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GHOST NOTES…The Sorta Soundtrack

I frequently confess to a weakness for men who work in the world of music, and apparently writing one story with music swirling through it wasn’t enough for me. The result is GHOST NOTES, though there are no ghosts involved. “Ghost notes” is a term for a particular way a musician plays some notes in a composition, but it does have a haunting feeling to it which I couldn’t resist.

My GHOST NOTES is a contemporary romantic suspense story set in the Phoenix, Arizona area. My heroine is a PI given what she feels is an impossible assignment: find a man who has been supposed dead for a decade. My hero is that man, he’s just been hiding out, keeping on the move, to stay alive after nearly dying ten years earlier when a stalker nearly did kill him. My hero is our musician, of course.

But when he does decide to turn and fight, so to speak, preparations for a return to the stage begin getting made. That means songs had to be chosen, a “sound” created.

I listened to soft jazz (his specialty and my favorite) songs on Pandora, on Amazon Music, went through my collection of CDs, and put myself in Pel (the hero) Flannery’s mind. What would appeal to him? How would he change the type of thing he had been playing when success found him originally? How might he have evolved arrangements into something similar but different if he had remained an entertainer rather than set the stage and recording contracts behind him, cutting himself off from them rather than be found, and possibly more successfully killed this time?

For those who would like to get a feel for what his stage show is like in the book, though we only deal with the planning, rehearsals, and the aftermath in the story, here’s how Pel put things together, the songs he chose, and even the modern performers who gave me his sound. I’ve supplied the composer and lyricist names for each song and the year they were originally written/recorded. Many of them have been covered by a multitude of performers over the years, too.

So, here’s what JACE HASTINGS ALIVE AND KICKING LIVE AT C.C.’S PLACE would sound like (except occasionally the recording I used has a female singer when in the story a male one covered it), and the order the songs appeared in the show. Unless otherwise noted, Pel would be the one singing and accompanying himself on the piano, though with further assistance from a very tightly chosen group of musicians.

“Comin’ Home, Baby”, music written by Ben Tucker in 1961 but lyrics only added by Bob Dorough in 1962. I listened to Michael Bublé’s recording of it.

“Can’t Buy Me Love”, music and lyrics written by Paul McCartney but appears as a Lennon-McCartney composition as that was how John Lennon and Paul wrote every song written for the Beatles. This song was used in the 1964 movie and album release, A Hard Day’s Night. I used Michael Bublé’s recording of it.

“Feeling Good”, music and lyrics by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for their musical THE ROAR OF THE CROWD—THE SMELL OF THE CROWD in 1964. It’s been frequently covered since then, but I used, yep, you guessed it, Michael Bublé’s rendition.

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, written by Randy Newman and used in Toy Story in 1995 from the Disney/Pixar studio. Again, I used Michael Bublé recording. I think you can say that if you were looking for the “voice” of Jace Hastings (aka Pel Flannery), I leaned heavily on Bublé. This is the first song in the “show” that Pel wouldn’t have sung but was covered by Paul Montgomery in the story. He’d have stuck with “buddy” rather than use “darling” as Bublé does occasionally in his rendition.

“Worrisome Heart”, music and lyrics by Melody Gardot in 2006. While Pel’s the one singing it in the story, and his jazz piano artistry sounds the same, Gardot herself is the performer whose rendition I used.

“She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rose)” was written in 2000 by Ivan Lins and (if I guessed right with what little I could find on the song) Brenda Russell, though it was Sting who recorded it in 2000.

“He’s a Tramp”, written by Sonny Burke with some lyrical assistance by Peggy Lee in 1955 for the Disney animated movie LADY AND THE TRAMP. I used Melody Gardot’s recording and have let Nan Rawlings from my cast of characters sing it.

“The Very Thought of You” was written by Ray Noble in 1934 and is one of those American Songbook standards that gets covered a lot. I used Michael Bolton’s version for Pel to sing.

“That’s the Way of the World”, a classic Earth, Wind and Fire song written by Maurice White, Charles Stepney, and Verdine White in 1974, though it didn’t appear on this Soul/Funk band’s performance sheet until 1975. In GHOST NOTES, in the post-show reviews, I have one reporter gushing about how Jace Hastings (aka Pel) had de-Funked the composition. Actually, I used the jazz instrumental version, no vocals, of the song as recorded by Kim Pensyl. Pel needed to rest his voice occasionally through the show and this was an awesome song to just let him have a piano solo.

“I Just Want to Hang Around You” was first recorded by George Benson in 1985 and has been covered numerous times by other performers. Oddly enough, it is so tied to George Benson it was difficult to discover that it was actually written by Cruz Baca Sembello, Danny Sembello, John Sembello, and Michael Sembello. In looking for a different rendition, I stumbled upon India’s recording of it that mixed in a Latin flavor orchestration and was sung partly in Spanish and partly in English. It was perfect for my Mexican heritage character performer Rika to be given a solo on, so Pel scored it for her and was just part of the band while she belted it out. The only thing Rika didn’t do in her performance that India did in recording it in 1994 was say “Get funky”…so not 2022. Otherwise, it was a great rendition and showed Pel’s diversity in orchestration.

