Chet’s Habit

I have been a long time fan of Chet’s music and I was fortunate to see him several times where he transfixed the audiences with his mastery of the idiom. I was lucky. Perhaps if he had been nodding I would have been less forgiving, but he wasn’t, and his artistry shone.

In 1986 at the Montreal Jazz Festival Chet Baker and Paul Bley started a highly anticipated duo concert together, but Chet was in such bad shape, he needed to be led off the stage to a chorus of boos and insults. This both saddened me and angered me. Sad because he had a superior gift that has been simultaneously aided and eroded by his addiction.

I channeled my feelings into an instrumental piece and recorded it in 1995 with a full band. Although I am pleased with this recording, I felt the intro should have been more rubato and I wish I had held the long notes at the end of phrases a little longer…

Chet’s Habit has been part of my repertoire and got better over time. One day, while playing it, I experienced the rhapsody of being high and escaping my woes and worries much in the same way drugs might take me away. The lines that became the lyric spilled out of me like a faucet fills a glass, and the instrumental was now a song.

In 2019 I took possession of my brand new handcrafted Greenfield guitar built for me by my friend Michael Greenfield. I revisited some of my repertoire as I got to know the guitar and because the Greenfield sustains superbly and the overtones are so pleasant I decided to re-record Chet’s habit.

I had just attended an important music conference and was trying to stir up interest in my work so I could enter the “house concert” scene. The people who interviewed me did not even listen to my discs because they were not representative of solo me (o sole mio).

I booked George Doxas’ studio where I am very comfortable working and recorded 30 songs which I pared down to what is released on the solo album “I’m A Caboose” of just me and guitar as one might experience my music at a home concert. The other songs have not been released yet; not because they suck, but I felt that thematically they did not fit the album. They will fit some future projects no doubt.

Sailing …over the sea
trying to forget that I’m me

Drifting…wafting… Floating along…
In a song

Sailing …over the waves
I got nothing left to save
Drifting… Wafting… floating along…
Through my horn

Words(2005) and Music(1986) 
By:  Ian Goodall Hanchet

1995 version

2019 version

Life Loves On

It was a rainy day in Montreal, I was kind of Blue having heard of the death of a close friend I had known since high school. I was reading The Atlantic magazine articles on line. I came across this one: which is a story about how losing someone in 9/11 affected a family from the perspective of 20 years later. The story resonated with me.

While practicing my nylon string guitar later that morning I started playing a couple of chord sequences that caught my fancy. I was zoning out and started to ad lib words and “life loves on”stuck. I decided to try and build a song around that phrase. I love turns of phrase and tried many before settling on life loves on and love lives on which are subtly similar and yet somewhat different. The actual 4 note motif for “life loves on” fits the “Hallelujah” part from an old Anglican Hymn: “All Creatures Of Our God and King”

I was staring out the window at the teeming rain and the phrase “into each life some rain must fall” which I thought might be a bible verse because my mum had used it often. I googled the line, and It turned out it was a line in “The Rainy Day” written in 1842 after the death of his first wife, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The entire poem fit neatly into what I was trying to create, so, rather than re-invent the wheel, I set his poem to music with only a slight adaptation and some repetition.

Guild D40 Bluegrass Jubilee

I have always had an eye out for Guild guitars. Ritchie Havens played one and Ralph Towner as well. These are both artists that have ringing open sounds and chords that are not easily analyzed. Ritchie used an unusual technique with his enormous fingers and Ralph had a more intellectual approach to the guitar having switched from being a concert pianist. Two disparate and unlikely influences of two sides of my musical personality. and repertoire as well.

photo by Sharon Cheema

This “Bluegrass Jubilee” was hanging in the store on consignment, and I gave her a whirl. I was exploring alternate tunings around this time and had written a half dozen or so songs in DADGAD and/or DADF#AD tuning. I needed a second guitarIn concert this poses a problem. Either you play all of your dropped tuning songs one after the other and then retune the guitar, or you balance your setlist and retune each time you need to. Or you buy another guitar. 

Photo by Sharon Cheema

The D40 (built between 2003 and 2005) has a lovely ring to it despite it not coming from the “golden age” of Guild Guitars, but crafted in Corona, California. I like the antique sunburst and the Mahogany back and sides give her a sweet and rounded tone. Perfect for my songs. A handy partner to the loudness and clarity of my Martin.

When I get my Greenfield, this guitar may be the “one too many” I have heard tell about. I am pretty sure I will play it less and use it less, so I may put it back on the market. 

photo by Sharon Cheema

Hagstrom “Swede”

 probably built around 1970

I traded two “name” guitars (Gretsch and Fender) for a “non-name” guitar. The Hagstrom Swede looks like a Les Paul, but is not an imitation. I wanted something on which to Rock that could stay in tune. I was a big fan of Focus and their lead guitarist Jan Akkerman played a Swede (although vintage footage of the group usually shows him with a Les Paul..…) Around the time I got this guitar the French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty was playing with Daryl Stuermer who endorsed The Swede. They both name dropped Larry Coryell whose music I don’t generally care for, but he played a Swede as well.

One of the main attractions for me was the truss rod. The Hagstrom used an I beam instead of the normal truss rod. The two guitars I traded both had warped necks, so I was getting a guitar that held it’s tuning. 

My guitar is no longer “stock”. I took off the pick guard for starters. I put in a Bone nut to further enhance the sustain. I also put in a brass bridge after having my hand chewed up some sharp ridges on the stock bridge. The machine heads are too beautiful to change, but are a pain when changing strings because they are too big for a stringwinder. I pulled the pick ups and put in some Bill Lawrence “blade” pick-ups. I had to rout a bit as the pick-ups were larger slightly than the originals. In the mid eighties I was very into fusin guitar. There were great advances in Analog to digital converters. I installed a Roland GK 1 pick-up and used the Swede as a controller. Midi required a really stable instrument for proper tracking. The Hagstrom is great that way.

I haven’t used the guitar synth part for ages as my ability to play keyboard has improved, but I still record with the Hagstrom. She is Heavy. I have flat wounds on her, so I can get top speed and minimal squelch. The biggest problem with the Hagstrom was the binding on the neck. Canadian climate (and probably Sweden as well) has times of great humidity and other times of great dryness. These two factors cause wood to expand and contract, but has no effect on nacré or whatever the plastic was that bound the neck. Most guitars don’t have this. Anyway, the plastic cracked and was unstable when reglued by the luthier.  Little bits of it would come off and the resultant gap on the side of the neck was disorienting and annoying. 

Eventually we just ripped them and Joey laid new binding meticulously and now she is better than ever. With all the changes I have made, it is probably not even considered a Swede any more.

I love to play her. Funny that I can’t find any pictures of me playing her. I know there are some….

Post Script photo by Sharon Cheema