A recent business trip to beautiful Lexington, Kentucky had me hopping from Connecticut’s Bradley Field to Baltimore and then Louisville, where I rented an anemic but reliable Nissan Versa and zipped the 70 miles to Lexington—it worked out to be the most efficient plan based on schedule and airfares. The key to effortlessly stowing a carry-on bag with Southwest is to invest in EarlyBird check-in so that you can be assured of overhead bin space.
Traveling music for me is all about the mood and head space of the moment. Currently, I use an iPod classic and transfer my music to iTunes in Apple Lossless. Certainly adequate resolution for travel and when combined with my mid-fi Bose noise cancelling headphones, it gives me respite from any unsettled ankle-biters howling at their guardians for more chocolate milk.
One record I had on my listening agenda was Jamie Cullum’s The Pursuit. I had caught pieces of a few tracks on satellite radio and decided to buy the CD. I like this kid—I have no idea how old he is, but he seems youthful. As a pianist, I appreciate his tasteful and stylish blend of magnetic pop songs with bursts of Connick Jr.-like flare. The CD opens with a track called Just One of Those Things, a jazz/pop number in which you can hear the glee—this guy is just so happy to be making records. The band, the horns, this is a throwback that could have been yanked from just about any era of popular music.
Tracks 2 and 3 are great pop songs with sprinklings of intriguing melodies and delicious piano ornamentation. There is a breakdown and the second track (I’m All Over It Now) where the vocal hook alternates with some honky tonk riffs that add levity and attitude (sneer) to the music that I wholeheartedly appreciate. The third track (Wheels) is one that I heard in the car and motivated me to buy the disc. It is a simple pop song with all kinds of subtle layers and a great hook. During the verses, the bass line (in B) is root-5th, root-6th, root-7th and back to root-6th underneath Cullum’s totally tasty piano work. When the bass player hits the 7th (A-sharp in this case) the piano matches it two octaves higher as part of a riff that is repeated over and over, the combination of tones produces a warm, fat, happy, rich foundation for the verse vocal. Cullum comes across to me as an intelligent composer and lyricist with style. Really good record, and one which I will certainly explore on a better playback system!!
One little dose of Brian Wilson before the trip lands me back in Connecticut. There is a track from the Imagination CD called Cry—I love the huge Brian Wilson harmonies and clever chord changes, but there are two moments in the song that slay me: The first is simply the bass line in the choruses—the opening chord is C-minor, followed by a G 7th with a huge low F in the bass that resolves back to C-minor inverted (with an G in the bottom). I just love that!! The song’s second moment comes about two minutes into the song where three-part harmonies singing “ah” paint four consecutive chords, with the first being C-major and the second being C-minor. It just strikes me as so powerful to take a major triad and drop the third to go minor with human voices. The third chord is B-flat major and the final chord is back to the C-minor, all over a pedal C bass. Wilson’s roots are in religious music and this moment is all about hymns and choirs. Beautiful.
I did actually work—the trip was productive and generally positive. Lexington, KY is stunning in spring and I am blessed to be surrounded by wonderful, smart people in my professional life. Nothing like getting home though… footnote: My return flight included a bird strike to the nose of the 737 on climb out of Baltimore, just above the windscreen. We returned to BWI for inspection and were cleared to resume the flight.