“I’ll Still Be Loving You” was a tough song to use only because there are two very different songs with that title (you can’t copyright a title for a book nor for a song, you see). I argued that a mention of it being a song recorded by Fourplay (which I used as my performance guide) was necessary in the text, but the publisher refused to budge on their rule about using product names and Fourplay, a jazz group, was considered a product. So, when this is performed it is not to be confused with the hit that both Restless Heart in 1987 and then Reba McIntire in 2007 had with a similarly titled song. This is an entirely different musical composition and set of lyrics written by Nathan East in 2010 for Fourplay, of which he is one of the members. In GHOST NOTES, Pel sings it.

“You Moved Me To This” is another Ivan Lins composition, written in 2000. It was recorded as a duet that same year by James “D Train” Williams and Lisa Fischer. While I don’t mention in GHOST NOTES that it’s being performed as a duet, it is in my head with Pel and Nan Rawlings paired up for it.

“Desperado” was written and recorded by Glenn Frey and Don Henley in 1973. I used Diana Krall’s more recent cover of the song and “heard” C. C. Pelham, Pel’s famous vocalist mother sing it, and though Krall’s version doesn’t have a trombone solo, I let Pel’s father, Jay Flannery, a successful master trombonist do one. Pel accompanies them on the piano, but I tuned out the other musicians, leaving this one a family affair performance, though no one ever knows C.C. and Jay are Pel’s parents, because he’s never let anyone learn that he wasn’t born Jace Hastings, his stage name.

“Quiet Fire” was written and performed first in 2007 by Melody Gardot. I confess to loving Gardot’s music and even had Paul Montgomery in the text of GHOST NOTES tell Pel “you can’t go wrong with Melody Gardot” when it came to music compositions. However, it is Pel who sings it in the book.

“Biggest Part of Me” was written by David Pack back when he was part of Ambrosia in 1980. I’ve always loved this song, so naturally it worked its way into the musical choices for Pel to sing.

“In The Wee Small Hours of The Morning” is another old classic, this time from 1955. Music by David Mann, lyrics by Bob Hilliard, it was the title cut on Frank Sinatra’s album release that year. I used the Chris Botti and Sting recording of it for my mental soundtrack. I wanted to do something different with it though since the lyrics are about missing the one you love “in the wee small hours of the morning.” Musicians on the road would feel that way, so while Pel is at the piano and has most of the lyrics, they switch off to C.C. then to Paul Montgomery before returning to Pel. Jay Flannery gets to replace Botti’s trumpet solo with a trombone one. And in the closing lines, I did quick switches with the performing singers. Pel starts the final lines off as the lyrics were written, but then C.C. picks them up and names the person she misses when they are apart, which is Jay, and she’s barely finished that short bit of lyric when Paul Montgomery takes it and names his wife, whom he usually calls “Red”, before the lyric returns to Pel and he names “Gael”, which is for Gaelen, our heroine. So, the three trade off bits in the performance of this song. I’ve never heard a song performed this way, but I wanted to “personalize” it, and this is how I did so.

“You Show Me” was composed by Harry Garfield and Michael McDonald in 1990. I used McDonald’s recording of it for Pel to sing.

“The More I See You” takes us back to those classic American Songbook tunes. It was written in 1945 by Harry Warren with Mack Gordon. I used Michael Bublé’s up-tempo version (just when you thought I’d given Mike a rest, huh?) for Pel to sing. It’s supposed to be the show’s closing song, but we all know performers can’t get away without the audience demanding at least one more song, which leads us to…

“Misty”. Music by Erroll Garner, lyrics by Johnny Burke. It was first performed by Johnny Mathis, who probably still has the most popular version of it, but Ray Stevens did an up-tempo version of it in 1975. Stevens won a Grammy that year for Musical Arrangement of the song. It’s been covered by a lot of famous singers and musicians. But, if you really want the truth, the entire idea for GHOST NOTES began fermenting in the muse part of my brain when I heard the Jason Gould (Barbara Streisand and Eliott Gould’s son) recording of “Misty” in 2013. It brought tears to my eyes. Pel performs this song alone as the encore song, accompanying himself on the piano. It closes the show, is the last track that will be cut when the CD/streaming version is released by the studio that had him under contract a decade earlier.

It was while wiping those tears away that I knew that I needed to create a performer/character who had a reputation for doing just that with his arrangements of classic songs. I made him known for bringing tears to grown men’s eyes, not just those of the female fans. That was the successful career that Pel Flannery as Jace Hastings had to limp away from when the stalker tried to kill him a decade earlier and he knew the guy wasn’t going to be content until he had killed him.

I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering what the show would have been like if there actually had been one in real life. Unfortunately, copyright laws keep me from putting these songs together in this order as a recording. We don’t want to tick off ASCAP. It’s something you’ll have to do by yourself. Fortunately, you can now get just the single song to download via a purchase on the Net. My choices might have been unearthed via Pandora and my own collection of recordings but when the need to purchase just one song by one performer came along, I hit Amazon for it.

Now it’s time for YOU to seek out a copy of GHOST NOTES by Beth Henderson. It releases May 4th, 2022, from The Wild Rose Press, and will be available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple, and through GooglePlays, but also in trade paperback from the online bookstores.

I’ll even help out by providing the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles links:

Hope you enjoy the book AND the song selections.


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Sep 12, 2022

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