It seemed rather
improbable, how Christiana and Mike's paths crossed, and a deep musical
friendship grew despite the many miles separating them. Mike and his wife
Meribeth, along with their golden retriever Samba, two cool cats, a gaggle of
geese, and a frog named Dave, all lived in a place filled with music and tucked
away at the end of a long dirt road in the hills of western Maryland.
Christiana - although (or maybe because) she grew up in Germany's Black Forest
- considered herself a "dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker" ever since settling in
Brooklyn in the early 1980s.
They met more or less by
chance, at a weekend visit with mutual friends in the area, and played at a
music session together. Once or twice a year, Christiana found herself in
Mike's neck of the woods, and one jam session led to another. They found common
ground in the old Standards like "The Nearness of You" and "You Stepped Out of
a Dream", especially enjoying their work as a duo. So they decided to develop
their shared repertoire and started booking gigs between DC and New
Studying with Brooklyn
jazz pianist Charles Sibirsky, who carried on the lines and harmonic
developments characteristic of the Lennie Tristano school, Christiana brings
her own scat-inflected repertoire of the Standards. Mike takes his inspiration
from composers such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Tadd Dameron, Johnny
Mercer, Burke/Van Husen and Antonio Carlos Jobim and guitarists Wes Montgomery,
Jim Hall, Joe Pass and Oscar Moore. Together, they developed their own "book",
crossing over into each other's territory, inspiring and enriching their music
in the process.
Mike brought his more
contemporary repertoire into the mix with his instrumental cuts of "The Way You
Look Tonight" and "Laverne Walk". They shared the wordless musical lines of
guitarist Jack Wilkins's "For Baden", and "Friends Again" by West-Coast sax
player Lanny Morgan. Their love for trading and soloing together, and Mike's
Latin repertoire - so ably supported on this CD by Dominic Smith on drums and
Bob Shann on bass - made them delve into "I'll Remember April". Chris
Battistone's cool and tasteful trumpet lines complement this cut, as well as
the title tune, "I've Got the World on a String", "You'd Be So Nice To Come
"There's a Small Hotel", "You're Looking At Me".
Christiana to the 1970s Nancy King - Steve Wolfe album, "First Date", which
took them to a later recording of King's and a reharmonization of "Tennessee
Waltz". In another nod to her, they couldn't resist including an intimate
version of "There's a Small Hotel". Mike first heard pianist Jimmy Rowles' "The
Peacocks" on his album with Stan Getz, and they included this challenging and
haunting song for a rare vocal rendition. They rounded out this CD with "East
of the Sun (and West of the Moon)" and "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To".
Here is what Mike Gellar
says about his band:
Christiana and I have a
special rapport that inspires each of us to create a result that is the greater
than the sum of the two individuals. We love the interplay and counterpoint
that happens between us. Part of our close collaboration is due to our love of
the same music and performers. I look at Christiana as a jazz musician, and one
who is adventuresome, rather than as a vocalist who sings with jazz musicians.
She brings a great deal of joy to the music and is not afraid to take chances.
Bassist Bob Shann always
lays down a smooth, warm, supportive sound and is a wonderfully melodic
soloist. The Ray Brown influence comes out on Bob's solo on "I've Got the World
on a String", and he plays a beautiful solo on "There's A Small Hotel".
Drummer Dominic Smith is
a master of taste, dynamics and textures. I love his brush work on "I've Got
the World on a String", "There's A Small Hotel", "The Peacocks", and "The Way
You Look Tonight". Listen to the beautiful cymbals in "The Peacocks".
Battistone and I go back over 20 years. We have performed together, he recorded
with me and wrote an arrangement for my 1998 debut-CD "Perdido", and he has
even helped me improve my ear from time to time. Chris' playing is always so
tasteful, he makes me think of Harry 'Sweets' Edison. Enjoy him backing up
Christiana and his solo on the opening tune. I loved trading 8's with Chris on
"You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To". He reminds me of Randy Brecker, along with
Bob and Dominic really laying down the rhythm.
I love the interaction
between us on the CD's instrumental cuts, "The Way You Look Tonight" and
"Laverne Walk". - Guitarist Steve Herberman turned me onto this Oscar Pettiford
tune during a gig together. I thought a bluesy, rhythm changes-type tune would
be a nice complement to the others on the CD. And I even threw in a lick from
my earlier rock days.
"Friends Again" is alto
saxophonist Lanny Morgan's composition which he recorded with guitarist Bruce
Forman. Chris Battistone and I used to play it, and one day Christiana and I
decided it would be fun to do together. Tony DeCaprio helped me improve my
picking on this challenging tune.
I play an incredibly
wonderful and expressive handmade guitar by Gary Mortoro.