|Tuck & Patti's latest album, A Gift Of Love, is all about ... love.
That's your cue to say, "So ... what Tuck & Patti album isn't?"
Good point, but consider: The process of choosing this assortment of familiar and somewhat surprising songs actually began with their fans, as their expression of affection for the celebrated duo.
And while these performances do cross all cultural borders, the fact that they took shape in the hearts of their many fans in Japan explains why A Gift Of Love has a kind of purity, if not innocence, that stands out even in the Tuck & Patti catalog.
The breezy bossa treatment of "Close to You," the starry wonder of "Up On The Roof," the galloping swing of "Hold Me Tight and Don't Let Go," the extraordinary interpretation of Queen's "I Was Born To Love You," the aching introspection of Tuck's solo guitar on "Just The Way You Are," the elegant delicacy of keyboards and cello on several tracks — all reflect something beyond the material itself.
It's that smile, that touch of hands, that affection that swims in a lover's eyes, that magic that can't be captured in words, that inhabits each moment of A Gift Of Love — and the story behind its presence on this CD says a lot about the feeling that flows between Tuck & Patti and their listeners.
Rewind to December 2002. Singer Patti Cathcart and her husband, guitarist Tuck Andress, are on tour in Japan. They've been frequent visitors since they began recording together in the late eighties. During that time they've developed friendships with many of their fans as well as a strong working relationship with Pony Canyon, their Japanese distributor from their years on Windham Hill up to the most recent releases on their own T&P label.
"We were talking with Masa Fukumoto, the head of A&R at Pony Canyon," Tuck remembers. "We wanted to do something special for our friends in Japan, so we were brainstorming ideas. He suggested doing something they could release on Valentine's Day. We thought that would be sweet, and we knew that his sense of reaching people's hearts in Japan was right on."
To make this project as personal as possible, Tuck and Patti reached a decision: In addition to canvassing Pony Canyon for favorites, at their concerts they invited their audiences to email their requests for songs they'd like to hear on an album intended as A Gift Of Love. The response, Patti admits, caught them by surprise.
"There were rock songs, Rolling Stones songs — they went all over the map," she laughs. "Some of them were songs I've always wanted to do, like 'Close To You.' But others, like 'I Was Born To Love You,' came completely out of left field."
She and Tuck pared the most frequent requests down to a selection of songs that spoke strongly to them. Then, adding their own personal element to the project, they chose several more that hadn't turned up among the requests. "People there didn't really know about 'Up On The Roof' or 'Hold Me Tight,'" Patti says. "So by adding those titles A Gift Of Love became more of a group effort."
"Up On The Roof" also illustrates one major departure for Tuck & Patti in that, like several other tracks on A Gift Of Love, the arrangement expands beyond their usual duo format. Once they had returned to their home near San Francisco they called keyboardist and arranger Frank Martin, whose credits include work with Stevie Wonder, Sting and Angela Bofill, and Joseph Hebert, who has played cello on albums by Santana, Suzanne Ciani and other artists. Their contributions would slip into the T&P sound, enhancing it so gracefully that they invited Martin to join them on a later concert swing through Japan.
"Frank listens so sensitively," Patti says. "Sometimes when he's playing with Tuck they weave together so well that you can't tell who is playing which part. And Joseph is a master at blending in with a sampled string part and making it sound authentic and even more beautiful."
As always, Tuck and Patti recorded the duo tracks live in their home studio. Each of the group tracks began at their home studio, talking and jamming with Frank until the arrangement took shape. They were then recorded at San Francisco's Different Fur, with Martin joining in on "Up On The Roof," "Sukiyaki," "Lovin' You" and "Close To You"; all were first takes. Martin recorded most of the string parts live, as well. Hebert provided the finishing touches after that. "Frank wrote the cello parts based on what we'd already recorded," Tuck says, "so it has the loose, improvisatory quality of the three of us playing together."
In February 2003 A Gift Of Love received its Japanese release. Its strong reception prompted Universal to offer it to the European market, too. With its American debut on July 20, 2004 the story comes full circle, and what was conceived as an exchange of affection between these artists and their public in Japan becomes an offering to the world — but with it there comes a lesson.
"Patti sometimes talks about how here in America a lot of people seem apologetic when they talk about love," Tuck says. "Whether it's romantic love or love as a solution to world problems, they need to qualify and excuse themselves. In Japan there's a greater innocence about it. And since love is so important to our music, and since, as the years have gone by, we've become increasingly less jaded and more innocent by virtue of the fact that we spend so much time meditating on love through our music, we've come to see it as an essential quality, not just something trivial that you can spread on top of something that's more essential."
"That's not just a theory," Patti adds. "Our friends in Japan gave us the spark to do this record, and now it is spreading all over the world. It's a sweet reminder of how much we all long for love."
That's more than enlightenment, more even than music you'll not soon forget. That's A Gift Of Love, simple and pure, to us all.
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Written by Bob Doerschuk
T&P Productions/T&P Records: firstname.lastname@example.org