- Smooth Jazz Network
Chris Standring: Behind the Beats
Updated: May 4, 2022
Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Chris Standring.
Chris Standring has been one of our core artists in smooth jazz for several years and now he is about to release his 14th album WONDERFUL WORLD on September 3rd. We got together this past week and talked a bit about the project.
This album is like none you have released in the past. What was the spark for taking on such a project?
I've had a mad passion for strings for a long long time, but more importantly I'm crazy about harmony and its possibilities and in particular the potential of what an orchestra can do. It's limitless. I've wanted to do an album of standards for a long time as bebop is so ingrained in my DNA but I was reluctant to release an album of standards simply for the sake of it. There are way too many great players who have done that. So I needed to find a 'thing' to hang my hat on. The question was, “How do I stand out as an instrumentalist in this traditional genre?” Or, “Why on earth would anyone want to hear my version of a jazz standard?” And the answer lay within the orchestra. That's how we do this.
Having a full orchestra must have been an experience. How did you pull that together?
Pulling the orchestra together was not an issue as there are so many world class players wanting to work. The big question was the expense. I have a business partner in London and we figured out how we could pull this off together. He would take care of organising the London side and I would take care of everything over here. But the icing on the cake was my good friend Geoff Gascoyne who is the most phenomenal arranger and bass player. His big claim to fame was Jamie Cullum. He did all his arranging. He even discovered him. I knew Geoff back in the day when I lived over there and we have become great friends over the years so it just made sense to get him involved. He did such a beautiful job. And so great to work with. And of course he knows all the greatest orchestral players in the UK. We recorded the orchestra at Abbey Road in studio 2. I couldn't be there in person but I was there on Zoom. But I was in such good hands with Geoff I didn't need to be there.
Tell us about your song selection for the album.
I really wanted to choose songs that I could play in a trio format, meaning guitar, upright bass and drums. That meant no piano and there was good reason for that. I wanted the music to really breathe and cover any harmony I needed to on guitar but for the most case I wanted all the harmony to come from the orchestra. So, if I wanted to play super simple and perhaps play just one note, I knew the orchestra could snuggle around it. So with this in mind I wanted to choose songs that I felt comfortable in this format. Many of these songs I have known for many years, so it wasn't really a stretch. 'Alfie' by Burt Bacharach was one that I hadn't played before but the melody is so strong and just wide open for orchestra, it was a no brainer.
And you have one of your own compositions on the album… (tell us about that)
Yes, 'Sunrise' was actually recorded on my Blue Bolero album back in 2010 and I was looking for just one more song to round out this album and I've always loved this song, it's very touching and melancholy. It seemed a perfect fit for strings. I slowed the tempo down and Geoff wrote this beautifully deceptively simple orchestral arrangement. And the icing on the cake was Randy Brecker's lovely flugelhorn solo.
How did you go about gathering players like Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine and Harvey Mason?
I wanted to invite players who are well known in this particular genre and also players that were totally right for each song. I have known Harvey Mason for a while and it made sense to ask him. I didn't know Peter Erskine but when I reached out to him he was thrilled to be a part of it. And he played so beautifully. Chuck Berghofer seemed the right fit too, who is playing as strong as ever aged 85. Incredible. Darek Oles, Randy Brecker, David Karasony and my great friend Kathrin Shorr just made the album sound heavenly. The album has a throwback feel to artists like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, but with my more modern guitar sound and feel. So we referenced arrangers like Nelson Riddle and the players we invited were completely familiar with this time period.
The title track features Kathrin Shorr’s gorgeous vocals… Have you worked together before?
Kathrin has been one of my dearest friends for about 20 years. We made a Christmas album together back in 2011 called 'Send Me Some Snow'. She has the most intimate, heavenly sounding voice. A true artist. I didn't think twice about inviting her.
We’re playing “How Insensitive” on the SMOOTH JAZZ NETWORK. Although the tune was not officially released to smooth jazz as a single, it just feels right! Very jazzy and has a bit of a “Mad Men” feel to me…
I have loved that song for many years. It's so fun to play. Thank you so much, I'm glad you like it!
Will you be performing or touring with a live orchestra to share this project further?
Yes, as of now I have a big concert in London with an orchestra on November 5th at Cadogen Hall in Chelsea. I hope I can attract some performing arts centers in the US and utilize their local city orchestras. This would be a wonderful way to get the music to the people.
To keep up with Chris Standring, visit his website.