Smitty: Absolutely, man. I’ve already come to that conclusion and I can’t wait for others to hear this and get their comments because this is incredible music.
AJ: Yeah. And the material….We had to have some arrangements and Larry Williams laid hands.
Smitty: Yeah, man.
AJ: Bad Larry Williams. He’s my keyboard player.
Smitty: Yeah, he’s a bad boy.
AJ: He said “Okay, let me work on this” and put together that “Summer Breeze” arrangement.
Smitty: Sweet, ain’t it?
AJ: He gave George all of that room to play and those different changes that you hear in there, those jazz classic, those jazz changes….That’s deep.
Smitty: It is, man.
Smitty: It totally is. And what beautiful scats on there too.
AJ: Yeah. “Don’t Start No Schtuff.”
Smitty: I’m telling ya. (Both laughing.)
AJ: You know, we’re in John Burk’s office, that’s maybe the first day…it was either the first or our second meeting there in Burk’s office. I arrive a little before George does and I say “Oh, please, can I have a coffee?” and so one of Burk’s assistants goes for coffee, and in the meantime, while I’m in the men’s room, George is arriving and he asks for a cup of coffee too, and so when I come out, George is sitting there drinking a cup of coffee and I’m saying to him “Hey, man, you got my coffee!” (Both laughing.) And George starts laughing. “What do you mean your cup of coffee? This is mine. Don’t start no schtuff.” And we fell on the floor laughing.
AJ: We fell on the floor. We said “Don’t start no schtuff. We ought to write a song like that.” And that’s how the idea was born for that song.
Smitty: (Laughs.) And, you know, it’s got that whole attitude. “Don’t start no schtuff.”
AJ: That attitude just persisted throughout the record….Just fun and loose, and let’s bring our best stuff that we do together to the project. And when we finished….we weren’t even entirely finished, but when we had enough of that song to sit down and listen to, I mean, basically what you’re hearing there with the need to touch it here and there with, oh, I’ve forgotten what we may have added later on, but when I listened to what you basically listened to, I couldn’t take it out of the CD player. I listened to it ten times just in the car coming home, got in the house and listened to it ten times, just enjoying that moment, the freshness of that moment, the laughter and the fun in there.
Smitty: How cool is that!
AJ: The (singing), “Al, don’t start no stuff up in here.”
AJ: “What you talking about?” (Both laughing.) And that conversation back and forth.
Smitty: Oh, man. That’s classic stuff.
AJ: If they’re not talking about it for a while, they oughta be. (Laughs.)
Smitty: Yes indeed.
AJ: Then Marcus (Miller) comes in with “Tutu”.…and lays it out and I did the lyric for “Tutu.”
Smitty: Yes. And that bluesy feel it has, man, when you first start out with that. I mean, every song just grabs you in a new way, in a new place, and it is just beautiful.
AJ: Oh, thank you, man. I hope other people get that. We tried to make every song have a statement from the opening note. (Singing.) Do “Tutu” but let ‘em hear something they ain’t ever heard.
AJ: Got it for you. Here it is, Marcus. Let’s start this way. (Both laughing.) You know, the lyric on that sucker, man, whew!
Smitty: It’s sweet. Speaking of Marcus Miller. You guys have some monster arrangers on this project.
AJ: Yeah. We haven’t even talked about Jill Scott (“God Bless the Child”). And Patti Austin (“Let It Rain”). Haven’t even talked about them.
Smitty: I know. And we’re gonna get to that ‘cause I wanna talk about their great contributions. But, you know, when I think about people like Larry Williams, Marcus Miller, Michael Broening, John Burk, Rex Rideout, Mr. Club 1600.
Smitty: And then Barry Eastmond, what a bad boy.
Smitty: You know, you guys have every element it takes to just put people on just a blissful musical journey, amazing.
AJ: Mm-hmm, we had some excellent help.
AJ: Excellent guest appearances on that record.
Smitty: Oh, on every level, this is top notch, you name it. It’s got it.
AJ: Hmm. Mm-hmm, yeah.
Smitty: Yes indeed. Now, my girl Jill Scott. Whoo!
AJ: Jill Scott.
Smitty: Boy, did she bless the child…did she do that song or what?
AJ: Did she do that song?
AJ: Did she do that song? Did she bring some Jill Scott to that?
Smitty: She brought some Jill Scott and both you and George were right there with her.
AJ: Right….the feel that I set up, you know, with the bass figure that I’m singing.
AJ: And, yeah, it’s funky. (Laughs.)
Smitty: It is, man. I said, now, I’ve heard a lot of versions of this, but I said, this is “God Bless the Child” in 2006.
AJ: In 2006. A little hip hop attitude on it, yeah.
Smitty: Yeah, man. All three of you were just the most beautiful complement. I mean, you couldn’t have put three great vocalists together and do this again because this is just classic beautiful stuff, and then Marcus Miller was just laying that bass down on it.
AJ: Our buddy.
Smitty: Yeah, and Patrice is just…oh, she’s incredible.
AJ: Yeah, yeah. And when you bring some real love and desire to the room marvelous things happen.
Smitty: I like that. That’s a great statement.
AJ: And the thing about “God Bless the Child,” it is that moment that I just described that is the heart and core of this song. Okay, it’s like this. I’m gonna describe it for you. “All right, Jill.” I sent her “Let it rain tonight,….“ (singing). I sent her that song. That’s the song I wanted her to sing but Patti Austin ended up singing. “I can be so selfish but sad and moody” (singing). I sent her that song, she listened to it, came to the studio and said “But I don’t wanna do that.” (Both laughing.) “I’m here and I’ll sing with ya’ll, but I don’t wanna do that one. I want something different. I wanna do something different.” “Okay, here we are. What you wanna do?”
Smitty: That’s funny.
AJ: And she said “I wanna do ‘God Bless the Child.’” And so I said “Hey, we gotta put something different on it,” so I immediately went to Marcus (Miller) “Okay, Marcus this is the bass figure: (singing). That’s how we should do it. Let’s do it funky. Let’s do it ‘today.’” And Marcus said “Well, you have to sing the bass just like that. You should sing the bass. Sing the bass and then I’ll come play that bass line after you get it started, but that’ll make it different than anything anybody’s seen in this sector of the universe.”
AJ: “Jill, you ready?” “Well, yeah.” Hey, didn’t know the song entirely. You know, she’s learning parts of it as she sang it. And that’s with the right emotion. “I wanna sing ‘God Bless the Child.’” A moment.
Smitty: How incredible is that?
AJ: Come with the love and with the heart and with the willingness and with the feeling, stuff happens.
Smitty: Yes indeed.