Popular singer/songwriter Tad Sisler performs emotional, introspective traditional jazz standards with legendary guitarist Michael Higgins, featuring Michael performing in the style of his mentor and teacher Joe Pass.
As a young piano bar performer in Lake Tahoe in the early 1980’s, I was 23 years old, eking out a living, with my wife and four children all under the age of 7. During that period, I had the pleasure of meeting the late Bill Hawkins, a crusty, elderly African-American vocalist from the San Francisco Bay area, who came up with Billy Eckstine and Nat (King) Cole. He would sit in with me, throw charts of new songs in front of me to play, and he would “beat me up” with vociferous suggestions to improve my style and the depth of my performance. In order to help me grow further, Bill also presented me with a myriad of albums from his extensive collection of jazz and R&B. I will forever appreciate his insight and care for my progress in this business.
Two of the albums he gave me which touched me greatly were the excellent solo guitar and vocal Joe Pass/Ella Fitzgerald duets albums “Duets in Hanover 1975”, and “Again”. I was amazed at the musicality of the albums, about how much music came out of one instrument and one vocalist.
Following my stint in Lake Tahoe, my family and I moved back to Palm Springs, where I had the great fortune of meeting and working with Frank Sinatra on several occasions. Frank and his sweet, lovely wife Barbara would frequent “Patti Z” at the Trinidad Hotel, the club I was working in Palm Springs, California, and I was hired to perform at many of his events, even backing him up on occasion. Sometimes he would stand next to me at the piano, watching my nervous hands play, and talk about the difficulty of the bridge of that song, or something similar to that. Mr. Sinatra had a great respect for all of the musicians and songwriters who accompanied him throughout his career. Needless to say, Frank Sinatra was the ‘voice of the century’, and his direction and kindness towards me contributed to my young career in ways I cannot express. I was told that he appreciated that I did not attempt to emulate his style, but rather that I “made it my own” when performing music attributed to him.
I also had the pleasure of briefly meeting and performing for Jimmy Van Heusen, the great songwriter, and I always had the dream of recording his music at some point.
Several years later, I met and started performing with Michael Higgins. Michael has his Masters Degree from the University of Southern California, excelling in classical and jazz guitar. Michael has toured and performed with many greats, including Maynard Ferguson and the Rolling Stones. Michael also was a protégé and student of Joe Pass, the legendary guitarist I referenced above.
Michael was quite familiar with the Joe Pass/Ella sessions, and when I suggested that we record a project in that vein, he thankfully jumped at the chance.
Not for a moment would I dare to compare myself in any way to the genius of Ella Fitzgerald, one of the great jazz vocalists of all time. I hoped, however, that Michael’s great performances along with the lessons I learned from Mr. Sinatra might produce a spark that would be worthy of listening to.
This was the genesis of “Vocal and Guitar Duets”. I also threw in a couple originals for good measure. I believe that the magic of this offering is that it was performed as if it was done “live”, warts and all, with no big fixes or overdubs. Michael and I hope that you enjoy the music as much as we did creating it.
Music to soothe the savage beast, so to say.
ALL MY TOMORROWS and ALL THE WAY are dedicated to the writer, who I briefly met and sang to, the great Jimmy Van Heusen.
ANGEL EYES is dedicated to my late wife, Stephanie. Her father was a jazz pianist, and as a small girl, she would tour with him sometimes. She remembered him playing this song to her from the lounge downstairs as she listened from their hotel room upstairs, and I promised her that I would record it for her eventually. I wish that she was still with us to hear it. God rest her lovely soul.
OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY was my mother’s song to me. Elaine Witt Sisler was an outstanding classical pianist who gave her first concert at 5 years old and performed as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony at the age of 17. She was my mom and my inspiration. I also dedicate another of her favorites ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE to her.
I wrote HOW’D THINGS COME TO THIS way back then in Tahoe when I was a kid.
Thank you, Michael Higgins, for raising the level of my performance always in all the work we’ve done. Can’t wait until the next project with you!
This is for my oldest children: Regina, Kevin, Rachel and Taddy. They have put up with me every step of the way in this rocky career of music. I thank the Lord every day for my family and friends, including those who have followed my illustrious career to this point. As I always say, “It’s a long climb to the middle.”