See Steve's Hand-Written Lead Sheet
And so, I entered the phrase: "just desserts" into Google, and to my shock and dismay, "Did you mean: just deserts" kept coming up. I must have tried this about 10 different ways before beginning to believe that I had just caught myself in a near fatal error. The CD had been mastered on January 19th, with the final approval coming about 10 days later. And all the artwork, the CD booklet package, disc design, etc. had been sent out to Tone Center Records(USA); 55 Records(Japan); and ESC Records(Germany/Europe). The title, "Just Desserts" shows up in two places:  the back of the tray card, and  inside the CD booklet. I was beginning to panic, big time!!! Finally, I decided that I had to go my dictionary for final confirmation, and what should I find?
From the Web dictionary:
get your just deserts
if you get your just deserts, something bad happens to you that you deserve because of something bad you have done. Did you read about the burglar whose own house was broken into? He really got his just deserts.
de·sert 2 (d-zûrt) n.
1. Something that is deserved or merited, especially a punishment. Often used in the plural: They got their just deserts when the scheme was finally uncovered.
2. The state or fact of deserving reward or punishment.
This shows just how literate I really am. Perhaps some of my more well-educated, well-read colleagues thought that I was making some kind of a joke, an intentional play on words? After having seen this, I just about had a panic attack. And, of course, my own stupidity left me shaking my head. I immediately phoned graphic designer, and dear, dear friend, Janet Perr to apologize for the 11th hour error, and begged her to please change "Just Desserts" to the now correct title of: "Just Deserts." Lucky for me, we were still in time to make things right. If this had been printed with the title spelled in error, I would have been humiliated forever! O.K., this takes care of another episode of: "TRUE CONFESSIONS"! On we shall go to the music...
On my last two studio recordings, I have wanted to have pieces that served as "percussion jams" in order to feature the great Latin percussionists, and the drummer. On "THE GREEN FIELD"(2005), I composed "Cosecha lo que has sembrado" with that in mind. And, on "BORROWED TIME"(2007), McCoy Tyner's "Hymn Song" was used to the same end. Here, I wanted to feature three of my favorite percussionists, Bobby Allende(conga); Marc Quiñones(timbal); and, of course, the great, great Dennis Chambers(drums).
The [I] section theme is also something that I had been playing at home on guitar for the longest time, without any sense of what it could be, or could become. It just seemed to exist by itself without a specific direction. But, when the idea of turning it into a percussion piece came to me, and I saw an avenue to pursue, I just worked within a familiar song form, one that mirrors something closely associated with the harmonic movement of tunes like "So What" or "Impressions." This kind of solo format gives each percussionist something to play against, rather than just playing into open space. To glue the tune together, I used another common device as an interlude, and that was to have the vocal section of the Intro, which features Manolo Badrena, reappear in between each percussion solo. Finally, after Dennis' drum solo, towards the very end of the piece, the main guitar melody enters, embellished by my Zawinul-esque Korg DVP-1 harmonized lines.
Of all the tunes that were going to have vocalese sections, "Just Deserts" was the one tune that I knew, in my heart, the voice and style of Gracinha Leporace, the wife of Sergio Méndes, would be just perfect for the range in which this vocal section lies. On Méndes' brilliant CD from 1992, "BRASILEIRO"(Elektra), the Ivan Lins song, "Lua Soberana," opens with Gracinha singing a high-register A-natural, and this is also the note on which the vocalese section of "Just Deserts" begins. To my ears, what is so unique about Gracinha is that when she sings out, belts out a melody, it is like a chant from the deepest part of the human spirit. Most Brasilian female singers easily do the breathy thing, but in all honesty, and with all due respect, I don't believe that I've ever heard another female singer from Brasil sing like this, like Gracinha. So again, as I have told this story, I tried everything to get her to sing on the recording, but despite my most ardent and sincere efforts, I just could not get this to happen. Though Manolo sang fantastically well on this tune, I will always feel sad that Gracinha's voice could not have been on prominent display. And so, this becomes another case where Steve gets his just deserts!
The solos appear in the order that I have used on the prior two studio recordings: Bobby Allende(conga); Marc Quiñones(timbal); and finally, Dennis Chambers(drums). In this case, Bobby and Marc each play 1 chorus. Though my plan from the beginning was that Dennis Chambers would play 3 choruses, after some discussion, it was decided that he should play 2 choruses, and this is what you now hear as the final version. To repeat, in between each of the solos, the vocal refrain, sung by Manolo appears. As I stated earlier, after Dennis' drum solo, my guitar states what is the main instrumental melody of the piece. Once that has been played, I finally do some improvising over the basic [A][A][B][A] song form. For me, this is a great way to end the journey that has been the making of "PARTING SHOT."
As I have said before, the Korg DVP-1 Harmonizer provides me with the tool to have my own "psychedelic big band" right in my hands. Joe Zawinul's old keyboard tech, Ralph Skelton, helped me out greatly by rigging-up an on/off switch that enables me to use the DVP-1 whenever the moment seems right. The reason that I needed Ralph's help so badly was that, for some reason, the DVP-1 designers did not give the user, the player, the option of being able to cue-in the effect, or have your sound go through the chain clean. This is certainly an annoying omission. So Ralph, with his immense electronic problem-solving skills, designed a way to route my signal so that I could finally have the kind of control that I needed. I'm so grateful for his help.
