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CD – Jazz & Beyond, a thought provoking and engaging musical journey starting from acoustic jazz and cinematic compositions driven by mood and sound effects moving to a genre-bending sound with contemporary production, groove and songwriting.
THIS ALBUM EXPLORES HUMAN EMOTION. I’ve always been fascinated by the range of emotion people experience, as well as the mind-body connection. The themes of this album include the journey from darkness into light and the multitude of emotional struggles that we deal with everyday.
Musically, this album explores the world of Jazz and Beyond; from acoustic jazz and cinematic compositions driven by mood and sound effects mixed with improvisation
to a genre-bending sound with contemporary production, groove, and songwriting.
I was thrilled to have a band that really understood my vision and could play all of the music truly authentically. Likewise, I was very excited to have special guests who are inspirations to me – they are artists who are making their own stamp in the world of Jazz and Beyond. I love many different styles of music, and wanted to meld all of these inspirations into a pot, stir it up, to serve you some delicious Grace soup!
In the past couple of years I’ve had the amazing fortune to be a part of two big projects. One is a documentary called Sound of Redemption about the late great alto saxophonist Frank Morgan (who was one of my mentors); the second is the Amazon Prime original series BOSCH based on the book series by NY Times best-selling author Michael Connelly. In the series, the main character Bosch is a LA homicide detective who loves jazz. In season two he comes to see me perform my composition Blues For Harry Bosch at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood. It was a thrill to be filmed for this TV series!!
Music is my therapy. Music says the things words can’t say. I’ve also witnessed its power to shift emotions and heal people. There is a deep soulfulness and heart to this album that I feel connected more strongly than my previous records because of the inspiration it comes from.
The stories told throughout this album are inspired by the many people I’ve encountered in my life: Frank Morgan, Harry Bosch, inmates from San Quentin Prison, others in my life, and my personal experiences. We are all living in this world with different struggles and there is so much music in that. I wanted the listener to experience the scenes in my head through the music. I wanted to convey images of people going through heartache, loss, and hopelessness – through perseverance, hope, redemption, joy, and everything in between.
I hope this album is more than melodies and rhythms to you. I created it to be a friend who will sit with you and inspire hope and light. I’ve spent a lot of time digging deep within for this album, and I hope you feel the heart inside.
Blues for Harry Bosch
The LA homicide detective Harry Bosch from Michael Connelly’s book series “Bosch” inspired this song, in particular the moment of suspense and anticipation Harry feels before a crime hits. Musically, I immediately sensed a pulsing floor tom drum throughout the song, straight eights on the cymbal, a repetitive melody, muted trumpet, and suspenseful sound effects from the guitar. In terms of composition, the bassline came first then the melody trickled in.
He Shot a Man
In 2012, I performed in a concert at San Quentin Prison. I was part of an all-star band, which included Ron Carter, Delfayo Marsalis, Mark Gross, Smitty Smith and George Cables. Together, we were paying tribute to the late, great alto saxophonist Frank Morgan, who spent 30 years in and out of San Quentin. This concert was filmed so it could be part of Frank’s documentary, Sound of Redemption, where I’m featured in the performance footage.
Frank was a mentor and grandfather figure to me during the last couple years of his life, so I was honored to take part in the concert. It was one of the most meaningful performances of my life. We played for 300+ inmates there who shed many tears and gave us seven standing ovations.
I had the chance to talk to some of the inmates that day and hear their stories. In many of their stories, I discovered that emotions had overtaken them in a quick second where they made a bad decision that ended up changing their lives forever. I was moved by this revelation to write this song. When the song later won an ASCAP Young Jazz Composers award in 2013, I felt truly honored.
I wanted to share the story and scenes in my head using a cinematic approach. This song is from the viewpoint of the murderer. The song starts out with a gunshot. Someone has been shot. A police siren is heard from the distance as the murderer starts running. Chaos breaks loose (this is the part where the sound effects enter. Footsteps, glass breaking, and a train on the railroad tracks moves faster and faster as the band engages in free improvisation.) It then quiets down and turns to a reflective mournful moment where this man realizes what he has done. The vocals enter. “He shot a man, he didn’t think twice, he pulled the trigger and took his life.” The last bit is a giant cry as the horns and vocals all wail together, and the rhythm section intensifies. It’s in this section that this man realizes he can’t go back and change it. It all comes crashing down on him. The ending is a big funeral march with remorse.
It was incredible to have Shayna Steele sing on this track. I knew I needed a very special vocalist to powerfully express my lyrics and Shayna immediately came to mind. She did just a few takes and every take was flawless and very powerful. She gave all of us goosebumps in the studio.
By the Grave
When I was putting this CD together, I knew I needed a song that was mournful to match the bittersweet vibe of the other tunes. A scene popped into my head about a fictional character who is walking in a graveyard on a cold dreary day. He sits by the grave of someone he loves, outwardly stoic but holding a pain so great in his heart that it hurts his whole body.
