Gerard Hagen Trio – Song For Leslie

Back in 1995 Jerry Kalaf subbed for the drummer on a club date I had booked. That was when he and I first talked of forming a trio. The idea was that in order to create music from a deeper, more seasoned, place. Many jazz groups, due to the economics of our industry, rarely have the opportunity develop their music over long periods of time. Our goal was to commit to working in a jazz group that would exist for the long haul. We both felt the trio format gave us the best opportunity both musically and logistically to function as a working unit for an extended period of time. Jerry suggested I invite bassist Domenic Genova and after a few playing sessions the group was formed. Incredibly it’s now seventeen years later!

Song For Leslie is the result of my desire to document my trio one more time before my wife, jazz vocalist Leslie Lewis, and I leave Los Angeles for Europe. Previously the trio had recorded two CDs Far Horizons (Resurgent Music 1998) and Stay Tuned (Sea Breeze Jazz 2000). In 2005, I began working as Leslie’s music director and naturally I have used the trio as the rhythm section for her performances and recordings. As musical desires and budgets allowed, the group was augmented with horn soloists and horn sections. Leslie and these groups made three great recordings of which I am very proud (Of Two Minds, 2008, Keeper of the Flame, 2010, and Midnight Sun 2012) all on a label we founded called SURF COVE JAZZ. During this time my trio continued to perform but we did not record as an instrumental unit. Song for Leslie was an opportunity to document some original music Jerry and I had written as well as make a snapshot of where this group is after these many years of working together.

“464 Blues” is a line I wrote which has two phrases that end up in a 6/4 time signature. I was also experimenting with some alternate blues changes. “Song for Leslie” is a composition I wrote to be performed at our wedding as a surprise for Leslie. It replaced a song she really liked and wanted performed so I was very nervous that she would like my piece at least as much as what she had expected to hear. Jerry is a very accomplished composer and arranger. Over the years he has written many tunes that have ended up in our book. I have often joked that we are doing a Jerry Kalaf memorial set as I call his tunes back to back on our gigs. He contributed “Where’s Gerard?,” a very nice waltz inspired by a change of residence I went through and “Looking At The Despair Calendar,” a very poignant ballad that has one of the most interesting bridges I’ve encountered.

All musicians find standards that they love to play and never seem to tire of. We recorded some of my favorites to go along with our originals. “My Romance” is done in 3 with some solo space added to the form. “A Weaver of Dreams” has a great set of changes that offer all kinds of musical opportunities. “What Is This Thing Called Love?” is a vehicle for Domenic to show his melodic sensibilities. Among his many talents, Domenic is a very good accompanist. He finds ways to fill in the spaces and still leaves room for the music to breathe. This recording is a way for my friends and I to both say a musical goodbye and have a celebration of a great musical journey. Although, after all these years, it really isn’t so much a goodbye as an opportunity to see what will happen next. Until then…