As with any creative project, Dreamscapes was not created in a vacuum. To say that I am the sole responsible party for these compositions would be a statement of regrettable–and ignorant–hubris. So, should you find yourself curious, I’ll do my best to share what helped inspire this record.
This album, to me, is about a continued attempt to translate into sound the fleeting visions of both night and day dreams. In some of my more open moments, I have found full-fledged scenes coming to life in my mind’s eye while listening to music. At those times, the more I have allowed such scenery to blossom, the more deeply it has revealed itself to me. While practicing for the session, I have had similar experiences, in particular with one of my favorite tracks, “The Bridge.” One thing I have noticed over the twelve plus years I have been composing is that the best pieces I’ve written have felt less like an act of me creating something, and more like an act of me relaying a message. It is almost as if I’m not doing anything other than serving as a conduit. Such has been the case with many of these compositions. The newer ones sprung so quickly to life that each time I play them, I feel I learn something new about the story they’re telling, and the imagery that accompanies them. Thus, I would say the main inspiration for Dreamscapes as a piece of art is the magical, alchemical inner experiences that can come about when one is receptive and open to the music.
As I mentioned in the Vision section of this site, three of the then compositions on this album were written over a period from 2013 to 2016, while the remaining seven were written between September and December 2017. The early compositions bear not only more of a jazz influence, but also more of a clear IndigoSun flavor, since that was project was omnipresent in my musical life during that period. I would say that a very direct influence on those early works was Keith Jarrett. Though my love of his playing can perhaps be gleaned through the whole album, I think it’s particularly palpable there.
For the newer works, there is one particular man’s work that I have listened to constantly since late 2016 and through the recording session in Dec 2017, and that is Claude Achille Debussy. I could wax poetic about the pure genius of his composition for longer than you’d care to listen or read. I will say, though, that many of these later compositions could not possibly have come into being without my attempting to digest Debussy’s art. What you hear is largely a product of my aiming to fuse his approach to pianism, the continued harmonic developments of contemporary jazz, and a tighter approach to songwriting that is influenced by pop music and the attention span of our modern world. To say that as a jazz musician I owe much of my harmonic liberty to Debussy would be, in my mind, a gross understatement. There is so much I hear in his music that marks a crucial turning point between the classical sensibilities of the past and the modern sounds of the future. Beyond that, his chord voicings and harmonic progressions are revolutionary in their own right. So much of his writing still sounds ahead of its time. I feel blessed to live in an age where, thanks to streaming music, my commute could be fueled by his solo piano works. This has been the greatest preparation of all.
Lastly, I would be remiss to go without mentioning how much my peers have influenced this album. Everyone I have ever shared the stage or a rehearsal with has played a part in the creation of these songs. In particular, I must mention and thank my brothers and sister from IndigoSun: Steve Florian, Michael Cantella, Lucas Ellman, and Elli Elli. Listen closely and I think you will hear a bit of all of them in this album. To Steve, I owe so much of my rhythmic adventurousness and my understanding of polymeter/polyrhythm. To Michael, I owe my departure from major7-only-land and my investigation of the juicy juice that lies across the harmonic spectrum. To Lucas, I owe much of my melodicism and whatever sweetly singing phrases you may find in this music. To Elli, I owe a penchant for left turns and the unexpected, for perfect incongruities and enigmas that came from playing her own compositions for a year and a half. To all of them, I am unendingly grateful, for not only did they gift me all of the above, but they brought so many of the songs I wrote for IndigoSun to life. Without them, I could never be the musician I am today.
Over the summer of 2017, I had the honor and privilege of traveling the world with my wife and Cosmic Queen, Sydnei. We visited 7 countries in 90 days, with the first 2 months spent in Japan, Southeast Asia and India. This was a period of tremendous inspiration for me, as every single day represented a new adventure into the unknown. I had the good fortune of taking a Balinese Gamelan lesson in Ubud, as well as an Indian Classical Theory lesson in Varanasi. We saw many dance performances in Bali with gamelan accompaniment, and several tabla/sitar performances in India. I had always known the richness of Indonesian and Indian music, but to witness it firsthand was delightful beyond my expectations. In Iceland, the sheer beauty of the surroundings set my imagination on fire. In particular, the mammoth proportions of the waterfalls and landscape pushed me to write bigger music. Most of the compositions on Dreamscapes were written after this trip, at a point when I was literally bursting with creative energy–just ask Sydnei, by the end of the 90 days I couldn’t stop singing melodies into my voice memos! From the volcanic heavy 2nd verse of “Shatter;” to the melody of “How Wonderful,” which I wrote after a meditation on the plane to Bali; to the direct Gamelan reference in “The Barong” and the accompanying daydreams of riding through the heavenly Balinese countryside with Sydnei on the back of our motorbike; the effect of our travels can be heard in ways both large and small throughout the album.
food for thought
“I wish to sing of my interior visions with the naive candor of a child.” – Claude Debussy
“What is a television apparatus to man, who has only to shut his eyes to see the most inaccessible regions of the seen and the never seen, who has only to imagine in order to pierce through walls and cause all the planetary Baghdads of his dreams to rise from the dust.” – Salvador Dali
“But music, don’t you know, is a dream from which the veils have been lifted. It’s not even the expression of a feeling, it’s the feeling itself.” – Claude Debussy