2007 Japanese CD re-issue + english booklet w/ photos & interview
Don Sebesky – keyboards, arrangements & conducts
Bob James - keyboards
Freddie Hubbard - trumpet, flugelhorn
Hubert Laws - flute
Paul Desmond - alto sax
Joe Farrell - soprano sax
Grover Washington Jr. - alto & soprano sax
Milt Jackson - vibes
George Benson - guitar
Ron Carter - bass
Billy Cobham & Jack DeJohnette - drums
Airto Moreira - percussion
Jackie Cain & Roy Kral - vocals
01. Firebird / Birds Of Fire (John McLaughlin / Igor Stravinsky) - 13:55
02. Song To A Seagull (Joni Mitchell) - 5:45
03. Free As A Bird (Don Sebesky) - 8:10
04. Psalm 150 (Jimmy Webb) - 8:08
05. Vocalise (Sergei Rachmaninoff) - 5:35
06. Fly / Circles (Don Sebesky) - 9:38
07. Semi-Tough (Don Sebesky) - 7:45
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Is "Giant Box" a tribute to you, Don, from the CTI artists?
No, on the contrary: it's my tribute to each one of the soloists featured here. The central idea of the album was to feature each of the stars that I had worked with, putting them in my own framework. The way the whole concept evolved, I started writing the music, and when I came to a place where I felt there should be a solo, having worked with all these artists, and knowing what each could do, I just decided who should play that particular solo. So, we did Paul Desmond playing a ballad, and Milt Jackson, and Freddie Hubbard, and Hubert Laws, all playing the kind of music in which I felt they would shine best.
How is this album different from anything else you've done?
Since "Giant Box" is under my name, I had a good deal of freedom in selecting the music. As a result, I feel the writing in this album is a little more ambitious than anything I've done in a long time.
Where did the idea for the album come from?
Originally, "Giant Box" was supposed to be one LP, and I knew how I wanted it to be. It was to be a "concept" album, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And, of course, featuring CTI artists. Then, one day, Creed and I were in the studio, and out of the blue, he suggested we make it a double album. I liked the idea, even though I knew it meant twice as much work for both of us, and that I now had to go through it all over again, since we'd almost finished the first record. But Creed is so good. I don't think any other producer could be as patient and thorough as he is.
How long did it take to finish the album?
It took us six months. We spent about 150 hours in the studio. Count another three weeks for the writing, and that doesn't include the gestation of it. It was, really, a giant task. And then, trying to get all the artists off the road and into the studio, flying them in from all over the country, was an incredibly complex job. I'm still amazed that it all worked.
Aside from the fact that all the musicians featured here are CTI artists, would you say that the common denominator in this album is what we might call the "Don Sebesky sound"?
I don't think that there is such a thing as the Don Sebesky sound, to tell you the truth. I think the common denominator here is more an attitude towards music, a willingness to blend various influences without worrying about where they come from. The way I look at music is the way I look at life — I have no preconceived notion about either. If today I feel like doing a certain kind of music, that's what I'll do. And tomorrow, I might try a different kind. I think that if I had one sound, if I stumbled on one formula and I had to stay with that one sound and keep pushing it, I'd never be happy. That's why I said that I don't think I have a "sound." But an attitude, an approach to music, definitely, yes.
Are you influenced by the Classics?
Absolutely! I have Romantic leanings, but my favorite composer is Bartok. I think he's probably the premier composer of the 20th century. Brahms is also one of my great favorites — I think there's always something new to be found in his music. Sooner or later, you'll find Brahms' influence in my music — I can never get away from him altogether. I've been doing adaptations of classical master-pieces for a long time. I like doing that, but there again, I'm simply paying a tribute to them. It isn't a conscious effort on my part to try and force anyone's music into mine, but if it feels natural, I'll use it.
How did this fusion of classical music and contemporary sounds find its expression in "Giant Box"?
Well, for instance, I had been listening to John McLaughlin's "Birds of Fire" album, and I liked it very much. I'd also been listening to Stravinsky's "The Firebird," and the similarity in the titles suggested a juxtaposition. It just worked out that way. What I did is not a medley in which one theme starts where the other one leaves off. It's really blending of the two, in various degrees, so it's a complete — and hopefully, a successful — synthesis of these two pieces of music that come from completely opposite poles. In other cases, some tracks lean more towards a classical feeling, and then switch to jazz all of a sudden, with the emphasis shifting all the time.
But the ultimate result is jazz?
Definitely. If you have to put one label over any other, there's more jazz here than anything else. We did a lot of things that are straight 4/4 swing jazz, that I hadn't done for a long, long time. I really wanted to do it, and it just flows along, and it's really happy, and nice.
What are your hopes for this album?
Just that people have as good a time listening to it as we did making it. That's all I hope for. You see, I was able to express myself, so I'm already happy. That's the end right there for me. And the soloists were happy about the way they did their jobs in it. Now, all we can hope for is that everybody else likes it, and has fun listening to it. If the people who buy it like music, I think they're bound to find something in it that they'll like — maybe not everything, but something!
(Interview by Didier C. Deutsch)