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Released in 2009, my debut album “Everlasting, Wonderful, Immanuel” showcases the Akai EWI4000s electric wind instrument, bringing new sounds and styles to nine Christmas classics and two originals, speaking the timeless message of Christmas to this generation. Familiar melodies with unexpected twists, fresh improvisations, and all-new arrangements keep the surprises coming from the first downbeat to the last ringing chord.
Make no mistake – this is a CHRISTmas album, not some mamby-pamby-winter-solstice-happy-holidays-no-matter-what-you-believe-in album. So whether the groove is smooth or slammin’, traditional or techno, rhumba or reggae, heavy or humble, peaceful or powerful, the focus of each tune in this eclectic jazz set is on JESUS – the Reason for every season. May you experience His might, mercy, and majesty as you listen.
Liner Notes/Technical Details/Lyrics
- Angels We Have Heard On High
- What Child is This
- A Moment of Peace
- Holly and the Ivy
- Joy(to the World)
- He Came for Love
- O Christmas Tree
- God Rest Ye, Jerry Mentalman
- In the Bleak Midwinter
- Wassail Cubano
- The Ballad of Jesus Christ
1.Angels We Have Heard On High
I couldn’t think of a better way to highlight the cheerful and joyous attitude than with a peppy, Latin arrangement, showcasing the “brass and flute” combination commonly used in this genre.
The accompaniment is all “acoustic” with fretless bass, drums, piano, and guitar along with kalimba, marimba, and horns from Reason 4
. The solo instruments are EWI Trumpet (Patchman #3
) and “piccolo” (upper register of Ambient Recorder, Patchman #9).
2.What Child is This
With certain Christmas songs, it is hard to escape the shadow of Vince Guaraldi
, and this is definitely one of them. I decided to keep his idea of an extra break between verses and choruses but went with an edgier progression and alternating hard and soft sections. Perhaps Charlie Brown would not have approved, but I like it!
The accompaniment features fretless bass and one acoustic guitar throughout, with a second acoustic guitar alternating with a heavily distorted one for soft and hard sections. The only keyboard is a flutey pad in many of the soft sections. The solo instruments are all EWI: “Lyle”(Patchman#71
) for the flutey one and “Guitarrish”(Patchman #46) and “Tigress”(#86) for the “guitars”. The really wild one in the middle is effected with a phaser plug-in in Reaper
and also uses the hold button on the EWI to good effect.
3.A Moment of Peace
The first of the two originals in this set, like the title says, this is just a peaceful little waltz. No pretensions of the “next big thing” – simply an easy listen and a break from the all-too-hectic pace we can fall into this time of year.
They stand by your manger, the shepherds come ’round
to worship The Baby, The Lamb they have found.
No thought of the hill where You’ll become The Way.
A moment of peace on that first Christmas day.You look at your mother with eyes old and new.
She looks back and wonders just what you will do.
No thought of the day when You’ll make all things right.
A moment of peace on that first Christmas night.We come to your altar. We lay our lives down.
We worship You Jesus, Creator and Crown.
The King of all heaven, You meet with us here.
A moment of peace for Christmas this year.
In keeping with the mood, the arrangement and instrumentation are kept simple with acoustic bass, light drums, and electric Rhodes piano accompanying the vocal. The solo sections add a fairly clean Telecaster guitar and french horns to the backdrop. The “lead” EWI patch is Flugelhorn (Patchman#2
), heard during the intro and outro and taking the first solo chorus. Also in the solo section are “Soprano Sax” (probably a custom patch called “soprano flute” by Gary Zydek submitted to the AkaiEWI group at Yahoo.com
), and Recorder (Patchman #8 or #9). Effects are minimal, with the flugel just getting a bandpass filter and no reverb even; all the other horns just get a little reverb.
4. Holly and the Ivy
Sticking with the mellow mood, this laid-back arrangement has four horns that do overlapping harmony, solo, and melody choruses before all four join for the outro.
All the horns on this tune use the Alesis Nanosynth sound module with Patchman’s soundbank
. After the brief intro by MeloHorn(#11) and Piccolo(#27), MeloHorn takes the head. On the repeat of the head, Piccolo does harmony then takes a solo chorus then a melody chorus with Tenor(#43) harmony. This pattern repeats for Muted Trumpet(#4) with MeloHorn taking the harmony for Muted Trumpet’s melody before repeating the head one last time. I really like how the outro turned out with the interweaving lines from Tenor and Muted Trumpet with sprinkles from MeloHorn and Piccolo.
Backing is a little more varied than the last tune with finger bass, “disco” drum kit believe it or not, and marimba laying the foundation for an assortment of pads that switch basically every chorus for added interest.
By the way, if you think this song is too slow, I originally had it about 20 clicks slower (think molasses in January 😉 ).
5.Joy(to the World)
I don’t know if Gerry Niewood
wrote this tune specifically with Christmas in mind, but if there is one word that embodies Christmas, it would be exactly that – JOY. Tragically, Gerry was killed in a plane crash this past February. Hopefully he can rest in peace knowing his music is still bringing joy to others.
