Songwriting 101 With Bob BroughBy Jim Dupuis
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JD: Well let's get back to your new CD Like a Spring Day. Tell us about the writing process. You use to write primarily instrumental jazz. For this project you are writing with a partner, Sonja Tran. Do you each write by yourself or do you write together? Give us an idea about the process, please?
BB: Well I had a number of tunes that I had written as instrumentals that could actually hear a lyric and when Sonja and I got together back around 1994 we started looking at some of these tunes and just experimenting with the possibilities of lyrics. She was studying the craft of lyric writing. This was an a opportunity to test the waters on a real tune that had been tried and true and had been played as an instrumental and accepted in the community of jazz listeners.
This is how it all started and then things got more complicated. As it turned out, a lot of the tunes that I had written didn't fall into the range of a vocalist. There were a few tunes that I tried to alter. Some were more successful than others and that started the ball rolling for me to start writing in a song style rather than something the saxophone might be able to play, but a vocalist might have to stretch their range unreasonably so that's how the ball got rolling.
The idea was that Sonja might want to write a verse for a song to set up the content of the song because sometimes the verse is really important, so that she would write the content of the material and I would take that and find a melody that would be in verse style and to fit those words and the song might be one of my instrumental tunes that Sonja had put lyrics to. So there are all sorts of combinations that one can come up with. Other times Sonja has asked me to write a tune in a certain style; sort of a Latin, poppy little tune � so I wrote Today and she wrote the lyrics to that. I wrote it with the intention of it being a certain stylistic approach and that's how it came. It appears both on my previous CD A Decade of Favourites , which was a live recording, recorded at the Montreal Bistro in 2003 and we have a new studio version on our new CD Like a Spring Day. (listen online at http://www.bobbrough.com/adecadeoffavorites.html or listen to �Today� <http://wwwjazzpromo.com/jp/Bob_Brough_Today.mp3>)
JD: Yeah, that's one of my favourites off the new CD.
BB: Well, there's different ways of approaching it. I do that even when I'm composing instrumental tunes. Sometimes I'll use a rhythmic device to get the melody started or sometimes there's a harmony I'd like to explore and see if I can find a melody that would indicate that harmony. So there's all sorts of different possibilities and sometimes I'll hear a tune that I'd like to write something similar to and I'll get into that mood and see what comes to me or I'll take a melody and turn it upside down and see where that leads me. There's all sorts of possibilities, but the lyric writing thing in song writing is relatively new to me, actually, except that my melodies did sound like they could be songs rather than something more obscure and less lyrical and more harmonic. So that's how the whole thing got started.
JD: That's, a good explanation, Bob. Now, what would we find in your CD player these days?
BB: Well, one of my favourite CDs is Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra. That's beautiful! It is a combination of the Bill Evans Trio with Claus Ogerman and the London Philharmonic. It's a beautiful recording from many years ago. It sounds very classical in many ways bit it is the Bill Evans Trio with the symphony and they do take some classical themes and reinvent them for this very lush orchestra and the trio. That's one of the ones that I like. I also listen to a number of saxophone players, of course. I listen to Michael Brecker, and also to John Coltrane. I have a number of his CDs, and some friends around town like Mike Murley and Kirk MacDonald. We have a variety of other things � some of the greats like Charlie Parker; Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain is one of my favourites as well. Does that give you an idea?
BB: Oh, yeah. I like classical music and there are times, just for a change, I'll turn on a country and western station and hear what's going on in that world. That's the wonderful thing about radio. You can keep in touch with what's going on from smooth jazz to rap or that type of music, even though my preferences lean toward jazz and classical.
JD: I went to a George Thorogood concert last night and I had a great time.
BB: Yeah. I could imagine that would be great. I had more rhythm and blues and stuff of that nature years ago because I kind of started in that scene, back in the sixties when I started playing rock'n'roll and rhythm and blues. My record collection then, would reflect that. As I continued to play and look for other challenges I found that jazz was something I really wanted to get into, so I think John Coltrane was one of my most important musical influences even though I was enjoying the music of other jazz musicians before that and like most people the sound of Coltrane had quite an impact on me.
JD: That's believable. In fact I'm looking over my shoulder at the poster of the John Coltrane Blue Train sessions and it covers my living room wall.
JD: � and he was indeed a wonderful musician. I guess his son, Ravi is playing now. Are you familiar with him?
BB: Yes. I have heard some of his music, but I haven't had the opportunity to actually see him play live, but he's certainly a wonderful player and there are many wonderful young saxophone players in the world at this point in time; not just the high profile players like Ravi but a number of people in Canada and around the world in universities and local jazz communities playing marvellously well.
JD: Well I'd like to thank you for speaking with me. I understand you have a birthday coming soon and I'd like to wish you all the best.
BB: Thank you Jim, I had a wonderful time.
Bob's website allows you to listen to online to several tunes and has sheet music you can download for some of his compositions.
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