In November of 2004, I found myself standing alone on the side of a mountain in Italy, near Assisi, on retreat with a group of fellow Zen students. It was totally silent, except for the slight creaking of the trees being moved by the wind. I stood on a path that was lined with wet red leaves in, what appeared to be, a primeval birch forest. The mist and fog surrounded me, so that, while the immediate environment was stark and clear, everything else sort of faded into the mist.
As I stood there in silence, I came to wonder and marvel at the process in my life that had brought me to stand in this incredibly beautiful space. It seemed like each twist and turn, each moment had prepared me for exactly this place, this opportunity. Yet I was still amazed that, somehow my life, had allowed me this great gift, to be in this precise place at that moment, and I was profoundly grateful.
Standing there, looking out into this amazing forest, I realized that I had been preparing to "hear this silence", to be in this space, for a very long time. What arose, for me, was the word “Yes”. Yes to life and all that that implies. In that very moment I had a clear vision of this music. Of a day spent recording music with my friends, simply because we can. No other agenda, no mission to fulfill, just music for the sake of music. (Originally my idea was a day of silence, where we only played, but with no talking, just introspection and music. That idea quickly evolved as things progressed towards reallity.)
That night I called Tim and Steve, and explained my idea, with great enthusiasm, and I was met immediately with a fantastic YES from both of my friends. ( I think to some extent that they both have a great sense of patience and generosity, when it comes to my ideas about music and creating art!). I told them I wanted to go into the studio and record 9 or 10 of our favorite Blues and Soul tunes, but make them ours, play them how we wanted to. I also wanted to play “live”, with all of us in the same room. There would be no fruitional purpose other then to just play, record, and then see what happens.There
was some hesitation initially, but that evaporated with the first note we played, and from that moment on, it was magic.
The night before recording we met and played for a few hours. Talking through the tunes, but leaving room for spontaneity. We wanted unexpected things to happen, and so we did not want to rehearse a lot. We recorded the next day at Westlake Audio, in one of the best studios I could imagine, Studio D. My friend Steve Burdick, who owns Westlake, is an amazing human being and actively supports the idea of good musicians creating great music. We would not have been able to do this without his help and enthusiastic encouragement. He is always open to exploring creative ways to make new music. A rare thing in today’s music business.
We spent 1 day at Westlake, and one night at Steve’s studio. The end result, we think, speaks for itself. A great compilation of 10 tunes, played the way we wanted to. No tricks, no technology getting in the way. No record label to satisfy, no goal other then to be present and play the Blues!
I have played the Blues all of my life, and more and more I see it as a meditation, a true expression of the moment, because it is a music that is not constrained by form. It has rules and structure, but the beauty and the power are in the moment, and in the humanity that the players each bring to the music. That makes it unique for me, as it requires a kind of emotional honesty, and a deep sense of craft. As a Zen student I see a direct corrolation between the Blues and my practice. Both require authentic presence and a willingness to explore the moment.
At the end, like being in that forest, I came to marvel at the path my life has taken, to allow me to be playing such beautiful music, with such amazing musicians and human beings, and I am deeply grateful for every twist in the path that has brought me here. I am honored to have played and recorded with these fantastic musicians, and I am also really happy that you can hear that experience when you get to hold this CD in your hands.
Music of the moment, captured for all to hear.
John March February 14th 2005
"The quality of your life is dependent upon the focus of your attention." -- Cheri Huber