A Letter To Ed
A LETTER FROM EDGAR WINTER TO ED PALERMO REGARDING THE ALBUM
I’VE GOT NEWS FOR YOU: THE MUSIC OF EDGAR WINTER
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It's Edgar here. Well, here's one for the books. I'm making a tribute album for my brother, Johnny. Meanwhile, Ed is making a tribute album for me—while I'm still alive and walking around. What's up with that? But seriously, it's such a surprise. I'm humbled and honored beyond words. Thank you, Ed, for this amazing gift — one tribute maker to another.
Of course, I can't help but love this album since it's my music. It is so remarkable to hear all these various songs re-envisioned and interpreted in a big band context. As many of you may know, I've been a passionate jazz lover since my early teens. Ed obviously shares that love and passion.
I have long held the view that Blues and Jazz are the two greatest uniquely American contributions to music. I find it sadly ironic that Jazz and Blues musicians are so much more highly regarded and acclaimed in Europe and virtually everywhere else around the world except right here in America, where it – the music that we should be so proud to embrace and support – originated.
Ed Palermo plays Jazz — regardless of the current trends, popular taste, or public opinion. He also keeps a big band together, which is no small feat — believe me. It is gratifying and inspiring to see someone dedicate himself to this time-honored tradition, following in the footsteps of the great Jazzmen who have gone before. So, hats off to you, Ed (that is, if I wore a hat, that was Johnny's thing). Anyway, I salute you, Ed! You're standing for what you believe in and playing the music you love. Who could ask for more?
All this having been said, let's talk about the album itself. I love the song selection. Part of what I've tried to do throughout my career was to broaden musical horizons and make people aware of all the music that's out there. Consequently, I think this album naturally echoes that theme. It is very diverse, containing many of my more obscure pieces — most notably, songs from the Entrance album, including the whole "Winter's Dream" suite in its entirety. Being my first album (and highly experimental in nature), I consider this some of my purest work in that it was free of any commercial intentions or considerations whatsoever. I am surprised and amazed that Ed included the whole piece in its entirety! It is a courageous act on his part. For me personally, there is no higher or more touching tribute that could be offered than the inclusion of the Entrance music. More on that later. Let's start at the beginning.
The album kicks off with a song called "I Hate Everybody." It's by my brother Johnny. I almost included it in my own tribute album to Johnny but decided not to because I thought it was too Jazzy. I think it's highly ironic and so cool that it's the first song on Ed's tribute to me.
This song accidentally arose out of my trying to show and demonstrate to the guys in Johnny's blues band some different possible alterations in the standard 12 bar blues form. Johnny picked right up on it, saying, "That's really cool. Let's make that a song!" So we did. Johnny wrote the intro tag line, lyrics, and melody. So even though all the music, changes, and arrangement were entirely mine, I didn't ask for any credit.
It really swings and is a great way to start out. A groovin' guitar solo (Jimmy Leahey) and a cool opening sax statement by Ed! I can hear Ed thinking, ‘let's give them something familiar before we venture out into Edgar Winterland.’ You can never go wrong with the Blues.
We stay with the blues in "Tobacco Road." This is the first song I ever sang in a big live concert situation. I was appearing as a special guest with Johnny and his blues band playing B3 organ and sax. One night (out of the blue), just before we went on, Johnny said, "Hey Edgar, why don't you sing one tonight?" I had to pick a standard blues song, something we could get through without any rehearsal. I said, "How 'bout Tobacco Road?" From that magical night on, I've never done a show without singing "Tobacco Road".
Now Ed continues the magic with his rendition. The version I listened to was on a Lou Rawls album with the Onzy Matthews big band. Ed's is very reminiscent of that one. Soulful vocal (Kimberly Davis) and slammin' guitar solo (Robben Ford). I find it interesting that Ed enlisted so many female vocalists to sing my songs. I did love to push my voice and get way up there. And as for guitar, I love Robben Ford's playing. He does a track on my album for Johnny (Winter). More synchronicity!
I've become so identified with this song over the years; you couldn't very well do an Edgar tribute without it. Thanks for doing such a cool version, Ed. I've always wanted to sing that song with an authentic big band. Who knows, maybe we can make that happen one day.
Now, we start getting into Entrance. This next one is an instrumental called "Peace Pipe,” and for me, it contains one of the album's musical highlights. On the original recording. I played an organ solo that I scatted along with vocally. It was just a spur-of-the-moment improvised solo that I never considered particularly well constructed. But Ed had it transcribed and fully arranged for all the horns. I was blown away by how effective it was. It sounded like a reasonably well thought out, clearly envisioned composition. It's something I would never have thought of. Ed, how did you come up with that idea? However you came about it, it's a good one!