On the device itself, I can store up to 5 banks of sonorities, each with 8 programmed options. This gives me a wide harmonic palette from which to choose. I have these banks programmed in groupings so that each bank represents one the principal chord families. To have these options, and to be able to employ them spontaneously, has been a great luxury for me. If you look carefully at the photo that I've provided here, I position the DVP-1, seen sitting in its black rack bag and on top of my blue road case, so that I can take a breath, and reach out with my right hand, and then change the sonority within the bank that I've chosen. For "Just Deserts" I used, what I have labeled as Sound #38. The key element to how I use the harmonizer is that the note that I am playing is the top voice, and that note is harmonized below. In this case, the top voice was harmonized below by a perfect 4th [-5] and then, a perfect 5th [-7]. If there's a secret, you now have it in your possession.
Over the course of the two days of recording, November 6th-7th, 2010, I only had two minor problems with the performances of Anthony Jackson. As I had mentioned before in a couple places during these analyses from "PARTING SHOT," I don't believe that I've ever done a recording with Anthony, after all these years, where he actually played so many of the written bass parts. I still can't get over that. But, during the [I] sections for both "Chronology" and "Just Deserts" Anthony made, what he felt was, an artistic choice, and performed both written bass parts an octave lower than written. I honestly can't tell you right now if this is what he did at the rehearsals or not. I don't remember that detail. During the playbacks, at the studio, something felt strange to me during both of these Intros, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Finally, I realized that the register of the bass was making this section feel very ponderous. That's the best word that I can find that paints a visual image of what I was sensing. So, I summoned my courage, and I spoke to Anthony about please replacing those sections with the bass played in the register as I had written it. He was surprised that I was asking for that, but, he was certainly willing to do it. As it turned out, in the frantic nature of the closing hours of the recording, late, late in the morning of the November 7th, technically speaking, November 8th, I actually forgot to have Anthony re-play those sections. Over the coming days and weeks, I tried to live with what I had, but I just couldn't, and so I had to ask Anthony if he would kindly consent to coming down to Rob Mounsey's studio on December 15th, Manolo's vocal date, and play those parts again. A.J. was great about it, and showed-up that day, and you now hear the results which are what I had envisioned those sections should sound like.
Like each tune for this recording, there was a demo that was performed by Rob Mounsey months prior to the rehearsals. Obviously, all the guitar parts were played on a keyboard, with a keyboard sound, and needless to say, with the very precise and percussive attack of a keyboard. When one is spending a great deal of time listening to the demos, one gets used to that sound, and that attack. But, all the while, I knew that I was going to have to play all those sections. As I have also stated in an earlier analysis, we got behind in recording when we only ended-up with 4 tunes after the first day. So, the pressure to finish everything on Day #2 was immense for me. When it came time to record "Just Deserts" I felt that the best way to go about performing it would be to use the demo as a template, and playing along to the structure without the sounds of all the instruments. In the end, in the headphones, all that we actually heard from the demo was a foot-closed hi-hat and Rob's voice, because he had performed demo vocals for all the [I] sections. Hearing those vocals really helped to give shape and dynamics to the overall piece. As the actual parts for the guitar are very precise, I decided to replace the keyboard parts before we actually recorded the tune, and so that's the recording approach that I decided to take. When we actually recorded the tune, I just sat and relaxed until the appearance of [D] and then played live the rest of the way out.
As this is the last analysis that I'm going to be writing about "PARTING SHOT," I want to take a moment, to thank Bobby Allende, Marc Quiñones, and Dennis Chambers for their fantastic solos on this tune, but more than that, much more than that, for their superb playing throughout the entire recording. On any recording, or live gig, a band is only going to go as far as their drummer can take them. If the drummer is the weakest link? The band is doomed before it begins to play. On this album, the music was in the hands of three of the greatest percussionists anywhere, and the energy and power of the music only shines through because of the performances and attention to all the details, great and small, by Bobby, Marc and Dennis!!! "Mil gracias hemanos, los quiero mucho!!!"
But, what about the actual origin of this phrase? I forgot to share that with everyone! Well, here it is:
Deserts, in the sense of 'things deserved' has been used in English since at least the 13th century. A citation in which it is linked with 'just' comes from 1599, in Warning Faire Women:
And there you have it! The mystery of this oft-used, incorrectly spelled phrase has now been resolved, and hopefully to everyone's satisfaction!
When "PARTING SHOT" was first sent out to the various radio stations across the USA, my sense was that "Just Deserts" would probably be one of the least played tracks from the album. But, to my great surprise, when the radio tracking reports began to come in, this tune was in the middle of the pack, and nowhere near the bottom of the list. I guess this just shows how much of a great prognosticator I am. So surely, I am receiving my own just deserts now!
[Photos: Marc Quiñones-Dennis Chambers-Bobby Allende
Manolo Badrena; Steve's Gear w/ the Korg DVP-1
Photos by: Richard Laird @ Avatar Studio 'A' - November 6th, 2010]