Tuck & Patti get back to basics on Taking The Long Way Home, a collection of ten new songs that showcase the duo's virtuosity as musicians and Patti's special talent for writing songs that convey the heartfelt messages of universal love, hope and tolerance that inspire and nurture their creativity. Not that the popular husband-and-wife team ever strayed very far from the musical trail they've been blazing since they met in 1978, which came to the attention of an international audience with the release in 1988 of their Windham Hill debut Tears of Joy. Yet on Taking The Long Way Home they forgo the background singers, back-up musicians and lush arrangements featured on their previous release, Paradise Found, and return to the essence of their artistry, which remains an incredibly versatile female vocalist accompanied by a wizard of a guitarist. Of course, since they constantly strive to expand their musical horizons and surprise their fans, Tuck & Patti do chart new territory on Taking The Long Way Home, their first album devoted solely to original music and completely devoid of standards.
"When Tuck and I began talking about creating a new Tuck & Patti CD for release in the year 2000, I started going through a bunch of sheet music and listening to countless classic jazz recordings of standards by other artists. Every surface of our kitchen was literally covered with songbooks, compilations and anthologies," Patti recalls. "Then I thought, 'Hey wait a minute, I want to write my own standards!' and I wrote the first song for this CD at the beginning of February. I then wrote four more over a period of about ten days and it was really exciting the way the music flowed out," she continues. "We recorded the first five songs and then I had another inspiration. Eventually we got into this groove where I'd write a song, arrange it and we'd go into our studio and record it. Then I'd get another idea and we'd repeat the cycle. The whole project took on a life of its own, and most of the performances we ended up using required very few takes. We'd finished taping by the end of March and had everything mixed, mastered and ready to go by Easter," she says.
Patti's songs on Taking The Long Way Home could certainly be considered standards for the new millennium as her words touch upon the timeless themes of loving, longing and losing while addressing the trials and tribulations of being human in a modern age. The lyrics are often happy and sometimes sad; the music, as always, comes straight from the heart and soul. Words like "home," "love," "feeling," "soul," "peace," "light" and "life" appear sprinkled among the CD's various song titles. Transcending boundaries and cultures, these subjects resonate with people around the world, explaining much of the duo's global appeal and popularity.
The musical settings that Patti develops for her stories range from the blues to ballads to Calypso, and in Tuck's hands her arrangements assume an almost orchestral quality. The innovative guitarist relishes in accompanying his musical partner and soulmate, comparing the challenge to doing a high wire act blindfolded without a net. "I've heard it said that 'one performs one's strengths and practices one's weaknesses,' and making music with Patti for the past 22 years has provided ample opportunity to do both," Tuck confides. "She has this uncanny ability in her writing to find that one chord which, more often than not, corresponds with that one black hole in my many years of analyzing harmony, or involves a fingering I hadn't previously considered in decades of trying to perfect my technique," he marvels. "In working with her I've learned that what seems impossible can become merely difficult and that the difficult can become relatively simple."
Taking The Long Way Home is Tuck & Patti's sixth CD as a team (Tuck has also released two solo albums and they already have one greatest hit collection to their credit), and it is a salute to the variety of musical styles they've mastered in their years performing together. The title track sounds like a vocalese classic in the tradition of Annie Ross' "Twisted" or something Bob Dorough, Eddie Jefferson or Jon Hendricks might have done. An easy-going shuffle, "Taking The Long Way Home" is actually a new song for which Patti not only wrote the lyrics but also the melody. It celebrates the joy of having time to explore the back roads in life as opposed to taking the freeways, and features a swinging solo by Tuck. A different type of gratitude is the theme of the second track, "Ready To Love," a tender ballad about someone discovering the capacity to love after having spent what sounds like an eternity alone. "This is a beautiful example of Patti's ability to express her deepest feelings in words," Tuck says. "She writes and sings about profound truths in such a natural, conversational manner."
"Thank You" is a playful tune that reminds us to take every possible opportunity to tell those dearest to us that we love them. When asked where she finds time to breathe while singing this vocal tour de force, Patti laughs and says, "Yeah, that one's for the singers!" Tuck's tour de force is "Early Morning Music Box," an instrumental he describes as "an amalgam of musical references" (e.g. Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts") "and technical challenges." It is based on a guitar exercise he'd been working on to solve a problem in another song. "By the time we were ready to record this thing I'd started thinking of it as 'Early Morning Asphyxiation' since every time I'd practice its harmonics I'd concentrate so hard I'd forget to breathe. Well the song's almost four minutes long," he says with a laugh.
One of the most powerful performances on Taking The Long Way Home is "Song For The Souls That Go Before (From The Hearts Left Behind)," which Patti explains was inspired by the loss of friends and musical colleagues over the years. "This is my tribute to the many beautiful and talented people who have enriched my life but are no longer with me today," she explains. "I actually wrote the first line - 'In a silent place I honor your passing' - on the day I heard Michael Hedges had died." (Hedges, a brilliant guitarist, was a Windham Hill label mate whose career was cut tragically short by a fatal car accident in December 1997.) "It's an intense feeling to realize you'll never see the face of, or speak to, someone that close to you again," she says. Tuck adds: "I love Patti's post-bebop, quartal/modal arrangement in this song; it reminds me of the mood John Coltrane achieved with McCoy Tyner on such classics as 'India' or 'A Love Supreme.'"
Patti actually includes the words "a love supreme" in her lyrics to "Lifeline," an autobiographical song in which she recounts the moment when she was six years old and knew her destiny was to be a singer. "My twin sister, cousin and I were on a family vacation with my grandmother that summer, and I was lying in a field listening to all the sounds of nature and watching the clouds roll by," she recalls. "All of a sudden it became completely silent and a voice said to me, "You'll sing and everything is going to be all right.' I just said, 'OK.' Then all the sound started up again. I didn't tell anyone about this for years, because it seemed so normal to me. I just assumed everyone had the same kind of experience." Humanity's long journey towards spiritual awareness and enlightenment is also the theme of Patti's lyrics to the bluesy "Path To Peace" and the CD's gently swaying final track, "This Light This Life."
It's obvious from listening to these new songs as well as to earlier ones in their repertoire that Tuck & Patti are optimists who tend to see their glasses half full as opposed to half empty. For them, "Taking The Long Way Home" doesnÍt mean a delay or a detour on the road of life, but a chance to have fun, to make time to stop and smell the flowers. This type of attitude might get lost in the hustle-and-bustle of today's point-and-click, dot.com world where instant access to the Internet has become more important than seeing a lover's face reflected in moonlight. But as Patti ad-libs during the fade-out to "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," a song containing words of wisdom she gained in a 1979 conversation with a 93-year-old friend: "As far as I know they've never found the end." And as long as people continue to cherish love, poetry and music - and can still find time to take the long way home - there'll always be a place for the joyful and inspiring songs of Tuck & Patti.
© May 2000 by Mitchell Feldman
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