Ten months from conception to reality, it’s been by far the biggest project we have ever tackled here at Mud Records. Accompanied by the Hallé plus full big band, there are a total of 93 musicians, conductor Stephen Bell and myself all squashed onto one CD – now that’s what I call value. The Obamas are hosting a big do round their gaff featuring a set from some of the world’s finest jazz players, whereas we’ll be at The Bridgewater Hall with a galaxy of the finest musicians both jazz and classical in Britain today. Our concert, conducted on Saturday by trumpet maestro and arranger Guy Barker, celebrates the First Ladies of Song and Beyond including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and Blossom Dearie, great vocalists who had great writers, Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, incidentally almost all the beautiful arrangements have been written by Guy.
It’s these great singers who have always been my inspiration and through listening to them I started to learn about technique and phrasing and the importance of picking the right material. It will be no surprise to learn that the material on the album also centres around songs of the golden age made famous by these divas of the ‘30s, ‘40s ‘50s and ‘60s with a few additional surprises thrown in for good measure.
This recording project simply could not have been possible without the amazing Hallé team and we’ll be forever grateful for their help, support and encouragement. At times over the last five months Mud and I have questioned the madness of releasing a 93 piece orchestral album + lucky singer me on our own tiny label, but this is an exciting time for independent music, and this record is proof that anything is possible.
By my reckoning we had about 150 microphones on the job, each one capturing nearly eleven hours of music. Thankfully we didn’t have to sift through the 7,000 plus sound files but I know the brilliant people who did and all I can tell you is from the second the faders were pushed up and the instruments started jumping out of the speakers, we knew we’d absolutely done the right thing.