This is how Lewis Harding’s excellent debut jazz album ‘Palm Thievery’ started, here’s the story behind the recording.
Regular client, Lewis, was at the studio one day having just recorded a couple of his new tracks with Kate Hogg featured playing Alto and Tenor Saxophones. The two tracks (‘Above’ and ‘Hue 6’) were originally destined for an ambient guitar-based album, but had taken on a definite jazz feel with Kate’s lyrical Sax melodies and improvisations.
“Maybe you should write a jazz album”, someone said to Lewis.
As the world came to a grinding halt in early 2020 Lewis, out of gigs and the studio closed, used the time to write more melodies and chord lines with a jazz feel in mind.
Before long there was an album worth of tunes and as life briefly eased up Lewis came to The Playroom to start laying down guide chords and melody lines so that we could work on the arrangements. The challenges of recording an album when so restricted with opening hours and numbers of players at once became the next hurdle.
Next a call to Tom Phelan (another regular at the studio) who Lewis had met years previously and we were recording piano parts. This gave Mike Saunders (resident engineer and orchestrator) enough of a framework to write horn section parts. Later on in the process Tom returned to record some fantastic piano solos (‘Above’, ‘Octopods’, ‘Hue 6’ and ‘Palm Thievery’).
In the meantime, taking the opportunity of being allowed out of our houses, we arranged for Terry Pack (Double Bass) and Dave Cottrell (Drums) to record for a couple of days (Terry in the booth, Dave in the live room) which gave all the pieces a real lift as well as finalising the feel and layout of the arrangements.
Studio friend Richard Horne popped in to record the fiendish vibraphone parts. ‘Octopods’ particularly was a ‘bit of a headache’, but as this was a ‘no cut, copy and paste’ album, (all you hear on the album is played for real by all the musicians), we took time to rehearse and perfect. His 4-mallet chord work on the ballads is sublime.
Time to get noisy! On to the horns. Mike had written parts for the horns for all the ‘heads’ and sectional work so it was easy to adhere to social distancing by having one player at a time come to the studio. With such a solid rhythm section already in place, timing was never an issue.
First up:- Julian Nicholas came to record Baritone Sax and Tenor Sax. After the heads and section parts were recorded we let him loose on some free solo sections in ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Palm Thievery’, ‘Nine Steps Between’ and a marvellous show-stopping Baritone Sax solo on ‘Octopods‘.
Charlotte Glasson spent a morning recording Soprano Sax and Alto Sax to the sectional parts, and added some gorgeous clean lines of improvisation on ‘George’s Salamander’ and ‘Clues in Bhutan’.
And finally for the horn section Martijn Van Galen, an old friend of the studio, came to top-off the sound on Trumpet and Flugelhorn. Great playing and marvellous solos on ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Octopods’ and ‘Nine Steps Between’.
So to the finishing off. The beauty of being the boss was that Lewis could wait to add his final guitar parts and solo sections at the end of the recording process. A couple of weeks of popping in and out and trying ideas and we had them all down. Just right.
The final stage of any recording is mixing. The secret of this album was to get the overall balance of each of the tracks to sound similar, to ‘join up’ the horn section and make the recording sound like the band were together and recorded at once, when actually, as we know, it was recorded in bits and pieces over a long period of time.
‘Mixing great musicians makes the job easier,’ Mike said. So actually it didn’t take long. And, as the world was still ‘closed’ there was no real rush to finish which gave time for long breaks between listening and a real chance to find the little bits that would ultimately end up being annoying if left. Once finalised, the mixes were sent to Simon Gibson at Abbey Road Studios in London for mastering before being sent for duplication.
So, we give you ‘Palm Thievery‘, Lewis Harding’s debut jazz album – we hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we have enjoyed making it.
Buy and/or download now from Bandcamp.