For most of the “traditional” tunes, I start the arrangement with a “clean sheet of paper” – just the melody line in Band-in-a-Box
. I glance at the normal chord progression and then try to forget it as I search for chords that fit the melody in different ways than the original. For this one, the only real “cover” in the set (in the sense that it must be licensed), I stuck to the original chord progression. I also tried to keep the original’s bouncy feel, but applied some slightly different styles to the sections.
This is a long tune with form AABAC so it only gets played fully twice, one head and one improv. The third run-through just goes ABC with a pass of Joy To the World between ‘B’ and ‘C’ (in waltz time instead of the usual 4/4). The final ‘C’ section also features sketches of JTTW.
This is the first of two songs in the set that feature not EWI but recorders. Here, alto recorder opens, taking the first ‘A’ section. Before repeating ‘A’, I added a key change progression to bring the melody up a fifth instead of an octave like Gerry did. During this key change, alto moves off the stage while soprano recorder moves to center. (Part of the beauty of this change is that the fingerings don’t change!) For the ‘B’ section, there is a reverse key change with soprano exiting and alto coming back on for ‘B’ and the final ‘A’. The ‘C’ is soprano recorder again (without a key change) before turning over to EWI soprano sax (really the “soprano flute” patch mentioned previously) for the improv chorus. For the final chorus, lead turns back over to alto recorder, with EWI soprano sax providing harmony/counterpoint.
6.He Came for Love
This song is special to me as it was the first song of mine that my first praise band agreed to play. We played it several times during the 2007 and 2008 Christmas seasons and was usually well received, out of politeness or appreciation I’m not sure ;-).
He came to Mary in Bethlehem.
He came to Joseph by God’s command.
He came to twelve men of Galilee.
He came to save me on Calvary!Chorus:
He came for love. He came for love.
He came for love. He came for love.Verse 2:
He came to heal the deaf and blind.
He came for lost sheep to seek and find.
He came to cast out the hosts of hell.
He came to obey the Father’s will!ChorusVerse 3:
He came to send us to everywhere.
He came to teach us His love to share.
He came to give strength for every hour.
He came to fill us with His power!Bridge:
He left all of heavens glory.
I cannot help but tell the story
of the God who saved my soul,
washed my sins away, and made me whole – His name is Jesus!Chorus
I didn’t stray too far from the live praise band instrumentation: electric bass (fans of the old TV show Night Court should dig this bass line!), acoustic guitar, acoustic drums, keys (electric piano here), and one horn (EWI “soprano flute” again – one of my favorite patches) – but I did add an electric guitar in places (mostly choruses) and extra strings/organ in the solo and bridge.
For the sake of my old bandmates, a few things here might sound a little different with this solo production. First, I sequenced in the original composed bass line for the chorus that got too boring for Luke. I stretched out the solo a bit and cut out some vocal repeats at the end. I also finally got the vocal timing right at the end of bridge (just teasing Marc ;-))
7. O Christmas Tree
This is another “Guaraldi is king” song, so to break from his version, I added a modal section as intro instead of his “straight melody” intro (this modal sequence is also used for the outro and once in the middle), stuck with swing throughout, and started from scratch with the chord progression. I also tried to select some interesting instrument choices including vibes and whatever-you-call-that-thing-after-the-vibes.
The “modal” section probably isn’t strictly modal since it has two chords (GMaj7 and F6/9) instead of one, but you get the idea. For solo instruments, the opening is EWI “Viper” (Patchman#77
) for the intro, adding Tuba (an Akai factory sound) for the head. The head pays homage to V.G. with just acoustic bass/drums/piano before bringing back strings for most of the solo choruses. Tuba takes the first chorus followed by two choruses on the vibes. Yes, this is an EWI patch! It’s a Reason 4 NN-XT
sample-based patch with breath control added and using the EWI’s hold feature to simulate two mallets. (Also with the vibes, a phased/fuzzed electric guitar enters.) The next two choruses are also a Reason 4 instrument, but this time using the Subtractor synth
. The patch is called ‘ewiharmonsyn’ and comes from Virgil Franklin. (By the way, this is the only patch in the set that uses the mod wheel, although I cheated and applied the mod wheel automation after the main EWI pass.) Finally, the Nanosynth Baritone Sax (Patchman#44
) brings it home for the final head and outro, where some background vibes (not EWI this time) make a “return” appearance.
8.God Rest Ye, Jerry Mentalman
This is an example of “the title makes the song”. There is no deep meaning to the title, just a simple play-on-words reversing the starting sounds of the last two words. But I got to thinking, “What if this guy named Jerry Mentalman wrote the song. First of all, the timing needs to be weirded out. Then some odd instruments, and throw in some unexpected chord sequences too.” Basically, how “out” can I make it without getting all Ornette-Coleman-free-jazz-chaos on it.
