above all, keeping things simple. "I've always looked upon each album as a learning experience, and for me that used to mean trying to fill each song with huge arrangements and every sonic idea that came to mind, scattering styles on the other songs once the radio tunes were recorded, and playing a lot of notes. But like George Duke has long told me, there is an art form to being simple and communicating honestly. The result, I believe is my most focused project to date."
Keeping with that sensibility, the album title For the Love is not simply a reflection of the very romantic vibe found in many of the collection's titles. Rather, it refers to his overall intention to play from the heart for the love of the music. "The title encompasses the whole feeling of the project and the personal place I'm in right now. There's less riffing, less eclecticism and more real feeling. I stepped back a bit and took a more laid-back approach. That was a bit of a struggle at first, but I absolutely love the results."
To help him find that crucial balance, Harp brought in veteran producer Steve Dubin (George Benson, Al Jarreau, Richard Elliot) to co-write (with Harp) and produce six of the tracks -- the bubbly retro-funk opener So Automatic, the soulful hip-hop flavored romance I Just Can't Let Go, the edgy, throbbing alto showcase Right Back Atcha (featuring Ricky Peterson's lively electric piano), the bluesy and atmospheric Love Conditionally, the snappy and percussive jam Dancin' With You (with Doc Powell's crisp electric guitar harmonies and solo) and Put It Where You Want It, a rollicking, brassy and blues-drenched cover of a Crusaders classic conceived as a duet between Harp and electric guitarist Jeff Cobb. "Steve knew my reputation as a guy who loved big and beautiful productions, and I knew he would bring a centered approach and a sensibility to the tunes which radio would respond to," says Harp. "His objective point of view added so much to the recording process."
Harp produced the moody, eloquent soprano piece I Miss Me With You, which he co-wrote with popular smooth jazz keyboardist Brian Culbertson; and a lush, dreamy soprano-driven cover of the Stevie Wonder chestnut, Where Were You When I Needed You. For the Love also features two magnificent vocal tracks -- the R&B/pop flavored I Can't Take it Anymore, featuring the up-and-coming group 20/20 and produced by Buster and Shivani, and We Don't Have To Say Goodbye, on which Harp shows his own strong vocal abilities; the track was co-produced by co-writer Shaun LaBelle.
As with his previous recordings, For the Love features some of smooth jazz and R&B's most dynamic and acclaimed musicians. Aside from those previously mentioned, Harp is joined by keyboardist George Duke (on I Can't Take It Anymore and Where Were You When I Needed You), guitarists Ray Fuller, Tony Maiden and Paul Jackson, Jr.; bassists Larry Kimpel and Alex Al; drummer Li'l John Roberts and percussionist Lenny Castro.
Most musicians can reach back and find a turning point moment when they realized exactly what their lives would be about. But as with his lifelong, ever powerful faith in God, Everette Harp only remembers that he always played music. He started playing piano at two, sax at four and says, "It was just like breathing for me." Born and raised in Houston the youngest of eight children, Harp's most profound early influences were the gospel music he heard at the church where his dad was the minister and the great jazz performers he began listening to in high school -- Grover Washington, Jr., Hank Crawford, and Stanley Turrentine. After graduating from North Texas State as a music major, he worked for a brief time as an accountant before playing in a handful of local bands and picking up studio jingle work.
Harp moved to Los Angeles in 1988, and his career as a sideman took off; after a brief tour with Teena Marie, he traveled internationally with Anita Baker (an association that went on and off until 1995), performed with Sheena Easton and Kenny Loggins and began developing his studio chops behind such artists as Patti LaBelle. Harp signed a solo deal with Manhattan/Blue Note in 1992 and recorded his self-titled debut between tours with George Duke and Marcus Miller.
That album's popularity led to further developments which established Harp as one of smooth jazz's greatest ambassadors -- a date at the Montreaux Jazz Festival; a tour with labelmate Rachelle Ferrell; playing alongside President Clinton, performing Your Mama Don't Dance at the1993 Inaugural ball (Clinton borrowed one of Harp's saxes for the occasion!); and appearing weekly with The Posse on The Arsenio Hall Show. In the later Nineties, his sax was heard performing the theme song for Entertainment Tonight, as well as the Soul Train theme (Produced by George Duke), which is still being heard over the main titles. He also played the main title theme to Roger Ebert at the Movies. Over the years, Harp has also performed and/or recorded with a wide variety of pop, R&B and jazz superstars – Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick, Jeffrey Osborne, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Al Jarreau, After 7, Phil Perry, Go West, Natalie Cole, Chante Moore, Will Downing, John Tesh, Branford Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, Stanley Clarke, Michael McDonald and Larry Carlton among others.
While Harp has cut back on his side gigs over the past few years to focus more on his solo career and other musical endeavors, the one superstar association he has continued is with Kenny Loggins. Over the past two years, Harp has opened for Loggins' concerts with his own band, then joined the singer/songwriter as keyboardist, saxophonist and backing vocalist. "I love playing for other artists because I can show up, have a good time and not have to worry about anything beyond doing a great performance," Harp says. "I've learned so much from working with different artists. Anita Baker taught me all about stage presence and audience rapport, while studying Kenny's amazing musicianship has helped build my own musicality. Also, production Zen-master George Duke taught me musical maturity and an amazing amount about how to produce great records."
Two of Harp's brothers followed in their father's footsteps by becoming Baptist ministers, and the saxman feels that playing music is his way of bringing the love of God to his own audience. "I see my music and career as a gift from God, as though I am simply a conduit with a force working through me to entertain people and make them happy," he says. "My spiritual side helps me get in touch with my emotional side, and together, they create the feeling that comes from my horns. Before every performance, my band and I pray that God help us fill our audience with the love of music He has given us. My focus is always on God and influencing my listeners in a positive way.”