Choosing songs, which were tested over a weekend’s engagement at New Orleans’ Snug Harbor before three days in the studios of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, became a process in which all five musicians had input. “Everyone in the band is always listening to all kinds of music,” Marsalis emphasizes, “so it’s not as if we had to go out and do research on vocal records.
“For example, I had been listening to the Oscar Brown song `Long as You’re Living’ for two years before the date. The first time I heard Sting’s `Practical Arrangement,’ I called him and asked for a lead sheet, because I wanted to play that song with the quartet even before the idea of recording with Kurt came up. I also chose ` Só Tinha de Ser Com Você,’ a Jobim song that has not been done to death. I told everyone to study Elis Regina’s version, because I wanted us to sound authentic rather than generic. Doing `Blue Gardenia’ was my idea, while Eric originally suggested Chris Whitley’s `From One Island’ when we were talking about more recent songs.
“At one point Kurt said that there was too much melancholy, so I came up with `There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon’ because I love Shirley Horn’s version. But so much of the beauty is in the melancholic material, and I’m confident that my audience is ready for real life.”
Preview the music on the album here.