Last week I caught up with saxophonist and pianist Bob Freedman, who arranged for Maynard Ferguson (And We Listened
from Ferguson's Message From Newport
) and plenty of other bands, including Toshiko Akiyoshi's sextet on United Notions
(1958), which I posted
about last Wednesday. Bob told me a wonderful story about arranging for Grover Washington Jr.'s Aria
was recorded in May 1999 and was Washington's last album before his death of a heart attack at age 56 in December 1999:
was comprised of operatic arias featuring Grover soloing mostly on soprano sax. Grover was quite enthused about the project, and we both thought it was just the beginning of a different direction for him. The album was done with with a 30-piece orchestra and came out great.
Unfortunately, the orchestral arrangement I wrote for Amor ti Vieta
(Love Forbids You
), from Umberto Giordano's opera Fedora
, with a libretto by Arturo Colautti, didn't come out as I had hoped. Everybody hated it, including me.
But the record company [Sony Classical] still wanted the aria on the album so they decided to redo it the cheapest possible way—as a trio. The marvelous Billy Childs, the pianist on the original sessions, was in California by then and they didn't want to spend the money to bring him to New York. So I played piano and got into a musical mind-lock with [bassist] Ron Carter, who also had played on the orchestral sessions. I made a sketch of the piece, and after the first run-through with Grover, this was the only take. I love the recording every time I listen to it."
Bob continues: "I wrote the arrangements and conducted the sessions. While the album is far from perfect, in our defense, we thought it was a first step toward something big. Grover was a master of the soprano. If we had had the chance to move onward, I believe the instrument would have been used more often and other saxophones would have been used more judiciously. I thought you'd enjoy the letter Grover sent me after the album was done. I treasure it!"
This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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