Bob Dylan once famously said, “I’ll let you be in
my dream if I can be in yours.” Christopher
James’ music, elegantly conceived and profoundly
felt, makes that happen.
They’re the raw material of our reactions to artistic expressions. They form the building blocks of our private narrative responses to what we’ve seen and heard. Composer Christopher James and his supporting cast—which includes two of New York’s most talented orchestrators and several first call instrumentalists—construct evocative musical experiences that generate parallel impressions in our own hearts and minds.
Does one need to be familiar with a particular brand of ‘60-‘70s television crime drama to appreciate “The Mighty Quinn (Martin)”? Or the whimsical eccentricities of British prog-pop to unlock “Dr. Blowhard Stumples”? Of course not, although a visit to one’s favorite search engine may offer additional colors and tones to one’s own listening landscape. There is wit here, but also something deeper: an engagement with pop cultural archeology that opens a door for the uninitiated through the alchemy of music.
“The Enigmatic City,” “Baile de los Perros,” and the title piece, “A Rose in the Canyon,” offer something else: sonic maps to territories we might already know, consciously or subconsciously. Or perhaps a dimensional gateway from Christopher James’ musical imagination to ours. The music doesn’t subvert specific references, it embraces possibility….. Chuck Mitchell
Gil Goldstein/SESSIONS, Gil Goldstein – Piano/ Conductor, Cole Davis – Acoustic Bass
Antonio Sanchez – Drums
Alex Sopp – Flute, Helen Campo – Alto Flute, Nuno Atunes – Clarinet
Mark Dover – Bass Clarinet
Kevin Cobb – Trumpet, CJ Camieri – Trumpet, Ryan Keberle – Trombone
Mike Davis – Bass Trombone, RJ Kelly – French Horn
Joyce Hammann – Violin, Sara Caswell – Violin, Louise Schulman – Viola, Garbiel Cabezas – Cello
Rob Mathes – Conductor
Jim Beard – Piano, John Patitucci – Acoustic Bass, Antonio Sanchez -Drums. Alex Sopp – Flute, Aaron Heick – Clarinet/Bass Clarinet
Dean LeBlanc – Clarinet, Liam Burke – Bass Clarinet
John Upton – English Horn, Don Downs – Trumpet/French Horn
Jon Owens – Trumpet/French Horn, Tony Kadleck – Trumpet/French Horn
Brad Gemeinhardt – French Horn, Ryan Keberle -Trombone
Joe Fiedler – Trombone, Joanna Mauer- Violin, Justin Smith – Violin
Lisa Kim – Violin, Peter Bahng – Violin, Julia Choi – Violin, Conway Kuo – Violin,
Jun Sun You – Violin, Matt Lehman – Violin, Ann Lehman – Violin
Devin Moore – Viola, Irene Brewlaw – Viola, Robert Meyer – Viola, Sumire Kuo – Cello, Susannah Chapman – Cello, Sarah Kwon – Cello
Additional musicians recorded in Portland, OR at Bob Stark Sound
Mike Snyder – Percussion
Reinhardt Wolfgang Metz – Percussion
Bob Stark – Guitar on Baile de los Perros
John Nastos – Clarinet solo on Baile de los Perros
Nestor Vaz – Bandoneon
Recored at Mastodante Producciones, Montevideo, Uruguay
Gaston Ackerman – Engineer
Vayo Raimondo -Coordinator
I sat down at the piano and played the intro, almost as a palate cleanser to toss off the dust to see where the music would lead. But in this case, the ‘would be’ throw away motif, was exactly what I wanted to set up the more romantic Burt Bacharach influenced main theme. The compositional improvised performance was not significantly altered in the editing. I told Bob Stark, who orchestrated it, to think “noir” for mood and I mentioned Kurt Weill for that original motif. He nailed it from beginning to end. The title came to me much later, but it captures the relationship I have with New York, where I lived much of my adult life…
This was the last piece written for the album. By then I knew the flow of the material, and I felt that I needed something odd and unbridled. I told myself that whatever came out from the first notes I would keep going, in a stream of musical consciousness. NO stopping for mistakes or anything, just keep the arc of the energy going. There is a wonderful Jackson Pollock film where you see him throwing paint on the canvas in a type of manic fashion. That’s what I was going for. Not surprisingly, there was a fair amount of editing and the ending changed with the help of the orchestrator, Gil Goldstein. The original improvised version has a hard stop. I felt it was little obvious. Gil Goldstein thought he had a solution. He did, and I loved it.
The title song was title-less until the last minute before album mixing began. It had a working title of “Joni/214” (Both Bob Stark and Rob Mathes, the orchestrator, sensed musical similarities to early Joni Mitchell). Rob chose to approach it slightly in the style of Gerald Finzi( 20th century English Composer) with piano obligato and a lot of strings. Rob captured perfectly this beautiful, but exposed and vulnerable musical landscape. My falling in love with the final result in turn inspired the title and ultimately the album cover art.
This piece dates from 2015 and was previously recorded on The Sad Waltz album. The original demo was very close in spirt with much of the material I was writing for the A Rose in the Canyon album, so I went back to the piano demo and sent it to Gil Goldstein, who loved it, and before we had a chance to discuss approach, he had finished it!! It was originally composed as a challenge to myself to write something in the style of the 70’s TV scores from programs like “Streets of San Fransisco” and “Ironside”. Many of those productions were by Quinn Martin. Apologies are due to Bob Dylan, who wrote “The Mighty Quinn”.
The piano demo had the romantic title of “165”. Bob Stark, my forever collaborator, saw through that and always loved it and wanted to orchestrate in a latin style. During the arrangement process we did a demo synth version which allowed space for the clarinet solo. John Nastos was brought in to do this in Portland, Oregon where he and Bob live. One take perfection! We overdubbed the authentic bandoneon performance by Nestor Vaz in Montevideo, Uruguay. The title was inspired by a film about Manfred Eicher called On the Road with… There is a scene with the bandoneon music of Dino Saluzzi playing while you see these dogs playing in the backyards of Buenos Aires.
Composing involves experimentation, and stumbling onto themes that inspire the music forward. That was certainly the case with Blue… Once I had the main theme written, everything else just happened as you hear it on the recording. Some of the musical transitions seemed crazy in the moment, but after the whole piece was finished the craziness made complete sense. On the recording, we feature a stunning solo piano performance from Jim Beard. We had all these amazing jazz musicians playing and although most of the music was written out it would have been sacrilegious to not open things up for them. This time the title came to me immediately and is really just a play on the “blue” notes in jazz language and the use of many 2nd degree harmonies in the music.