At the end of Part 2, I was writing about how Jay Beckenstein encouraged me to make an album of Weather Report songs. I thought it was a great idea and started to make some demo recordings so I could shop it to record companies. In 1998 there were plenty of record companies to shop it to. I did 3 songs and I must say the demos came out great… But as usual, it’s always a difficult scenario shopping a project to a label. I heard every lame excuse possible from all the different A&R guys, “I’m looking for the next Weather Report.” My answer was to that was “If you saw them you would never sign them!” Meanwhile all through this time, I am still shopping the Ivan Lins project. I had always been tweaking the concept and would refine it and go back to the labels. Great record guys like Bruce Lundvall, Lenny Waronker, and Tommy LiPuma kept on passing on the project. They just didn’t get how I would pull this off. At the same time, they were also passing on my Weather Report Project. There is no doubt about it; these were difficult times for me.
One morning I was home and the phone rang. It was a guy named Paul Jung who, along with his father engineer Tom Jung, had a small but cool label named DMP. I believe they made direct to two-track masters. I had sent them the Weather Report demos. The first thing Paul said to me was, “Do you have a deal for the Weather Report Project yet?” I said, “No.” “Well, I’ve got a deal for the project with Telarc Records if you are interested.” Of course, I was interested, wow they are a really legitimate label who does do these kinds of projects. He said to me, that I’m going to get a call in the next 10 minutes from two guys at the label. I was beyond myself and was incredibly appreciative but he said it makes them look good as well and he was happy to do it. So 10 minutes later two gentlemen named Adrian Mills and Rob Saslow called me to introduce themselves and then immediately asked, “Can you really get all those artists to perform on this album for X amount of dollars?” I said absolutely yes. Well, the list I had was pretty awesome because I had asked a number of my long-time musician friends if they would participate. Michael and Randy Brecker, Steve Gadd, David Sanborn, John Scofield, and yes Marcus Miller and a host of other major names that thought the project was a great idea.
They were like all right we are in. About an hour later the label president Bob Woods called and we spoke and he said, “OK let’s do this and I will get you a contract.” Just like that, I had the deal.
So we negotiated a contract and just like that I was making the album “Celebrating the Music Of Weather Report”. I picked out 11 tracks and knew this would take months to make. In reality, it took me five months to make the album. We had such a great time making this, all the musicians were just amazing and showed me that when you need your musical friends they are there for you. I can’t mention all the artist because there were too many, the album is online on all the streaming sites. This album is actually a whole story as well. After 4 months of recording, I was at Masterdisc having the great Greg Calbi mastering the album because the next day I was going to Telarc in Cleveland to play them the album for the first time. I walked into the lounge and who was sitting there but Michael Brecker! I was always so happy to see Mike and it was such a surprise to see him. He was mastering his new album, so we had a chance to hang for a while. He played saxophone on “Elegant People”, a superb performance as usual. It’s now about midnight and I got an early plane, so after some good laughs, a nice hang, and finishing up the mastering I left, slept a few hours and headed to the airport to go to Cleveland.
Well, they gave me the first class treatment when I arrived late in the day. Rob took me out to dinner and we were having the big meeting the next day. The next day I went to the offices of the label and met everybody, Adrian, Kajo, Dave Love, who ran the label Heads Up from there, and of course, I met Bob Woods, his wife, producer Elaine Martone, and Mike Bishop the engineer. We sit in this very nice room with an incredibly high-end stereo system and put the mastered album on. Well, it didn’t take more than a minute to look around and see everybody smiling. The album sounds great, everybody knows it and they are getting excited and by the time this song “Cucumber Slumber” comes up with Marcus Miller and John Scofield on it as well as Dennis Chambers, there is resounding excitement in the room. Rob Saslow says, “I have an idea let’s go to the Indians game tonight, I’ll get tickets!”
I love going to baseball games and I love going to places I’ve never been. The next thing I know Bob Woods says to me, “come in my office I want to talk to you for a minute.” I’m like uh oh.. What’s up? I sit down and he said to me, “This is a fantastic album Jason and you’ve got incredible people on this and I just find it hard to believe that you made enough money for yourself on this, so I am going to give you a bonus of xxxx (a very nice number!).” Wow, this is turning out really great! When did that ever happen before? It is June and they’ve told me they’ve decided to put the album out in mid-January 1999. They want enough time to set it up worldwide. Then the moment happened. Adrian said if you have anything interesting coming up let us know we would love to work with you again. BOOM! Here comes the pitch. I tell them about the Ivan Lins project. They immediately say Ivan won’t sell any records here and go into a whole thing but I say it’s not about Ivan singing the songs it’s about getting great artists to perform his music and have a number of the songs in English so we can introduce his music to the United States audience. All of a sudden Rob looks at Adrian and says that’s not a bad idea. So Bob Woods says to me if you bring us a list of artists that you think you could get for the project we will definitely consider this. Wow! Eight years of work and this actually may happen! That night we go to the ball game have a great time and now I’m on my way back to New York. Time to really go for the jugular and make this album finally happened!
