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James Morrison’s new recording Snappy Too is the sequel to the 1990 release Snappy Doo, which featured Morrison along with three legendary artists (Ray Brown, Herb Ellis, and Jeff Hamilton) creating a seventeen-piece big band sound through the use of overdubbing.
“It was tremendous fun and the album went gold,” said Morrison of Snappy Doo. “I knew I’d want to do a ‘sequel’ at some stage but it has taken over two decades to finally get around to it. Sadly, in the meantime we have lost Ray and Herb, so when the time came to choose musicians for this recording I had a decision to make – do I replace them (who could?) or do we stick with the original band…meaning Jeff and I alone?”
Morrison made the decision that, since no players could replace Brown and Ellis and in the spirit of Snappy Doo, to record Snappy Too with Jeff alone. Which meant that he had to pull out his acoustic bass and brush up on guitar, in addition to playing trumpet, trombone, sax, and piano as he did for the first album.
Morrison joked, “after many laughs, a few tears and a lot of writing, blowing, strumming and plucking, we now have the long awaited Snappy Too a seventeen piece big band album where you only have to get two autographs on the cover to have the whole band!”
The recording of Snappy Too started in Morrison’s studio in Sydney, Australia. “Last time (Snappy Doo) we started with the rhythm section and then layered the brass and saxes on top,” Morrison described. “This time I started with a single trumpet and gradually built up all the horns until we had thirteen. Next I added the bass, then guitar and finally piano.”
The recording then shifted to Los Angeles where Hamilton added the drum tracks and Morrison played a few improvised solos. “It was really something to see a man who is arguably the world’s best big band drummer sitting there playing away on his own – while listening to sixteen ‘other’ guys who weren’t in the room!” Morrison said. “I can’t tell you how hard that is, playing drums to a band that is already there and can’t respond to anything you do – but I can tell you that nobody else could do it better than Jeff Hamilton.”
One person whose contributions were essential to the recording of Snappy Too was recording engineer Tod Deeley. Morrison explained, “The recording engineer is always important when capturing music but in this case, where the band was created by over-dubbing so many tracks, the engineer becomes almost one of the players. For many of the hours that it took to create this work, there were only two people in the studio – Tod and myself. This meant that I was relying not only on his expertise as an engineer but also on his musicality, to advise when we needed another take, when tuning was an issue, when the groove was shifting. This is something that not any engineer could do – but that’s ok because Tod isn’t just any engineer, he’s a musician that I trust to know when the music is right.”
Morrison continued, “It’s been an odyssey creating this album and I feel lucky to be able to do it. I hope you delight in listening to what for me has been a labor of love and joy.”