Next, we move forward to the album Jasmine Nightdreams and a track called "All Out," which opens in a suite of three songs. We had just released two more commercial albums with the Edgar Winter Group, and I felt the need for more creative expression. It was time for a solo album to venture back into Winterland and do something more to my own personal taste.
Of all the songs on this record, this is the one that most obviously lends itself to the big band sound since it was actually written with that in mind. I've long had a deep love of Quincy Jones style arranging and big bands like Count Basie and Maynard Ferguson. I wrote "All Out," employing that kind of voicing, and played all the parts myself, as though I were the sax section in a big band. It's really a kick hearing it fully arranged for the whole big band sound! The changes are somewhat unorthodox and challenging to solo over, but Ed negotiates them beautifully and naturally. Well done, Ed! Glad you picked this one.
Now Ed returns to Entrance for the song "A Different Game." I've always liked the intro and the bass line to this one, and the changes in the solo section are fun to play over. I used an echo repeat while in this version, Katie Jacoby plays a really cool solo with wah-wah.
Next comes "Dying To Live," one of the first and perhaps best songs I've ever written, certainly one of my favorites. I wrote it right around the time of Woodstock, and I think because of that, it's generally perceived as an anti-war song. That may well have entered into it to some degree, but it was more truly a deeply personal expression of feelings I was going through at that particular time.
Simply put, it's a song about survival: whether you're fighting to defend your country or just struggling to make it through one more day in your ordinary life. Ed, your version is beautiful — a heartfelt vocal (Keith Anthony Fluitt), tasteful arrangement, and accurate to the original. Monique's and my deepest thanks for including it on the album.
Now (once again), we come back to Entrance for "Jump Right Out." This is my salute to one of my all-time great Jazz and Blues heroes, the amazing Mose Allison. I love the juxtaposition of Jazz and Blues in his piano style—and his clever, ironic, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, sometimes with a thought-provoking philosophical bent. This one is perfect for that big band swing treatment, with another great solo opportunity for Ed to do his thing. He starts laid back in the groove and builds the intensity right up to the end. I really dig it!
Finally, we reach "Winter's Dream," and the journey ventures into less explored territory! I couldn't fathom (at the time, I made Entrance) and still don't understand to this very day why music has to be broken down and separated into different categories. To me, it's all music, and I love to listen to and play it all.
I think with this album, Ed is demonstrating the same thing, that he would like to break down some of the arbitrary barriers and senseless musical prejudices that used to exist for no other reason than for record companies to pigeonhole artists and identify them with a specific target audience as a marketing strategy to sell records. I implore you, don't buy into this system. If you go for country, don't be afraid of jazz. If you prefer classical, don't be scared of rock. If you like mainstream pop, don't be afraid of the blues. Open your minds, hearts, and ears to it all.
Ed does an amazing job translating this piece (“Winter's Dream”) into a big-band opus, faithful and true to every detail. The vocals (Deb Lyons, Keith Anthony Fluitt, and Chrissi Poland) are compelling, and Ed's solo work is extraordinary. I especially love how he negotiates the free-form chords before and after the bebop section in "Fire And Ice."
Another really cool moment is the last introductory transition leading back into the final "Re-Entrance" theme. In my original version, this was played on guitar created by Randall Dollahon. Ed took the exact guitar voicing and rearranged it for the entire horn section. When I heard it, I said —wow! This really works very effectively. Way to go, Ed! Thank you for creating this new rendition. This is one I never expected to be covered by anybody. It is a touching tribute, indeed!
Now we come to my version of "You Are My Sunshine." This one is totally unexpected in that it's never been released or even recorded to my knowledge, and I have no idea how Ed came to hear it. We did this arrangement live with my first band, White Trash. I got the idea from a Mose Allison version I loved. His chord changes were so haunting, I took them and rearranged them for horns. That comprised the first section. Then we segued into the Ray Charles version with a Count Basie style arrangement. I'm wondering if Ed has ever heard the whole thing, as I doubt he would have been able to resist doing the same thing. It's a soulful vocal (Vaneese Thomas) and an excellent arrangement. I was so surprised and blown away to hear this. Thanks for bringing this one back to life, Ed!
The final song is another one by White Trash and another Ray Charles inspiration. Ed cleverly turns this one into a (boy-girl) duet. The vocal interplay (Vaneese Thomas and Rob Paparozzi) is full of personality and makes this one so much fun. I love hearing our "Trash" arrangements expanded to the whole big band experience. This is the perfect ending to an exotic and exciting journey. Now, we've come full circle. And just as I said in the beginning –You can never go wrong with the Blues!
In closing, I want to thank Ed once again for this astounding and unexpected tribute. It's almost like a book. My story – a biographical acknowledgment, but in music rather than words. Thank you, Ed, for this unique and unusual gift. I am so touched! Continue exploring, expanding, and doing what you're doing. You are on a worthwhile path. Keep up the great work.
Peace and love,
– September 2021