Ten years ago, I was singing regularly in a club in Madrid, accompanied only by the impressive sounds of maestro Rafael Ibarbia at the piano. One night after a show, I was approached by a gentleman who asked me if I would be interested in singing with a Big Band. I immediately said yes, went home, called my mother and asked, "How do you sing with a Big Band?". She replied that while she had often sung with large orchestras, she had never sung with a Big Band. Nevertheless, she encouraged me, told me I would be terrific and advised me to sing with my heart and have fun. Ten years later, I am still following her advice -- as is she! Last year, she came to one of our gigs and joined The Chattanooga Big Band in a few songs. She thought it was such fun (and received such a thunderous applause!) that she came up with the idea of doing a CD with the Big Band.
Of course it would have remained a dream if not for the vision and hard work of Patxi Urchegui. He did everything at the speed of light and with a smile on his face. Motivated by admiration for my Mother and friendship for us both, he made the whole thing come together. And what a trumpet player! Under his leadership, we recorded the entire CD in four days! My poor Mother arrived in Madrid, went to sleep, woke up the next day and went to the studio for a twelve-hour, non-stop session, in which we recorded nine songs. I marveled at how professional she was; even at four o'clock in the morning!
For the musicians, it was a real treat to work with someone as wonderful as my mother. She left them all agog with her rich tones, warmth and natural talent. For me, it was a dream come true. My mother, sister and I have always sung together, but we rarely have had the opportunity to record those moments. The only thing missing on this CD is the beautiful voice of my sister, Lydia. Maybe one day...
This CD brings together so many things that are important to me: My mother, who is so far away from me; the Chattanooga Big Band, my home away from home; and the music, which everyone responds to, regardless of culture or language. This is our gift to those we love.
To all those who have collaborated in this CD, thank you for your patience and your fine work in the few days that we had to realize this dream of recording a Big Band. Thanks to the Chattanooga Big Band, especially Eduardo Leiva (piano), Patxi Urchegui (trumpet). Thanks to the arrangers, especially to Eduardo Leiva, whose genius is astounding. (Maestro, thanks for everything!) Las but not least, thanks to the marvelous voices of The Chattanooga Big Band: Celia Vergara, Miguel Morant, Miguel Burset & Elisabeth Gray.
Executive producer: Betty Johnson & Elisabeth Gray. Musical Producer: Patxi Urchegui. Recording Engineer: Damian Bermudez. Recording Assistant: Sergio Rodriguez. Mastering by Jose Viander Perez. Recorded & Mixed in Jardin Parametrico (Madrid-Spain) the 3,4,5,6 & 7th of September, and the 23, 27 & 28th of October 2001.
1. IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU
2. MAKIN' WHOOPEE
3. IT'S ALL RIGHT WITH ME
4. I GET A KICK OUT OF YOU
5. TUXEDO JUNCTION
6. MACK THE KNIFE
7. YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO YOUNG
8. BLUE MOON
9. SPRING IS HERE
10. TU ME ACOSTUMBRASTE
11. GOODY GOODY
12. SOMEBODY LOVES ME
13. CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO
14. SINGING IN THE RAIN (INSTR.)
15. NIGHT AND DAY (INSTR.)
Some comments from friends who have heard the CD:
Dear Elisabeth and Sister:
Wow! What a CD, your "Chattanooga Swing," which arrived this morning. I listened to it in its entirety this afternoon.
My favorite? Maybe "Mack the Knife." Listening to the parody, I was reminded of Larry Walker. That was the kind of thing he would do, as my sister will recall.
You gals sound incredibly alike! In fact, I think it would take a trained ear to distinguish between your voices. The moral to this story: Sister, you have a worthy successor when you pass off the scene!
Adding Miguel Burset to your voices on "You Make Me Feel So Young" and Celia and both Miguels to "Blue Moon" was a neat "variety" touch to your solos, duets, and instrumentals. Another plus: the length of your numbers, more complete than earlier CDs -- such as the "Take Five" numbers.
Much love to both of you -- and especially to Elisabeth, Carlos, and your growing family.
Betty - I LOVE your new CD. It has a great old big band sound. Very well produced.
Anyway, my best to everyone. I hope that your cd is a great success. I'm sure it will be.
Charles de Montebello
CDM Sound Studios, Inc.
I'm listening to the wonderful cds you sent, which have several of my favorite songs--"you go to my head," "taking a chance on love," "out of this world" and others. How thoughtful and gracious of you.
I loved the rock version of "dream." I wonder if Johnny Mercer ever heard it? Thanks again and I look forward to meeting you. Keep singing those great standards and I will keep writing about hem.
Dear Betty: What a delight to come back to my office after the holiday vacation to find a package from you. Happy New Year! I quickly opened the package and enjoyed your letter. I was so glad to hear that all is well and you are getting to sing with a Big Band. It must be quite a thrill. Will you be recording your concerts? Thanks so much for Betty's Hits Vol. #2. You're too generous. I am listening to it as I write. Thoroughly enjoyable! I really liked the selection on this collection, especially: Dream, Red Sails in the Sunset, Don't You Remember Me, Dancing in the Dark and The Song You Heard When You Fell In Love. It sounds like your trip to Spain will be exciting. In fact, it sounds like your whole life is exciting. Bravo!!!
With warm regards, Paul
Betty Dear -
Glad things are working! And I have to tell you that Judy & I LOVE your new CD. Especially Mack the Knife when you and Elizabeth added your own lyrics. You're terrific. Best to you and Arthur.
- Harvey Brotman