Hal Schaefer had written the words,
"Solo, Duo, Trio" on the advance cassette
of this CD. Their most obvious reference was in the
three instrumental formats used: solo piano, piano
and bass duo, and piano, bass and drums trio. But
the pattern takes on greater signifance as you listen.
The opening track, There Will Never Be Another
You, covers the entire one-two-three process:
starting with an introduction, with no clues to the
melody, then an inference of the written tune, announced
by the entrance of the bass, then the melody, with
variations, by the trio at full swing.
But the one-two-three idea could
also represent Schaefer's tri-leveled career as jazz
pianist, arranger/conductor, and educator. The three
often overlap, much of his work as one of Hollywood's
leading vocal orchestrators in the 50's, for instance,
resulted in his conducting the stars involved - Marilyn
Monroe, Judy Garland - in their execution of his jazz
oriented, highly innovative charts.
A mood mix pervades the feeling of
the record for, while Schaefer began the project on
a purerly upbeat note, it acquired a darker tone when
the album's executive producer, Albert Marx - one
of the most important record industry figures in the
history of American music - died of a stroke before
it was completed.
Says Schaefer, "This album evolved
because I wanted to document myself and my playing,
where I am today. I do a variety of things and have
been extremely diversified. So, while playing is my
first love, I haven't stayed in the public eye.
"I'd sent a copy of a solo piano
tape I had recorded to Albert, it ran about 30 minutes.
One day the phone rang and he said 'I liked what I
heard. Why don't you go head and finish it?' I told
him about the solo, duo, trio idea and asked him how
he wanted me to approach the album, since he was now
involved. I'll never forget his reply: 'Don't worry
about me,' he said. 'or the public; don't worry about
who's going to buy it. You go in and you record and
satisfy yourself, and I'll be happy. When you're finished
and you have what you like, send it to me.'
"Since he'd given me this wonderful
artistic carte blanche, I decided to start from scratch.
I picked a fantastic bass player, Jay Anderson, and
that fine drummer, Ray Mosca, who's been with Oscar
"As far as Albert was concerned,
tragically, the conversation about my album was the
last I ever had with him. I called a while later to
tell him what stage I'd reached and I got Patricia,
his wife. She told me Albert had a stroke and was
in the hospital. A few weeks later, after several
long talks with each other, she told me, 'I don't
think Albert's going to make it.' I kept trying to
encourage her, but she knew the inevitable was going
to happen. Patricia asked me what I'd discussed with
Albert, and when I told her our conversation, she
broke down and cried."
The finished disc, however, is more
for laughing than crying; even Blues for Albert,
which Schaefer wrote especially for the album and
in Marx' memory, is upbeat. "Some of the songs
I chose, some my wife suggested," says Schaefer.
"Of the originals, there's a jazz waltz I'd written
called Waltzin' 'M' Brenda, a play on Waltzin'
Matilda. Strange as it Seems has a wonderful
lyric by my wife."
As for standards, Schaefer's treatment
of Georgia on My Mind leads you slowly away
from the basic melody, and deeper into the sentiment
of the song. Sentimental Mood starts with
a spare introduction, the opening notes twinkle like
stars at twilight, gradually spelling out the melody
like a constellation. His haunting interpretation
of Laura captures all of the varied aspects
of the song.
The uptempos reflect Schaefer's agenda
of remaining at once true to the periods that produced
these songs, and to his own stylistic idiosyncracies.
The solo Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
moves towards a Fats Waller stride - but never imitates
it. "I'm Old-Fashioned," he says,
"seems to work perfectly with the bass, but didn't
need drums; while some others I had a yen to do in
an old time two-beat style." Embraceable
You recalls Nat Cole's classic 1944 recording
in texture and tempo, but in actual lines it's strictly-from-Schaefer.
All the Things You Are has been a Schaefer
favorite "since I was a young man," as has
Jimmy Dorsey's I'm Glad There is You.
"I've always tried to acquire
scope," Schaefer says. "I worked for many
years with great choreographers - Jack Cole, Michael
Kidd, Ron Field; and I've worked with wonderful singers
- Peggy Lee and Anita Ellis; Billy Eckstine, Vic Damone
- and, of course, the aspiring young talents I've
encountered as a teacher. This includes the then-unknown
Barbra Streisand, among others. All of the things
I do that relate to music, hopefully come out in my
"Maybe I've finally caught up,"
Schaefer concludes. "My early recordings never
took off. Everyone said they were too far out. I played
a solo with polyrhythmic figures on a Boyd Raeburn
record that nobody noticed. Twenty years later, they
were telling me, 'that's some solo.' However, I feel
that this album is the best thing I've ever put to
What he has also done is to make
sure that his career as a jazz pianist remains on
a par with his ever-expanding reputation as a teacher
(which can't grow too much - Lord, one hears so many
screechers on Star Search, not to mention,
The Tonight Show, who could benefit from
his genius tutelary). Hal Schaefer's jazz represents
a crystallization of his involvement in dance, song,
cinema, and life, bursting with melodies both noble
Will Friedwald, Jazz Singing (Scribner's)