David Hazeltine: Modern Standards
DH: Yeah. It's how Sonny Stitt plays "I Got Rhythm." I don't know how Gershwin sounds. But with these kinds of tunes I intend to do in the future... I think for people of my generation, older people and even younger people, it's a cool thing to make a connect for a jazz musician on this level of, "I recognize that. I remember listening to that tune when I was a kid," you know? How many people didn't hear "How Deep Is Your Love?" God, it was a huge hit! And the whole Saturday Night Fever thing, you know. And it's a beautiful tune, very sweet little tune. But to turn it into a jazz tune that was one I kind of struggled with. What am I going to do with this thing? To me it was so in my head the way the Bee Gees did it, and beautiful, and I didn't know if I could do anything with that. Because I had it in my mind that a lot of people will know this and wouldn't it be cool to do this tune. I thought about doing it as a ballad... I just couldn't think of anything to do. Then I thought maybe I could do it as an 'up' tune and feature the drums or something. That'd be a way to wipe out all the clichés. Because I basically split up all the phrases with the drum fills.
AAJ: Right. You kind of elongated the phrase.
DH: Exactly. After doing that for a while, I heard the actual chorus of the tune [sings] 'How deep is your love, la la" just swinging straight ahead, no breaks no nothing, and played pretty much as they recorded itharmony-wise. But what I wanted to say, to answer your question about coming in prepared, is that I've worked with Joe [Farnsworth] for so long that I know exactly how he'll sound when he does that. I record with him a lot with One For All and other trio stuff so it's easy for me to write for him. I don't know if I'd write that way for other drummers. I knew exactly how he'd fill up those spaces perfectly. I could hear it in my head.
I play a lot with David [Williams] too. With both those guys I knew, pretty much, how it was going to sound. There were no big surprises at the record date, for me, because I'd already conceived it in my head. They did exactly what I thought they'd do. However, I have to say that I was a little surprised. It sounded even better than I thought it would, swinging-wise, and the way they play so great. It's always surprising, in the way that a kid knows that Christmas is coming, but when it comes it's still a big surprise, you know? In that sense it was fresh. But I did come in with everything arranged. Except for the last tune, the Isley brothers tune. We kind of just played around with that. It was the last tune on the date. We just tried to get a little something different on that. But everything else, you can hear how it would have to be arranged.
AAJ: You mentioned stuff you wanted to do in the future. Are you thinking about doing more records that are based on music written by pop artists? Because I can think of so many that deserved to be coveredPaul Simon, Stevie Wonder, etc...
DH: Yeah right. Exactly. On that Eric Alexander Meets Classic Trio there's a Stevie Wonder tune, "Knocks me Off My Feet," which is from one of my favorite all-time Stevie records he made in the 70s called Songs In The Key Of Life. There are several tunes from that record I've always wanted to arrange and do. But it's a tricky business because... And this is the problem sometimes with highly produced pop records, there's so much in there already it's hard to know what to take out and what could be added because it's so perfect the way it is. Especially the way Stevie Wonder does his music. I mean he just keeps layering stuff in there and it's so right on the money, you know? I don't think I've ever heard anything that he did that I didn't like.
Yeah, I'd like to do some more Stevie. Paul Simon is another great idea. I've got a list of guys on my work table I intend to get to. I don't know if I'll do another Modern Standards in the near future. As a matter of fact Marc Edelman was talking to me yesterday about the next record and he'd like me to do something along the lines of 'Modern Originals' to be the follow-up to Modern Standards, but feature stuff I've written since there was no original music on Modern Standards, and usually I put original tunes on my CDs. But I wanted to stick with the format of tunes people would recognize. I wonder if there's any tune on there that's not recognizable. I guess people that would know Bee Gees and The Beatles might not know Sy Coleman and "Witchcraft." But I think they're not so disparate. Are they?
AAJ: "Witchcraft" is definitely in a standards vein, in my mind anyway. But that's the kind of thing where I'd assume everyone would have some kind of relationship to that tune. Again, it might be a couple times removed. Like, younger kids will probably recognize that melody, but they won't have that personal relationship like we had with the Bee Gees tune.