Spirits of the Songs
Lullaby of the Leaves mp3 sample clip
The first time I heard Lullaby of the Leaves was when the motion picture soundtrack of Robert Altmanís Kansas City came out it the 1990ís. What I didnít realize at the time was that it was a 1930ís classic that Mary Lou Williams and Don Byas recorded on their famous duo album. Steven Bernstein has a great arrangement of this song on the Kansas City session mentioned above.
I have some really great bluesy statements on this track that come directly from the tradition of Don Byas. One great musician who sounds a lot like Byas is James Carter. James was on the Kansas City soundtrack playing the role of Ben Webster. When I play a ballad, I try to mimic these great musiciansí sounds.
One thing about Byas that stands out was his place in jazz history. He is old enough to have known the father figures such as Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, yet young enough to keep up with the Billy Eckstein crew of Bird and Diz. He, along with Luck Thompson, was one of the under-documented tenor saxophonists of classic jazz. Therefore it is such a treat to hear him in a duo setting with Mary Lou.
James Carter happens to be one of my favorite musicians today simply because his sound is part of the Don Byas tradition of jazz tenor saxophone. I wish the Kansas City production crew would have included him or Joshua Redman on the Lullaby of the Leaves track for the motion picture. You can really picture the way things used to be in old KC when you listen to this ballad. This is the climate that Charlie Parker grew up in.
Lullaby of the Leaves is possibly my favorite track on the album. Iím most impressed with my work on this composition than other. You can hear the melody (played is a deep voice) emerge from the cymbals. Then I continue to make a truly original statement in my solo. It reminds me of the way things must have been like back in the day on Striverís Row in Harlem.