Mark Doyle Talks About The Songs On
Guitar Noir

“Perry Mason Theme"
Fred Steiner's writing knocks me out. When I was growing up I used to watch this show, and always loved the theme song. I learned this by ear after taping the show on my VCR. I finished all the overdubs, and we were all set to mix it. I happened to be in a bookstore and was perusing the music section when I spotted this tiny volume called "TV Themes." It was pocket-size and sold for $7.95. I opened it up, saw the Perry Mason Theme listed, and scanned through the score. To my horror I had gotten two of the chords wrong! What I thought was a Dm7b5 (the third chord) was really D augmented, and what I thought was G7b9 (the fourth chord) was really Ab with G in the bass. I had to go in and re-do a lot of the parts, but I'm glad I was able to spot it before we mixed it. There are some antique instruments on here: a clavioline (the keyboard heard on "Baby You're a Rich Man" by The Beatles), a theremin, an old Wurlitzer electric piano, a 1965 Gretsch 12-string (heard playing the main theme), and my 1954 Fender Strat played through a 1963 Vox AC-30 amp.

I've always loved this Bronislau Kaper/ Paul Francis Webster movie theme from 1948. I learned it years ago from an Andre Previn jazz piano book, and as a matter of fact I used a lot of his voicings for the harmony guitars. My dad was a great jazz pianist, and we both loved Previn's work in the early '60s with his jazz trio. Andre Previn's albums with piano and strings were very influential on me - he was a great string arranger, too.

"When I Fall In Love"
My version of this owes a lot to the version by Bill Evans on "Portrait In Jazz". It was his first trio, with Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums. When I hired Jimmy Johns and Darryl Pugh to play drums and upright bass, respectively, I wasn't aware that Jimmy is one of the world's biggest Bill Evans fans (next to me). Evans' version of this song always seemed to have such an aura of doom and tragedy to it - it made the lyrics seem very ironic. I asked Jimmy and Darryl to just let the space hang there in the air, and they really got what I was talking about. It was nice to be in such sympathetic company.

"Guitar Noir"

This song came to me quickly, once I had worked on "Invitation" with Richard Mendelson's loop and decided on pursuing the "noir" approach. I love the tremolo on the Vox AC-30, it just has so much atmosphere. Richard put in the vinyl scratches when we were working up the track at his house outside of Boston. I recorded the guitars in Syracuse at Lakewood (as I did most of the guitars on the album). When Richard heard the solo for the first time he said it reminded him of the guitar sound on "Good Morning, Good Morning" from Sgt. Pepper, which to me is like the ultimate compliment.

"Sarah Jane"
When I was a kid, I had a beloved transistor radio and I would stay up half the night with it pressed to my ear, the covers drawn over my head. The show I was tuned into was Sid McCoy's all-night jazz show from WLS in Chicago, and one of the tunes he played nightly was "Sarah Jane", written by Dave Grusin but performed by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. A very majestic piece, and something I've always wanted to record. (The Strat is played through a vintage Roland Chorus-Echo, in stereo through two AC-30's, for all you gear-heads that are interested.)

"Slow Hot Wind"
John Frantz turned me on to this song (he's the singer in the jazz trio, Lush Life, that I play piano in). It's one of those exotica pieces from the Johnny Hartman catalogue, but Richard's loop turned it into a hip-hop song. (I use my 1968 Gibson SG on this, and a lot of it is played through a Leslie cabinet.)

"Spring Is Here"
A great old Rodgers and Hart song. When my dad was alive, we would often play together (he on piano, me on bass). He once wrote this out for one of our gigs, and he had a beautiful section where the bass descended while the melody ascended. I've kept that intact in this arrangement - thanks, Dad.

"Warmth Of The Sun"

Could these two songs be a "sun-cycle" in the midst of the "noir"? Perhaps, but have no fear - things will get dark again very soon! I love Brian Wilson. So did Andy Pratt, and when we worked together, we would often play this song just for fun. And I remember many a great night at David Werner's old house where we'd sit in the parlor, me on the piano, and sing this song. Another one I've always wanted to do. (For this song and "Spring Is Here", Mike Finck let me borrow a really lovely Goya Rangemaster guitar, with these very unique alnico pick-ups. It was perfect for these songs - thanks, Mike.)

Thelonious Monk, one of my favorites of his. I transcribed his solo piano version from "Thelonious Alone in San Francisco" and adapted it for guitar. Paul Brantley plays lovely cello here, and Darryl Pugh joins in on bowed bass. Then they transform (with multi-tracking) into a discrete chamber ensemble for the last chorus.

"Lonely Woman"
Darryl Pugh is a busy guy. He teaches at three different colleges, plays in the Syracuse Symphony, and is always gigging. To top it off, he's a devoted father. When Darryl can make himself available for your session, you usually have a window of about an hour and a half before he has to rush off. At the session for our basic tracks, we had five minutes left before he had to leave to pick up his kids. I put my amp in the bathroom (for isolation), Jimmy kicked it off, we did this song in one take, and Darryl was out the door. Now bear in mind that this was no simple blues tune - it's probably the most demanding thing on the whole record. It's a free jazz piece, a classic by Ornette Coleman, and basically everybody is in a different time signature. And the three of us had never played together before that day! Likewise, when the clock was running down on Paul Brantley's overdub session, he had five minutes to do this and improvised the solo beautifully, in one take. So this proves that either, a) miracles do happen, or b) some things are best not labored over.

"The Way We Were"
This take is very personal to me. I was living in Boston, grieving over a painful divorce, and I recorded this straight into my DAT machine in one take. It captured all the emotion I was feeling at the time.

"Wild Is The Wind"
Another cool old movie theme, from the pen of Dmitri Tiompkin. I wanted to have a song that was played on acoustic, and this seemed as good a choice as any. There are (too) many kitschy versions of this song, but it really does have a gorgeous melody.

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