Off Bass Brass recording session

OBB at Bias
Off Bass Brass recording at Bias Studios, Alexandria, VA.

I can’t believe it’s been four years since we recorded “Knock Yourself Out.” It sure didn’t seem like it had been that long ago when I joined the boys for another round this past weekend. It’s been a long time coming, and it was nice to finally see this project come to fruition.

Ryan McGeorge has shouldered the lion’s share of the arranging again, and we’ve finally recorded several of Ryan’s charts that we’ve performed live in recent years. Ryan also wrote some original material, and there’s some new music from Roland Szentpali and Alan Baylock in there as well. It’s a pretty wide program, and it should have a little something for everyone. There’s a lot of groove on this album.

There’s a lot of really high notes on this album, too. Mark Jenkins and John Cradler got quite the workout this weekend. They were more than up to the task, and it was a pleasure to park my butt next to these clowns and make some music again. It does my heart good to run with the big dogs once in a while.

Once again, the Off Bass Brass rhythm section joined forces to save the quartet from ourselves in the studio. One of the high points on the first night of recording came from Mark and Ryan fiddling with the metronome app, trying to find a tempo, after our drummer, Mike Metzger, had already been laying it down. Our producer suggested from the booth, “Ah, let’s have Mike count this off.”

Mark dumped his phone on his stand.  “Yes, please.”

I take great pride in being one of three representatives of Sun Devil Nation in the studio. Fellow ASU alumni Eric Sabo and AnnaMaria Mottola were with us on bass and piano, and they’re awesome. These sessions were hard work for the rhythm section. Mike even had a wedding gig after Saturday’s session that went into the wee hours, and he came back Sunday morning on Daylight Savings Time to drag us through one more chart. They put together so much stuff in rehearsals, and were incredibly patient with us in the studio.

AnnaMaria knocked our socks off when she fired up the Leslie on the vintage Hammond C3 sitting in the main room at Bias Studios. I can’t wait to hear what that track sounds like when the mixes begin. Even more wonderful was her playing on “Pure Imagination” by Leslie Bricusse. Ryan wrote a killer take on this song, just tuba quartet and piano. I’m stunned by how much music pours out of that woman. Someday, when I grow up, my dream is to pick up the horn and be money in the bank like AnnaMaria Mottola.

Steve Milner engineered the sessions, and Pete Folliard produced us with another huge bucket of patience. Now comes the waiting, while Steve and Pete set up the first edits. Man, I hate this part. I’ve heard bits and pieces of really good stuff, but I remember all too well lots of unusable crap that came out of my horn. Okay, guys, now you need to make us not suck. I’d love to be cavalier about recording, and I try to be efficient on the session and not get too picky, but I’m not fooling anyone. They know I’d love to go back and do a hundred takes to get everything perfect, but that’s not really what it’s about, is it?

And so we wait. It’s been four years, what’s a few more weeks, right?

From left to right: Steve Milner, engineer; John Cradler, tuba; Tom Holtz, tuba; AnnaMaria Mottola, piano; Eric Sabo, bass; Mike Metzger, drums; Ryan McGeorge, euphonium; Mark Jenkins, euphonium; Pete Folliard, producer.