I know who I am calling for sure. Before I left, the guys at Telarc wanted to know if we could put Freddy Cole on the album because he’s on the label. I said absolutely and I have the absolute perfect song for him as well. It’s called “I’m Not Alone”. Well as much as we all love Freddy, I’m gonna have to get some real heavy hitters here to make this album happen, to get this deal
I had just worked with Vanessa Williams on the “People” album, at which time she told me of her love for Brazilian music and artists like Ivan and Jobim. I remember in 1992, when Ivan lived in LA, being over at his house with Chaka Khan, Brenda Russell and others. I also knew my friend Grover Washington Jr. would love to play on this album and of course, I was correct. But I needed a super heavy hitter here, a real superstar. I had always thought that Sting would be perfect. I knew that he loved Ivan’s music and was also a true Jobim fan. I called in a big favor into a friend, explained what the story was and she gave me Sting’s home phone number. OK, here we go! I call his house and get his assistant, Theresa, tell her about the project and she says to me, “Sting is going to love this I can tell you that right now. Let me run it by him and we will give you a call tomorrow morning” Knowing the music business, I said I’m gonna give this a week and then I will check back in with them. The next day about 11 AM Theresa calls me and tells me Sting is definitely in and he loves the project. He said to say hi and will be in touch with you soon. I said I’m probably going to need some kind of letter of confirmation to give to the label. I anticipated that they wouldn’t believe me when I told him who I got on this album. Well, guess what, when I call the label and told him I had Sting, Vanessa, Chaka, Brenda, and Grover they basically didn’t believe me and told me in order to move forward I would need letters of confirmation and we would also need to get label clearances. Even though I was a bit upset, I said OK, but when I get you these clearances, you have got to go and send me a check for $10,000 to get the project going, fed ex overnight. They said OK that sounds good to us. About a week later I had the main letters that I needed and I faxed them over to the label and called them up and said to Bob Woods, “So when do I get my $10,000?” He laughed and said congratulations and I will get the check cut tomorrow and you will have it the next day. Eight years of working to get a deal for this project and all of a sudden here we are and it’s going to happen!
I had spent all of these years listening to songs of Ivan’s and really knew the songs that I wanted to go and try to use on the record. I also thought that it probably was a good idea to stay in touch with him and get feedback from him as well, as the project went on. Well, trust me there are always people, that, in a lot of ways, have nothing to do with projects, and maybe have something to do with the artist, that always want to stick their hands in it and screw it up, before it even gets off the ground. Why should this project be any different? There were a number of people who knew how hip Ivan was and how really hip his music was and now, here I was and I pulled this off and trust me when I tell you that there were some people that were incredibly happy for me and really encouraged me and then there were people, that I also knew, who were so incredibly jealous, that there would be nothing that would make them happier, than to see this fail. Well, I have news for you; I had been doing this for decades and been put in situations of incredible pressure. This was not going to fail, it was going to go and take Ivan’s music all around the world. I have of course had in mind some great musicians to use and I wanted to keep the cast of musicians small and focused. I knew two musicians that had to be a part of this project from beginning to end and that was Romero Lubambo, the amazing Brazilian guitarist, and Cyro Baptista who is just one of the most original percussionists on the scene. Add Will Lee and Mark Egan on bass and put Vinnie Coliauta in there on drums and we are going to have a hell of a band. But for the cut with Sting, I asked Marcus Miller to play bass and he was more than happy to. To me, it was important, because of all the years I spent working with him on amazing projects and now I was able to reverse the scene and show him what I had as a producer after working all these years with so many other great producers doing synthesizer work for them. And let’s not forget Michael Brecker, who had to play on the song that Sting was going to do.
The easiest thing to do was to see who is on the East Coast and get those songs going first. I also heard a few other songs that I also really loved, that I had kind of forgotten about like “Answered Prayers”, which had been given an English lyric treatment by Peter Eldridge of the New York Voices. At that point, I said well what the hell, we should put the New York Voices on this album, it’s his vocal arrangement.
Freddy Cole was in New York, so I immediately started working on this song for him and Todd Barkan brought him to the studio one day, where it’s almost like he could’ve done this song while he was playing golf! He was so smooth and so meticulous and had such a beautiful vibe to him. The vocal came out great and out of the blue, he decided to double the end and that just really made it.
The next song I did was an instrumental called “Camaleo”, a wonderful vibey tune, that I decided to do as an instrumental with Grover Washington Jr. playing. Being in the studio with Grover was just such a wonderful and fun experience. He just goes in there and blows and an incredible sound comes out and he just seems to glide through the whole song. Well let’s face it I just didn’t want him to play and then leave, so I said what the hell let’s order some dinner! That always works and we hung out and watched a Mets playoff game and then finished the song. Little did I realize at that point that that would be Grover’s last studio recording. A couple of months later Grover was gone, died from a heart attack after a performance on TV. He left me with something beautiful.
Now it’s time to get into the meat of the record. The level of concentration and intensity was to get way heavier and more intense, as many of the labels that turned me down had now heard that I got a deal, and had also heard about some of the artists that were jumping on board. Well in the final chapter, I promise you, you will hear some amazing stories about recording the songs. Moments that truly will never be forgotten.
Till then stay safe and enjoy life…