The great albums in our collection have great stories. They can trigger all sorts of memories for us. This one is super special to me.
During the 2020 Winter NAMM Show, I visited the Marleaux booth and saw Mark Egan there. We chatted for about 30 minutes, and he told me he was working on a duo album with drummer Danny Gottlieb. I’ve followed Mark for years, so when he said “Would you like to hear some of it?”, I was blown away. He pulled up a track on his phone and played it for me. Of course, it was amazing, and all I wanted to know was when it was coming out.
Later that year, Mark emailed me an advanced copy of the digital tracks. This was my soundtrack over the summer. On release day, I was thrilled to find that he was releasing it on vinyl, and I ordered it immediately. The vinyl version sounds even better to me.
The title track is my favorite (and the one he played me on the NAMM floor, which adds something to the beauty of the album for me). Mark’s tone is epic. Take a listen:
I reached out to Mark to ask him for some behind-the-scenes stories on the record. Here’s what he had to say:
Danny and I have been playing in various groups since 1972, since our early days at the University of Miami, and along the way with the Pat Metheny group and many other artists.
Since forming our group, Elements, in 1982, we have not only recorded and toured with various ensembles but we have also been experimenting playing in a duo context and enjoying the musical universe that drums and bass can create.
For this new recording, Electric Blue, we wanted to document our rapport as a duo team.
When you look at the definition of rapport; “A harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well”, it perfectly describes how we interact as a duo.
The basic sessions were recorded at Electric Fields Studio in Connecticut in June of 2019 and additional recording and mixing took place from then until December of 2019.
The concept of the recordings was to record a balance of drums and bass, recording live in the studio, along with more produced tracks by overdubbing additional drums, basses, effects, and percussion.
As a production overview, we choose different moods, key centers, and tempos that would give the project structure and hopefully balance.
Danny also shared some background as well:
In your musical life, and especially if you are a rhythm section player, you sometimes get lucky to find a musical partner with whom you connect immediately on the deepest level. It’s even more amazing when that person turns out to be a best friend.
That is the relationship I have had with Mark since we met at the University of Miami in 1971. We played together at school, honing our rhythm section and musical interpretive skills under the tutelage of mentors that included Jerry Coker, Whit Sidener, Ronnie Miller, Ira Sullivan, Joe Diorio, Mark Colby, Steve Bagby, and Jaco. We joined fellow Miami student Pat Metheny as members of the original Pat Metheny Group, touring the world in a van and playing 300 concerts in the group’s first year.
While playing in Pat’s band, we traveled frequently to Japan, and Mark and I often would stop in Hawaii on the return trip. While there we would stay in Kauai, right on the ocean, with our friend Gina Guy. We would play music in her living room, playing free while listening to the ocean in the background.
Mark and I often played duo and found that we could create ambiance and moods, with just bass and drums, and the help of some delay machines. Several times, we played late into the night, out in a valley overlooking the ocean. We played waves and grooves for our friends, and to the gods!
In 1982, we started the group Elements, and that first album reflected many of the feelings captured during those Hawaii trips, We even recorded the ocean and added it for ambience.
We also started playing duo gigs and found that in the right environment, the combination of bass and drums could be magical.
Since those Metheny days, we have gone on to tour and record as a rhythm section team with so many, including Gil Evans, Sting, Airto and Flora, Randy Brecker and Eliane Elias, Michael Franks, Bill Evans, Toninho Horta, Lew Soloff, Joe Beck, Lou Marini, Ali Ryerson, and Pete Levin. We also continue to perform with Elements and as a drum and bass duo.
The duo music contained in this recording reflects our 49 plus years of friendship and our musical adventures together.
This is a must-have album! Two brilliant musicians who have played together for nearly 50 years, and they are so locked in. It certainly sounds much bigger than a duo!