The Chart for "Go Down Gamblin’"

Listen to "Go Down Gamblin'"...

David Clayton-Thomas and I lived a short drive from each other in Marin County, California. Sometimes when I hung out with him, he would sing and play his guitar, perhaps showing me a new tune that he had written. One day, with him on guitar and me on his electric piano, I recorded us on my cassette machine, jamming on his new tune "Go Down Gamblin'". I think we played it non-stop for the full length of the tape. I was able to figure out the chords to his song pretty fast, then we just kept playing away… He had a big picture window in his living room, where we were playing. At one point, we saw a deer outside his window. We kept playing, but very softly, so as to not scare away the animal. During our jam, I played some pretty sophisticated jazz- type chords to his song, but David impressed me by soloing on his guitar unfazed by my accompaniment. I hadn’t listened to a lot of rock or blues guitarists, but I still felt that he was quite creative and had a unique guitar style. I would have liked to hear him play guitar more in BS&T. But, in truth, it really wasn’t necessary because his singing was already such a great contribution to the band! Although I used some of my own horn lines for the arrangement to this tune, I included and embellished a number of David’s guitar lines which I transcribed off the cassette. I felt that what he played on his guitar was more interesting or truer to the song than many of my ideas. I was only interested in what was best for the arrangement.

The Chart for "John the Baptist"

Listen to "John The Baptist"...

At a BS&T band meeting, someone suggested that, since I was writing so few arrangements for the band at the time, I should try writing with Al Kooper again because we had worked well as a team in the past. I didn’t love this idea or appreciate the person’s comment, although I knew it wasn’t ill-intended. Al and I had done some great things together, but that was then! I had been developing my own signature as an arranger, and wanted to keep moving in that direction. But, I agreed to work on a chart with Al anyway. He came over to my home in Mill Valley, California and played me "John the Baptist", a song he and another person had written. I liked the song but didn’t care for some of the chords. After spending a day with Al on the chart, I pretty much abandoned his ideas and wrote a totally new chart, using some different chords to fit my style. I kept Kooper’s idea for a ‘round’ (played by the horns) for the ending of the song. I thought that was a great idea! It has a beautiful weaving quality, whereby, none of the horns get in each others' way – they all simply dance and flow around each other, complimenting one another!

People wonder where creative ideas come from! For me, inspiration is all around us. We don't need to look far to find it. It’s perhaps more a matter of 'appreciating' things. If you feel a lot of gratitude and love, it’s bound to spill out from you, in one form or another...

The arrangement I wrote for "John the Baptist" came from my joy and happiness after having just moved into my new home in Mill Valley, California. It was a new experience for me to live on the West Coast and to take on the responsibility of owning a home. It was a custom-built Swiss chalet made of Redwood, with winding stone steps leading down to the house from a narrow country road above. The porch extended around two sides of the house. One side faced a mountain, Mt. Tamalpais (a native American Indian name). But you couldn’t see the mountain. It was blocked by some very tall Redwood trees on my property that rose up alongside my porch. So one beautiful warm day, shortly after moving in, I had a bunch of branches trimmed from my trees. This gave me a spectacular view of the very bright blue sky, the clouds and the mountain. Plus there was an ever-changing mist that rolled in through the valley, hiding the mountain for a while, then making it appear again as the mist left. I felt very at peace that day. I stayed on my porch the whole day. I barbecued my dinner out there, and enjoyed the twinkling of the stars into the late evening. I was like a kid in awe of nature. Maybe I just forgot how beautiful nature is, having grown up in the Bronx. This was a special day that I thoroughly enjoyed. The trombones playing the introduction of "John the Baptist" portray bright light coming through the day, giving life to all things.

About a year before writing this story, I spent an afternoon listening to all the BS&T CDs that I played on. I was really appreciating Dick Halligan's arranging talent. I called him to let him know how much I enjoyed the arrangements he did for BS&T. He surprised me by telling me that his favorite BS&T chart was the one I had written for "John the Baptist". I told him it was my favorite chart too, of the ones I had done.