Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 is about love, life, and death…things I think, to some degree, all people are constantly trying to come to grips with. This album was my attempt at addressing these big picture topics.
I started writing songs for what would become Sonnet 18 in the spring of 2016. It started almost like a fantasy: “what if the front line in my band was me and Seamus Blake with the rhythm section of Adam Arruda and Rick Rosato lighting a fire under us?”. Compositionally, that quickly yielded three tunes: Introspect, Rouge Hill and Retrospect. We recorded these three songs at the now defunct Systems Two recording studio in Brooklyn. We recorded live-off-the-floor with no edits or overdubs; it was also mixed live. The resulting demo came out great and became the first monumental step towards what would later become Sonnet 18.
In the meantime, I was busy planning a tour across western Canada to support my debut album, Fundamental. I continued to compose music in the hopes of recording as soon as possible. In mid 2018, I got in touch with producer Ron Skinner. After our first phone conversation, it became clear to me that the wheels were in motion to record a full-length album. Ron and I shared a lot of musical interests, and I identified in Ron someone who cared deeply about creating and presenting beautiful music.
Over the next few months everything came together. With the help of my demo a Toronto Arts Council grant was approved, and recording dates were booked at Toronto’s Union Sound Company. I reassembled my dream band from the demo, made up of three expat Canadian musicians that have been creating a stir on the international scene. Seamus Blake on saxophone, Adam Arruda on drums and Rick Rosato on bass. I then spent weeks putting every bit of my energy towards the fruition of this recording.
There was an ice storm the morning of the first day of recording which delayed Seamus and Rick’s flight. In this atmosphere of part dread and part calm I began setting up and recorded a couple guitar intros, one of which made it on the record as the intro to “Duffle Bag”. Once everyone arrived, making music with these guys was the easy part. The creative energy in the studio was incredibly inspiring for me; it was an honour to get to record with such a dynamic and creative band.
There were several times during the recording process where a compelling energy was flowing through the band and together Ron and Union Sound engineer Darren McGill did a great job capturing the energy. Recording live-off-the-floor can be challenging but the end results are always worth the effort.
Compositionally, the album represents for me a sonic statement of my definition of being alive; what it’s like to be experience love, life, death, happiness, hatred, and everything in between. Improvisationally, the album displays a humanistic spirit and energy.