Thursday 16th May
This morning we went to check out the studio we’ve booked at the Polish Radio Studios building – Studio 4/6. It was like arriving at Cinecitta or something. Huge buildings housing Polish state TV and radio.
We were greeted by the administrator we’ve been working with and an English speaking engineer for Adam to run through the gear with. Macio and Kassin also wanted to check out where the booths were and how the set up might look. The room has huge ceilings and wooden isolation areas but when it was built the esthetics were not forgotten – a floor to ceiling mural of hand made green glazed tiles added a wonderful mid century touch to the atmosphere.
Adam decided that if possible he would set up everything on Monday morning for all the instruments that we’d have over the four days and talked through the mics the studio had. He was also blown away by the condition of the SSL E series desk in the control room especially when compared to the abuse they used to see at the BBC back in the day.
I got pretty emotional on the way and turned to Kassin and Macio as if to say ‘how can we really be here?’ We took Japanese fans style photos outside the signage of the complex.
Back at Macio’s house Kassin and I went through the last selections of the new material to see what might fit into the final playlist. As he’d been working from a totally different shortlist to the rest of us it was really fun going through them and getting the guys’ reactions. When you have songs in your head it’s almost impossible to see them objectively. Tell tale signs like other people whistling the melody always helps to see if someone other than you might also like a song.
We finalised the list pretty quickly including agreeing to two that needed lyrics. One of them Queijo Tipo Esferico wrote itself in five minutes and Kassin’s lyrics pushed the track firmly back into the list.
A ballad I’d written only two weeks before also got in along with an homage to Joao Donato called appropriately enough ‘Donateando’.
Then the third guy for the band turned up for the first rehearsal. Piotr ‘Pedrinho’ Zabradski is a kind of wunderkind of interesting and wdinerful music across a vast spectrum of styles, from acappella Duke Ellington to boiler room drum’n’bass and Polish folk, with a deep love of jazz.
We started the rehearsals with the ‘easiest’ one. Durval Ferreira and Orlann Divo’s Eu Nao Vou Mais for which I’d written an English lyric 15 years earlier. A one chord infectious riff that organist Ed Lincoln used to play at every ‘baile’ in Rio in the mid 60s to animate the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
The last core member of the band arrived late at night from Rio via London. Alberto Continentino, literally one of the best bass players in the world right now and with an extraordinary talent for arranging. Alberto’s patience with my weird melodies and structures would really make a difference.
Friday was the second rehearsal day, this time with Alberto on bass and Pedrinho on keys.
We ran through more songs inlcuding Donateando, Shangri La, Adão Fora do Balanço and the first run through of Tutti Frutti. The first three sounded great but our version of Tutti Frutti was missing some of the melody of my original demo and by the time we got to it at the end of the evening we were all pretty tired and needed more ramen from the Vegan Ramen Shop.
We’d been invited by Pedrinho to go and see him play with the Tomasz Duda Quartet in the city. It wouldn’t be Poland without ‘free jazz’ and the gig was pretty full on and unbelievable drummer Janek was like a machine. Sax player Duda is due to come in and play a baritone solo on ‘I Won’t Go (Eu Nao Vou Mais)’ at the studio next week. That’s going to be incredible.
We finished up with a walk along the river where there was a great buzz of stuff happening. Food tents, DJs, live bands and even a floodlit skate park.
Kicked off with a fast and dirty version of Queijo Tipo Esferico. In Rio in the 90s there was little in the way of imported foods so local immigrant populations would produce their own non DOP versions. So cheese were sold as ‘parmesan-type’ etc. Kassin and I sat down and went through all the cheeses we remember from that time – Tipo Parmesao, Tipo Hollandese and of course, Tipo Eseferico – literally, ’round type cheese’
We also ran through the Gary McFarland inspired Um Tema Perdido (A Lost Theme) that I remember composing in 2003 whilst driving in London with Ed Motta in my beaten up 80s 5 Series BMW.
Today is gig day. I’ve not really been thinking about this or otherwise I’d be in a panic. We’d decided to play two of the more upbeat songs from the record. Kassin was convinced that me singing these on stage in a live environment would help with the overall recording, both in terms of seeing how they might work and with building confidence.
The two songs are going to be ‘Adao, Fora do Balanco’ and ‘I Won’t Go’. What better than Durval Ferreira/Orlandivo’s classic Ed Lincoln ‘baile’ groove to get the Polish audience dancing?
Monday was the big day. First day in the incredible Studio 4-6 at the Polish Radio Studios in Warsaw. I didn’t go to bed until beyond 2 am last night so today I was really tired but running on that excitement that’s like an engine on fumes.
From the moment we turned up at the studios we were treated so well. Our lovely co-ordinator Ewa Prus introduced us to the two guys who would be assisting us with the studio – Robert and Jerry and Adam was to spend the morning setting up but being told he didn’t need to touch the mics as the two guys set about creating the set up for the next five days.