The good news is that Mark Buselli has released a solo album, An Old Soul, on Owl Studios. The even better news is that his relationship with Brent Wallarab is still intact. Just as when each of the four members of Kiss released a solo album back in the late 70s, the Buselli/Wallarab of the Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra are working on solo albums, but without leaving behind the jazz orchestra. Things are fine in BWJO land.
"The last four albums were all of Brent's music," Buselli explains. "This was a journey for me. This was made thanks to Indianapolis Arts Council. I received a Creative Renewal grant and I was able to visit different places and heard different bands. It helped changed my view on writing."
Buselli went to see composer Maria Schneider in New York: "It's easier to talk to Obama than her. She's careful with her time, but I got a few minutes with her. Pretty neat." He also met with Bill Holdman in Los Angeles and the Mingus Big Band. It was seeing that Mingus repertory ensemble inspired Buselli to record the Mingus tune "Fables of Faubus" on the album.
"'Fables' is usually taken as a slow protest song, but there was a glimmer of doing it a different way by Mingus. I took that idea and ran with it," he says.
Half of the music from An Old Sou l was written while he was supported by the Creative Renewal grant. The other half of the songs come from a backlog he had already amassed.
"It's stuff I've been playing with for a long time. I wanted to make this album feature a variety of styles. Some classic big band swing vocals with "Angel Eyes"; some bossa nova; some funk tunes with an electric bass," he said.
The album was recorded in August of last year over a span of four days. Brent Wallarab's solo album comes out next August.
"I listened to it for two, three months. I got started with editing process in February. Mark Hood and I started piecing the stuff together. That took a month. Then I got down to the hard work of mixing, which took about two to four hours per tune. You get to the point of I can't listen to that CD anymore. I'm just trying to get all the errors out. It's about being an active listener," he said.
The album features the vocals of Kelleen Strutz, who was a former student of Buselli at Butler University. Buselli has since moved on to become Director of Jazz Ensembles and Assistant Professor of Music Performance and Jazz Studies at Ball State University, positions he has held for the past three years.
"She was a classically trained pianist. She said 'I like to sing' and I rolled my eyes. After she tried singing I thought she has a great sense of pitch and phrasing. I asked her to listen to some Sarah Vaughan, and all of sudden, she's scatting Sarah's solos," he said.
Buselli said his Jazz Fest performance will reflect the album.
"Sadly, I can't fit the strings into the space. There will be tunes off of the album, a couple of chestnuts of mine and Brent's. Plus there will be a preview of one of Brent's new songs," he said.