After recording Shiny Stockings, our first Count Basie tribute CD, my quartet – Chris Brown on drums, Andy Reiss on guitar, Roger Spencer on bass, me on piano – agreed that we were not finished paying homage to the greatest bandleader who ever lived. So in July 2008 at the Nashville Jazz Workshop, we began recording the April in Paris CD.
When we record at the Workshop, we use the small performance hall we call the Jazz Cave, and we literally have to rearrange the entire space plus a few other rooms, which is difficult because we use those spaces for our regular classes and performances. So we have to find a block of time when the school is not in session.
Then someone has the pleasure of trying to figure how to get all the right sounds! That task fell to Tom Knox, our engineer for this recording. Tom built a tent with sound baffles in the middle of the Cave floor where seating is usually located. It looked like a Tiki Hut. That’s where we put Chris Brown and his drums, and it was fantastic! Roger, Andy, and I were on the stage with baffles perfectly placed around us. And Tom was in the control room with no view of us at all. Jeff Hall helped him place mics and communicate with us.
Within a few days, we had recorded the entire CD, which was a good thing, because classes started the next week, and we had to do a complete tear-down. Later, Pete Christlieb added sax on four songs, doing three takes each, all of them incredible! While everything was being mixed and mastered, Brian Parker again came up with the coolest original cover! He also did a cute caricature of the quartet. Mark Edwards wrote liner notes and got wonderful quotes from several friends. Later, our friend Maxx Myrick helped with the radio promotion campaign.
Then, several days before the CD release, the coolest thing happened. Let me give you a little background: A wonderful friend and fan of mine, Lynn Von Kersting, happens to own the famous Beverly Hills restaurant “The Ivy” and the L.A. Bakery. Before the release of our previous tribute CD, “Shiny Stockings,” Lynn had somehow heard it and had ordered 100 CD’s to sell at her interior design shop, “Indigo Seas.” She also played it at her restaurant. After that, about every six months, she ordered more CD’s. Her support was instrumental in my decision to record a second Count Basie tribute. So when I completed the “April in Paris” CD, I sent her one. Lynn called me right away and made another big order! Then . . .
Early one morning, my doorbell rang, and the UPS man handed me a box with Lynn’s return address on it. I opened it with anticipation and found a beautifully wrapped box inside with a card attached. The card was from Lynn, saying that her mother’s favorite song was “April in Paris,” and she was so thrilled with the CD that she wanted to give me a special present. I opened the box to find exquisite, ornate earrings lined with garnets, emeralds, sapphires, and pearls. They had been crafted by hand in Italy by an artist named Diego Percossi Papi and had belonged to Lynn’s Mother. Truly, they were the most beautiful earrings I had ever seen, and Lynn wanted me to wear them for my CD release! It was an awesome gift, meaningful and straight from the heart, and I had the perfect outfit to wear them with!
To this day, I have never met Lynn Von Kersting face to face. We’ve talked numerous times on the phone, but she and I have never been in L.A. at the same time. But Lynn has been a wonderful angel, always giving me the courage to keep creating. What a lady. What a friend. What a story!