I start the song with a very simple melody that represents a childhood music box as he daydreams of happier times. Then once reality hits him, the beat drops, the saxophone wails, and he continues to traverse time from the past to the present.
Ballad for MC
Ballad for MC is a song I wrote for Michael Connelly, the author of the “Bosch” series of detective novels and executive producer of the movie Sound of Redemption. Michael has been such an incredible supporter of jazz in general and me in particular, and I am so grateful to know him.
While filming for Sound of Redemption, he told me he had written me into his then-new book The Black Box, which made my jaw drop to the ground. He had also written me into his book The Burning Room. I’m honored to have him and fictional Harry Bosch as fans and very happy our paths have crossed.
Trying to Figure It Out
Sometimes, songs seem to fall out from the sky and end up in my fingers, voice, and saxophone. I love those moments. This song was literally written in 30 minutes. I came up with the chords and a feel that reminded me of Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind.”
The lyrics were inspired by one difficult day when I thought back to some specific moments in my life with regret, thinking, “What if I had done something different?” After lying down on my carpet, having a good cry, and taking a nap, I started writing lyrics. I would also like to thank my mom for the words of encouragement she offered me earlier in the day to help keep my head up. Our conversation definitely seeped its way into the song.
I feel this song is a real turning point in the CD because of its sense of conscious hopefulness. It’s about deciding to find a better path forward, staying positive, and keeping on going no matter what. In the end, we’re all in the middle of trying to figure out something about our lives, and we always will be. That’s my philosophy, and it’s how I continue to learn and grow.
I love this song. I actually recorded it on my very first CD when I was 12, and I added it to my set again a few years ago. My fans have been continually asking if I’ve recorded the live version, so I knew I had to include in my new CD! I think the lyrics of the song say everything there is to say. To me, they are simple and yet profound.
This recording was the first live take with Henry Hey on piano. It was magical and sincere.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was crowned the song of the century by the RIAA and National Endowment for the Arts; it’s one of those songs that will forever be etched into our hearts. I love that it’s sung by a dreamer, which might as well be my middle name. This is actually the first song I played when I performed at San Quentin Prison for the Frank Morgan tribute concert. I came out in the middle of the set and played this song – I was close to tears as I remembered Frank Morgan and our time together.
“Hey’s Connection” is an improvised piece by pianist Henry Hey, who came up with it immediately after I asked him to transition us from acoustic jazz into a specific “sonic world” of now. Brilliant!!
One of my favorite things to do is take pop songs I love and add my own spin to them, AKA “Gracify” them. When Coldplay came out with their song “Magic,” I immediately loved it and added the “Gracified” version to my live set list.
When we got into the studio, Michael League came up with an awesome bassline and the song started shaping into a slightly different arrangement (I LOVED the new sound). One of my best friends, Daniel Rojas, an incredible film composer and producer in LA, was the vocal producer on this song and helped shape its dynamics. Big props to the band for their awesome collaboration on this song.
This song, like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is about hopes and dreams. It’s about a love that’s broken but hasn’t broken the lover – he still believes in “magic” and falling in love again. I am thrilled with the way these ideas tie in with the theme of this CD.
The Other One
I wrote this song with the amazing singer/songwriter David Poe!
He came up with a super catchy chorus which I immediately loved and then we wrote the verses together. I love how swanky and mysterious the tone is, especially paired with a chorus that is so strong and empowering. His idea was to write each of the verses about different women that the focus of the song had known (“the other ones”) and what they were like. I love how this chorus sings and how I can really express my independence with it: “I got my own thing,” “I’m not like the other ones.” Amen – ain’t that the truth for us all.
Given the previous tracks about hope and dreams, the other big piece of the puzzle is remembering that we are all good enough exactly how we are. We are all unique beings, says this song: “You won’t find another one like me, no no no.” Every time I remind myself of that, I know I’m on the right vibration.
Blues for Harry Bosch Remix
I thought it would be great to have Blues for Harry Bosch spun into a new “sonic world.” When it came to remix the track, the producer Mocean Worker immediately came to mind. I asked him if he would be into it and was delighted when he said yes! I am a big fan of his work and it was awesome to hear his take on my song. He brought the funk and I love it.
I recorded a gospel/jazz album a few years ago and one of the tracks, “Amazing Grace,” made it into my live set as a very upbeat, energizing final number. However, for this recording, I decided to approach the song with a completely different perspective and started from scratch. A cool, funky bassline came to me and I built the song around it.
I love the joy and grooviness that comes out in this track – the joy that comes from redemption and hope. We wanted to record something with a great vibe that makes the listener feel good.
Lemons Make Lemonade
One of the best moments of being an artist is hearing my original songs come to life even better than I could have imagined. It’s the best feeling in the world and such a high.
Jon Batiste, the singer, instrumentalist, and Musical Director for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, is on this track. After taping the Late Show, Jon recorded it in his dressing room in one take. This song was inspired by his joyful and positive energy, and his playing and singing is tasteful and soulful. I am so, so happy he’s featured on this track.