Blue - liner notes
I first heard Joni Mitchell in college and listened endlessly to her early albums, Song to a Seagull and Blue. I found the songs - the harmonies, her voice and musicianship - calming, and her music became a reassuring constant. I connected most with the title song, Blue.
I was fortunate to work with Jessica Molaskey in the 2008 Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, and had heard her sing beautiful Joni Mitchell arrangements with her husband, John Pizzarelli.
I already knew Jessica's voice from the original demos of The Last Five Years, by Jason Robert Brown - a show I was fortunate to play and record. When the production first began in Chicago some songs only had rhythm charts, and I was able to see how Jason's inventive and technically demanding string writing deepened and enhanced the score.
Once I moved to New York, I started to commission concert arrangements and knew I would love to play Blue. As both Jason and Jessica were Joni fans - and had a long history of friendship of collaboration - they were the perfect people to ask, and I was excited and honored when they both agreed. (Jessica and I also commissioned an arrangement by Jonathan Tunick of Little Green, hopefully to be released later this year.)
My original idea for Blue was for solo voice and cello, and it was Jason's suggestion to add "fretless Randy Landau.” Randy played bass for the New York premier of The Last Five Years, and I would love to look over and watch his hands gracefully flying over the fingerboard.
The first performance of Blue was at Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC, in December 2010. The concert was called Joni and Johannes, and alternated the music of my two favorite composers, Mitchell and Brahms. The following week we performed the arrangement live on Jonathan Schwartz's Christmas Show on NPR.
Our Songs is a collection of non-Broadway songs, sung by Broadway singers, and arranged by Broadway arrangers. Blue is the first song to be released in this series.
A few important thank yous: To Jessica, for graciously agreeing to sing "my song," and for helping me understand it in a way I never had. To Jason, for writing this impossible and beautiful arrangement. To Randy, for being The Groove and B.A.S.E. every girl could hope for. To David Lai for generously bringing his genius to the production of the recording, and to Isaiah Abolin for his engineering wizardry. To Andrew Koss for kindly offering his studio, Terminus NYC, and to his team for being so welcoming and helpful. To Amy Rio for sticking with me while we spent the better part of a year editing this video! To the countless friends who have served as visual and literary editors throughout this process ... and to Marc Phaneuf, whose love and support made this, my first recording/video, possible.