The time signatures on the chosen styles are 5/4 and 10/8, making for some jerky note lengths on the melody (some longer, some shorter) to fit. The EWI patches are Funky Pluck(Patchman#50
) and Funk Lead(Patchman#49). The latter I like to think of as a “Bernie Kenerson
patch”. He uses this kind of “extreme-effect-of-breath-to-filter-frequency” patch quite often. The #50 solo is effected fairly heavily in Reaper so it sounds pretty different than the #50 head. Listening back to it, the background is deceptively simple. There are actually two different chord progressions and two styles, each of which has two sub-styles; 6 of the possible 8 combinations are used over the course of 7 choruses. The interlude between most choruses is an odd combination of mostly half-step and diminished changes but it works. The backing instruments have some “odd” choices too with “Cosmo Bass” from the Reason Thor synth
, sitar, and Maelstrom synth
pads making appearances alongside the more normal Rhodes electric piano and fairly clean electric guitar.
9.In the Bleak Midwinter
As old Christmas songs go, this one is relatively “new”, with the music not being published until 1906, but the recorder quartet opening takes it back a few centuries. The recorder arrangment follows the traditional vocal arrangment and the chord progression fits it pretty closely as well, with just a few extensions, substitutions, pushes, etc. added to keep it interesting.
I probably should call the opening a recorder “faketet” since I don’t actually own a bass recorder. For that part, I played alto recorder and pitch-shifted it down an octave in the DAW. This has the side-effect of “flattening” the tone (losing upper harmonics) but not a bad effect in this instance. I guess you can decide if the wind (from the Reason Thor synth
) is cheesy or cool – I vote for the latter. This happens to be the only song in the set that doesn’t use a keyboard accompaniment, instead opting for up to 3 acoustic guitar tracks (nylon and steel) along with acoustic bass/drums for the bones and with dulcimer, strings, and cello to flesh it out. Of the two EWI instruments, the supporting Bass Clarinet(Patchman#12
) enters first followed by the lead Oboe(#7). By the way, after the head, the rest of the oboe part is a single take – not that I only played it once, just that I ended up using a whole take instead of splicing together different choruses as I usually end up doing.
I don’t know how much wassail
they drink in Cuba. Probably not much but I ended up using 5 different Band-in-a-Box
styles, all of which claim to hail from Cuba. A bookend to A.W.H.H.O.H
, this Latin tune uses lots of brass and flute, although this one uses two of each for the solo instruments.
The chord progression on this one doesn’t change much, if at all, instead relying on frequent style and instrument changes for variety (along with the original 6/8 to 2/4 time signature changes). Backing instruments include a fairly normal selection of acoustic bass/drums/piano and clean electric guitar along with strings, horns, and various Latin percussion thrown in. In order of entry, the EWI patches are Brash Brass(Patchman#73
), Viper(#77, also featured in O.C.T.
), EVI4000s(#1), and Ambient Recorder(#9, also heard in A.W.H.H.O.H
and maybe A.M.O.P
11.The Ballad of Jesus Christ
is 17th century French, but you may know it better as “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”. I was first introduced to this tune by a flute play-a-long book and recall thinking “what does this somber piece have to do with Christmas?” Sure, I understand the descended-from-heaven’s-glory-to-earth’s-darkness-born-to-die aspect, but a ballad is a story, and that is a small part of the story. My goal here was to provide, in musical terms, more. So it starts with the original reflective mood of the First Coming but proceeds through the life and ministry, finally culminating in the awesome glory of the Second Coming when Jesus comes back with his saints to judge the world and reign forever. Now you might be thinking “what does screaming guitar have to do with Christmas?” Well, it doesn’t exactly, but it is “the rest of the story”.
This song was easily the hardest to realize since it involves so many different styles and instrumentations. I don’t even want to list them all in detail, but suffice to say that the styles go from reggae to old school techno to new school techno and finally to full-on Trans-Siberian Orchestra
madness (which is appropriately, but surprisingly, from Band-in-a-Box’s
Praise&Worship folder!). There are 20 different Reason
tracks (not all active at once of course) running the gamut from acoustic, electric, and synth along with 4 EWI instruments and chromatic harmonica.
The harmonica was kinda tough because the song is in the key of Dm and I wanted to use my Eb chrom. My first thought was to record in Ebm and pitch-shift down a half-step. But my 2-draw reed was not responding well, so I ended up starting on hole 3, playing in Bbm and pitch-shifting down 8 half-steps! This really took the bite out of the tone so I copied the track and pitch-shifted up 4 steps to be an octave higher than the main track to add back some of the lost upper energy.
The EWI patches are the Nano Bari
heard in O.C.T
. followed by EWI Saw (Nanosynth#98
), Hi Strings(Nanosynth#74
), and finally my trusty “guitar” patch Tigress(Patchman#86
). You can go crazy with guitar-based effects in Reaper, and I did some of that is W.C.I.T.
, but here, Tigress is effected only through a Roland MicroCube
amp (Rectifier amp model and high gain) with just a little reverb added in the DAW.