JAMES TODD - Quiet Beauty
Original Heartsongs by cellist James Todd with pianist William Morse
The cello -- after centuries as a classical instrument, usually as part of a string section -- is being taken to a new place in contemporary music by James Todd, who brings it to the forefront of his original music collection, Quiet Beauty, on which he duets with himself as well as pianist William Morse.
Very few recordings have the cello used as the primary lead instrument, but Todd stepped beyond even that frontier when he composed nine pieces that feature at least two distinctly different cello parts (sometimes three) that he overdubbed to create a rich tapestry of cello sounds either playing harmony with each other, employing counter-melodies or simply entwining in various ways. At the same time, the cello performances interact with the piano playing of Morse, who not only holds the rhythm and states the chord progressions, but also has his moments improvising the melody line.
The music incorporates cello and piano with a few subtle keyboard- generated string-section sounds in the background. Because of the choice of instruments and the musicians' distinguished backgrounds in the traditional classical field, the tunes have a strong classical music appeal to them. But listeners will also hear contemporary, crossover elements that connect with new age music fans. In fact, James Todd is one of the few cellists to not only have a successful career onstage in the classical world, but to have backed many top pop, rock, folk, country, R&B, new age and opera artists as well. In addition, he has taken a step that few classical players ever master and has learned the art of improvisation which he utilizes whenever the opportunity presents itself in concert or in the studio. Todd's associate on this recording, William Morse, balances his classical career by also being a professional jazz musician.
In the classical arena, James serves as principal cellist with the Arapahoe Philharmonic in Denver, Colorado, where he lives. He regularly performs with many of the classical ensembles in the Denver area. Additionally, on numerous concert occasions, Todd has been the special-guest, featured-soloist with orchestras such as the Arapahoe Philharmonic, the Denver Symphony, the MSC Symphony Orchestra and the Aurora Symphony.
As a professional free-lance musician, Todd has performed in concert backing many touring acts including Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, John Tesh, Crosby & Nash, Yes, Brian Wilson, Yanni, Natalie Cole, Mannheim Steamroller, The Three Tenors, Stevie Wonder, Linda Ronstadt, Marvin Hamlisch, Lyle Lovett, Sarah Brightman, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Andrea Bocelli and Jose Feliciano. Todd also has performed with folk singer-songwriter Celeste Krenz as a featured member of her trio or quartet both in concert (including the prestigious Kerrville Folk Festival) and on three of her albums. He has appeared on three CDs by the new age group Music for Candles in which his parts were totally improvised. James has worked as a studio musician on many CDs by new, developing, regional acts in the genres of folk, rock and even goth. Other stage gigs have included touring Broadway shows such as the world premiere of Dorian," Camelot" with Robert Goulet, Bye Bye Birdie" with Tommy Tune, and Some Like It Hot" with Tony Curtis.
Todd met William Morse in 1982 when both were associated with the Metropolitan State College of Denver (Morse conducted the college's symphony orchestra). Since 1999, Morse has served as the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra in Golden, Colorado, in addition to holding the same titles simultaneously with the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra (since its inception in 1983). William also makes regular appearances as a guest conductor or performer with many different groups. He holds Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and a Doctorate of Orchestral Conducting from the University of Arizona. In the jazz world, Morse has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor and Doc Severinson; is part of the Queen City Jazz Band; and gigs with his own William Morse Trio.
William is a gracious and superb musician," explains Todd, who did a wondrous job on this CD supporting what I was doing on cello. He created all his parts beyond the basic melody. His instincts are well developed and beautifully refined. He offered the perfect counterpoint to me because he knows both classical music and jazz so well."
James Todd calls the original material on his debut album heartsongs" because: As I wrote these songs, each one evoked strong emotions from deep within me. I can only hope that the music is able to convey some of the feelings -- love, longing, hope, sorrow, doubt, joy and wonder -- that I was expressing. I wanted the music to have a 'Quiet Beauty' to it that people would find peaceful and relaxing, but with enough internal movement and complexity to make deeper listening a rewarding experience too."