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This project began kind of by accident when Chuck Hedges asked me to arrange one or two tunes for his Milwaukee Connection jazz band and string orchestra for the possible inclusion on an upcoming CD. Chuck is a dear friend and one of my favorite musicians of all time! Of course, I was honored to be asked by Chuck to work with him in this capacity. Over the years, Chuck and I have played many gigs together at jazz festivals and jazz clubs all over the world (Chuck on clarinet and me on string bass). We've also recorded several CDs with either Chuck or Tom Saunders as the leader. This would be the first time I would be able to actually write music for Chuck and a larger ensemble. This was an exciting prospect! So, with Chuck's instructions to me regarding his vision for these charts, I jumped right into it and wrote new string arrangements for Triste and Prelude To A Kiss in less than a week.
After I completed the first two arrangements, I called Chuck and said, "Give me two more tunes to arrange for your jazz band and strings. I'm on a roll and I want to keep writing while I'm hot!" This process went on for several weeks until, with Chuck's guidance, I had completed ten new original arrangements for Chuck Hedges' Milwaukee Connection and string orchestra. Chuck's original intent was just to have a few string arrangements to record with his sextet. But the project had grown beyond what he had envisioned in the beginning. Now we had enough material for an entire CD! Chuck was thrilled. So was I!
The producers of this CD, Denny, Marilyn and Brett Boneck then invited me to come to Milwaukee and participate in the recording sessions for this new CD. My role now shifted from arranger to conductor and musical director. The Bonecks are fantastic people. They are incredibly supportive, gracious and generous. The Bonecks have been close friends with Chuck Hedges for many years and they relished the opportunity to help produce this CD. It was my great pleasure to become friends with the Bonecks during the creation of the CD. Along with the invaluable assistance of Executive Producer Harry Abramowitz, Chuck, the Bonecks, The Milwaukee Connection, the string players, the recording engineer Ric Probst and I buckled down for two very intense days of recording at Rick's Exchange Recording Complex studios in Milwaukee, WI.
What came out of these sessions was a great masterwork of art spawned from the collective efforts of many. Our team consisted of seventeen talented, dedicated, motivated, focused and cheerful people who worked diligently and beyond Chuck's and my expectations to accomplish this difficult goal in a short amount of time. We are all pleased with the outcome of this CD and hope that you enjoy the final product as much as we enjoyed creating it. I want to express my deepest thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of this recording. I am proud to be associated with these great musicians and music lovers: Denny, Marilyn and Brett Boneck, Harry Abramowitz, engineer Ric Probst, violinists Jerry Loughney and Therese Ritchie, violaist Katrin Talbot, cellist Scott Cook, pianist Gary Meisner, string bassist George Welland, drummer Andy LoDuca, guitarists Dave Sullivan and John Parrott, and vibraphonist Bob Maynard. Most importantly, I am extremely grateful to Chuck Hedges for this wonderful opportunity which became one of the greatest musical experiences of my life (and I've had A LOT of great musical experiences!). Thank you, Chuck, for your faith in me and for the chance to help you create something really special with lasting value!
Program Notes by Paul Keller:
This version of Gus Arnheim's Sweet And Lovely is a re-orchestration of a three-horn arrangement that I wrote in 1995 for my jazz sextet The Paul Keller Ensemble. (The PKE plays every Wednesday night our home jazz club in Ann Arbor, MI The Firefly Club.) This was one of our very first arrangements for our steady gig. I have always loved Sweet And Lovely. So has Chuck. We both agreed that it is one of our all-time favorite tunes to play. This arrangement works well for both The PKE with horns and The Milwaukee Connection with strings.
Antonio Carlos "Tom" Jobim's masterpiece Triste speaks softly, "Sad is to live in solitude." The intro and coda refer (instrumentally) to those sorrowful lyrics. This arrangement was conceived with inspiration from and respect to Johnny Mandel, Claus Ogerman, Gordon Jenkins and Nelson Riddle. Their respective arrangements for string orchestras have enhanced the voices and instrumental recordings of hundreds of artists including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, The Andrews Sisters, Rosemary Clooney, Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstein, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Barbara Streisand, Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Johnny Hodges, Wes Montgomery, Cal Tjader, Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz, and the master himself Antonio Carlos Jobim. These arrangers and these artists have provided a large portion of the sound tracks to our lives as lovers of Great American Songs.