June 14, 2024

Here are graceful and sophisticated jazz retellings of rock, prog, and pop classics as spun by an orchestra of 30 musicians. Vocalist Lydia McAdams and a large collection of talented instrumentalists are joined on two tracks by special guest Jon Anderson (the voice of Yes).

The striking arrangements, penned by Ryan Fraley and Ralph Johnson, show a deep love for both the source material and the conventions of modern jazz orchestration. Included are a surprising and eclectic group of songs from: Paul Simon, Ben Folds, Suzanne Vega, Yes, King Crimson, Thomas Dolby, Gentle Giant, Tom Waits, Jimi Hendrix, Fiona Apple, Dire Straits, Steely Dan, and Queen. The closing track, “The Show Must Go On” was chosen by an internet poll in 2009.

1. Further to Fly 6:15
Paul Simon arranged by Ralph Johnson
solos: Ralph Johnson, Percussion – Sylvain Carton, Saxophone
Ralph picked this. “Besides being a writer of memorable lyrics, Paul Simon has provided vehicles for some of the classic rhythm section performances in the pop/rock/folk universe. I was attracted to the unusual and clever syncopations in ‘Further to Fly,’ and thought it deserved a little more exploration and a longer day in the sun.” ~RVJ

2. Selfless, Cold and Composed 5:58
Ben Folds arranged by Ryan Fraley
solos: Sylvain Carton, Saxophone – Justin Kessler, Piano
Justin picked this. “I love Folds’ ability to juxtapose whimsical musical style with melancholy lyrical content. In ‘Selfless, Cold, and Composed,’ he presents a uniquely forlorn sentiment with an upbeat jazz waltz.” ~JFK

3. Caramel 3:00
Suzanne Vega
arranged by Ryan Fraley
solo: Lyman Medeiros, Bass
Lydia picked this. “One of my all time favorites, Caramel is sexy, yet demure and excruciatingly feminine. I always wanted to perform it but could never think of a way to improve on the original. I love Ryan’s interpretation with the ominous muted trombones and lilting swing.” ~LM

4. Wonderous Stories 4:31
Keith, Ainsley, Anderson (Yes) arranged by Ryan Fraley
background vocals: Jon Anderson
solo: Sylvain Carton, Saxophone
Ryan picked this. “True, this song was written when I was four years old. But I have admired it since I was old enough to pay attention. This is the kind of song writing that makes Yes so attractive to me — the unpredictable harmonic progression; the angular, soaring melody; and the stream-of-consciousness lyrics all meld into a trippy and rich experience.” ~RF

5. Heartbeat 4:05
King Crimson arranged by Ralph Johnson
solo: Henry Koperski, Bassoon
Ralph picked this. “Of all the King Crimson tunes from the Fripp/Belew/Levin/Bruford era, ‘Heartbeat’ is the most emotionally direct and accessible for a wider audience. I like the chords at the cadence points, and the possibilities offered by the rhythms the title implies.” ~RVJ

6. It Will Be a Good Day (The River) 5:09
White, Howe, Squire, Anderson, Sherwood, Khoroshev (Yes)
arranged by Ryan Fraley
vocals: Jon Anderson
solo: Alex Noppe, Flugelhorn
Jon picked this. “All of the performers we’ve gathered here are people I’ve known and admired for years. But what can I say about Jon Anderson? I grew up hearing his unmistakable voice on those iconic Yes albums. We were thrilled when Jon graciously agreed to contribute to this project. I invited him to pick any song from the Yes catalog for us to arrange, in any style. He chose this gem from 1999 and asked for a simple, organic feel. Thanks, Jon, for your spirit and grace.” ~RF

7. The Ability to Swing 4:37
Thomas Dolby, Matthew Seligman [Lost Toy People, Inc.]
arranged by Ralph Johnson
solos: Robert Olivera, Saxophone – Justin Kessler, Piano
Ralph picked this. “I always wondered why this tune didn’t receive more popular exposure — it’s a cool little ditty, with an infectious hook, and an insistent beat, written by one of my favorite mad scientists.” ~RVJ

8. Think of Me with Kindness 5:06
Shulman, Shulman, Shulman, Minnear (Gentle Giant)
[Chrysalis Songs OBO Alucard Pub]
arranged by Ryan Fraley
solos: Neil Broeker, Alto Flute – Alex Noppe, Flugelhorn – Justin Kessler, Piano
Ryan picked this. “…sort of. It was actually a well-placed request from a Gentle Giant fan in Italy. Thanks, Andrea. Gentle Giant is a superb and under-appreciated band.” ~RF

9. Swordfishtrombone 4:14
Tom Waits arranged by Ryan Fraley & Lydia McAdams
solos: Lyman Medeiros, Bass – Ryan Fraley, Trombone – Justin Kessler, Piano
Robert Stright, Vibes
Lydia picked this. “I’m seduced by Tom Waits’ meandering storytelling and his ability to set a scene and mood. But Tom goes beyond just using music and lyrics to tell his tales — he adopts a persona. I borrowed from his genius, intentionally using a different voice with a vintage vibe and letting the story inform my performance.” ~LM

10. Third Stone from the Sun 4:44
Jimi Hendrix arranged by Ralph Johnson
solos: Justin Kessler, Piano – Ryan Fraley, Trombone – Ralph Johnson, Percussion
Ralph picked this. “Before I ever heard the Jimi Hendrix recording, I heard guitarist after guitarist quote this melody line in improvised solos — more than any other tune I can think of — and it always got a smile from the other musicians. I thought I would see if we could get a bigger smile by quoting the whole thing.” ~RVJ

11. Slow Like Honey 5:09
Fiona Apple arranged by Ryan Fraley
solo: Sylvain Carton, Guitar
Lydia picked this. “When I first heard this tune I was struck by its dark beauty and complexity. I immediately wanted to make it my own — add it to my grimoire, so to speak. The voicings are mesmerizing, and the strings and guitar add the perfect texture. I don’t often listen to my own recordings, but this is one that I keep coming back to.” ~LM

12. Your Latest Trick 4:51
Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) arranged by Ryan Fraley
solos: Josh Weirich, Saxophone – Alex Noppe, Trumpet – Shawn Goodman, Clarinet
Justin picked this. “Mark Knopfler is one of those few guitarists who can make me wonder if I picked the right instrument. I grew up with this song and album and even as a child I was attracted to the smoky, bittersweet and angular elements of jazz. The deliciously bleak landscape painted by Knopfler’s lyrics is nicely tempered here in a beautiful arrangement by Ryan Fraley.” ~JFK

13. Dirty Work 3:23
Fagen, Becker (Steely Dan) arranged by Justin Kessler
Justin picked this. “While my original interest in ‘Dirty Work’ was derived from the lyrics, the recognizable hook and surprisingly simple (for Steely Dan) chord progression lent itself well to a solo piano treatment with a darker, more angular reharmonization that I think complements the sentiment of the lyrics.” ~JFK

14. The Show Must Go On 5:18
Mercury, May, Taylor, Deacon (Queen) arranged by Ralph Johnson
solos: Art DeQuasie, Piano – Henry Koperski, Accordion – Ryan Fraley, Trombone & Amplified Trombone
The internet picked this. “We ran a poll online in 2009, shortly after the release of our first album, to select one of the tracks to appear on this album. Here is the far-and-away winner. One of Freddie Mercury’s last songs, and made even more heartbreaking by Ralph’s stunning orchestration.” ~RF

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