“I have an idea …”

…. That’s how the conversation that started the new CD project [“Karla Harris Sings the Dave and Iola Brubeck Songbook] began. It was October 2013 and I was meeting with pianist Ted Howe to rehearse for an upcoming Atlanta concert he was producing featuring James Bond theme songs. I’d just arrived and sat down when he said to me, “I have an idea. I’ve been thinking about a recording project for you. I’ve had this idea for awhile, waiting for the right person. It’s Brubeck’s music.”

Then he waited for my reaction.

You know how it is when you hear an idea that rings some inner bell inside you? That’s how I felt — immediately hit by the concept and the opportunity to make this music. I think it showed on the outside by my dropped jaw.  I’d been wanting to record again but nothing seemed to be the right thing at the right time, until this intriguing possibility. I thought, OK, this is interesting — really interesting … I love this idea!

The Brubeck Quartet had been in my memory and ears since I was a little girl. My parents had (and still have) a copy of “Time Out” in their album stack. I remember that abstract art cover standing out amongst all the others (well, that and Herb Alpert’s “Whipped Cream & Other Delights,” which my 8-year-old self wasn’t even sure she was supposed to be seeing!). Brubeck’s music was part of the soundtrack to my childhood and beyond. I remember doing a radio interview in 2008 in Portland where the host asked me to bring in a few examples of artists who had influenced and made me happy over the years. “Bossa Nova U.S.A” was in my compilation (along with songs by Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn and Ramsey Lewis, among others!)

But while I was familiar with Brubeck’s instrumentals, prior to hearing Ted’s idea, I had no idea that words existed for many Brubeck classics. I’ve found out I wasn’t alone. While many have heard lyrics to “Take Five” (I learned them years ago when I sang the song as part of an intro to jazz show I did at school assemblies for Young Audiences, Inc. in the ’80s), they are surprised to find out there are words to a lot of Brubeck tunes besides “Take Five.” I didn’t actually get a look at them, though, until we received a copy of a Brubeck Songbook with official music and words in early 2014. How that came about is a whole story in itself that I’ll share in a blog later this week, including how exciting it was to learn that Iola Brubeck was the lyricist for the majority of the songs.

We immediately started choosing tunes. Ted, who is based in L.A. but who travels to Atlanta frequently to teach, began arranging, and we met when he was in Atlanta throughout Spring 2014 to run the arrangements and prepare to record that June. It was an intense and collaborative stretch, and by the time May was finished, we were ready to go into the studio with the rest of the rhythm section, Tom Kennedy and Dave Weckl, and record the Dave and Iola Brubeck Songbook …