If you are a film producer and are looking for someone to write the score for your next blockbuster movie-Hello! The one thing Yaron Gershovsky hasn’t done and would still like to do is write the score for a major motion picture. Gershovsky’s impressive resume includes the Manhattan Transfer, working on several major Broadway productions including Swing and City of Angels as well as producing numerous CDs for artists including his own. Gershovsky isn’t out there advertising his desires but if you are in the movie business, I’m just saying
Gershovsky’s most recent project is the solo venture Personal Notes which features his clever piano chops and eleven original jazz compositions. He refers to the album as his most personal project to date, hence the name.
"It is a very personal CD and I think the thing that connects the songs on the CD is me and who I am, not necessarily style. There is no particular adherence to a style," he says. He admits the mixing of jazz metaphors has presented some challenges in terms of receiving airplay what with radio formats being tightly regimented.
The CD opens with the very upbeat "Bliss" heavily infused with B3 keys that contribute to R&B tinged grooves. "Bliss" also features a splendid solo by saxophonist Dave Mann. Mann’s saxophone vocabulary is extensive as he speaks to us on Personal Notes in alto, soprano and tenor.
Gershovsky says of his friend Mann, "He is such an accomplished player. He is a one take kind of a guy." He refers to his fellow instrumentalist as possessing a sensitive insight into music.
"I have known Dave Mann for many years and we have done recording sessions together. He toured with Manhattan Transfer (in 2000) as a guest artist when we toured in Japan to support the release of the Spirit of St Louis a CD dedicated to Louis Armstrong. We (Dave Mann and him) have a good connection," he says.
The elegant and ethereal "Don’t You Ever" could have had two words added to the title " .Dream Of" as you drift on every note gently flowing from Gershovsky’s piano keys with a subtle bass line created by Alex Blake.
"The point at which you do something great is when you let yourself go and you don’t even think about what you are doing," says the composer. Two things becoming increasingly obvious as you move into the understated "Crossroads" and the sprightly "Devotion". At first you are reminded of just how great a musician and composer Gershovsky is. He has arranged some wonderful charts for this CD. Secondly your ear hears in Gershovsky’s music a lyricist whose notes become the words that speak to your heart.
Some of you who may be more musically challenged like me may be wondering just how a master such as Gershovsky creates such intricate compositions. Why not just ask him, so I did. "Sometimes I will dream about a certain song. I will go to the piano and try to recreate it. It’s different every time," he says.
Sometimes ideas will come to him at the most inopportune times such as when he is driving the car or on the subway. No that’s not Yaron’s car you see weaving side to side as he scribbles notes to a new melody. He will often have a portable recording device with him. "I just record my ideas. Unfortunately there were times when I had some ideas and I just lost them because I forgot them. It is really upsetting but you forget sometimes," he says.
So I am thinking, by now all I need to do is find myself a good dream master and a reliable recording device and maybe I have a new career ahead of me-NOT! "This project has been a long time in the making and some of the pieces were written quite a few years ago. I think sometimes you are so busy working and the things that you really want to do to advance your career you (end up) doing last. (For me) it was like I was always waiting to finish some other project I was doing. That’s why it took so long for this project to come out. It has been a long time in the making," says Gershovsky.
Other key elements that contribute to his music are imagination and his mood as he sits at his piano writing.
In addition to his own compositions the trio of Gershovsky, Garry Haase (electric bass) and drummer Buddy Williams recorded Teddy Powell’s "Unchain My Heart" best remembered for Ray Charles’ blues rendition and Joe Cocker’s raspy reading.
"Buddy Williams is a drummer that I have known since 1977 or ‘78. We have been involved with different projects (together) throughout our lives. I like the way Buddy plays and the way he played on "Unchain My Heart". He is just perfect. He is a master of groove. He is a great person and a great friend," says Gershovsky.
"Living It Up" played in the key G Major provides insight into the way Gershovsky views life. "Sometimes you just think to yourself I don’t want to think about anything else and I just want to get the most out of everything," he says.
The other drummer to appear on Personal Notes is Steve Haas who now tours with Manhattan Transfer.
Gershovsky has many fond memories of working in Broadway shows such as the inaugural production of City of Angels (1989). "Cy Coleman wanted to create this quartet (similar to) The Manhattan Transfer. They called me and asked if I would like to be involved with doing vocal arrangements for them. Then I got a chance to meet and work with Cy Coleman which was a privilege," he says. He refers to the City of Angels experience as both rewarding and challenging.
When the album for City of Angels received six Grammy Awards he was good naturedly teased by Bill Byers who led the orchestra for City of Angels. "He said he had done (a lot) of shows before he had success with Chorus Line," Gershovsky recalls. Gershovsky worked as a vocal coach on Swing which had cast luminaries such as Tony nominated Ann Hampton Callaway. Other stage credits include vocal arrangements for Song of Singapore.
The Manhattan Transfer experience has been like his family away from home. "I have been with the Manhattan Transfer since 1979. The only thing that I have been doing longer in my life is being married to my wife Dorit. This is the second longest engagement that I have going on in my life and it as been an amazing relationship even though it is a work relationship. Last year I celebrated my birthday on the road and they brought a cake into the dressing room after the show,"
As he reflects back over the years of touring throughout North America, Europe and Asia and the many recordings he says, "It has been a very enriching thing in my life that I feel lucky to have."