John Minnock | Right Around the Corner

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Right Around the Corner

by John Minnock

John Minnock, fan-favorite vocalist in the New York City Cabaret Scene, presents a new album of jazz standards as well as originals songs. Featuring special guest, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, saxophonist Dave Liebman.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Vocals
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Get Happy
3:55 $0.99
2. Right Around the Corner
2:48 $0.99
3. Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans
6:10 $0.99
4. New York, New York (feat. Dave Liebman)
6:01 $0.99
5. Are We All Alone
4:25 $0.99
6. Moon River
4:13 $0.99
7. You Don't Know What Love Is
5:16 $0.99
8. I Love Being Here with You
2:08 $0.99
9. Everything Changes
3:38 $0.99
10. Skylark (feat. Dave Liebman)
5:27 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
First, I’m thrilled to be releasing this album, and sharing some background here in the notes.

For this album, I wanted to do ‘real’ (or ‘avant-garde’) jazz. Pablo Eluchans, the awesome drummer at my shows and on this album, asked me last year ‘so, a straight-ahead jazz album?’ and I replied, ‘a gay-ahead jazz album’.

Original tunes - The album contains three original songs, written by me and Enrique Haneine, with assistance from Erick Holmberg. These songs take subject matter from the LGBTQ community, and at various stages of life in the community. Frankly, I have had difficulty finding jazz tunes that could honestly reflect my experiences as a gay man. Many songs have a guy/girl, girl/guy aspect, and changing pronouns becomes awkward-sounding (“Steven by Starlight” doesn’t have the same zing.) That’s when we started working on originals. I thought about hiring a lyricist, but Enrique Haneine (pianist, composer, arranger, and udu-ist on this album) felt I had to write the lyrics myself. Essentially, if it was my point to make, then I would have to make it. And by the way, Erick and I have been discussing how the LGBTQ fits into jazz for many years - this album is the status of that discussion.

Get Happy (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler)– This is a total re-work compared to the iconic Garland version. “Get Happy’ is the first song I ever performed in public – as an audition for the senior class musical at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar New York. Then, it was closer to the Garland version. My pianist for that performance was Duncan Patton – better known today as (considered by many) the greatest timpanist in the world (Principal Timpanist Metropolitan Opera, Retired).
The song’s lyrics are Christian in nature, and in this version, we decided to expand to something more religiously universal, adding an Indian (Hindu) music element. The subject matter is passing to the next life, and this version is situated at the time when that is occurring (said another way, at the time of death and passing over). I use a lot of mental imagery in song interpretations – this one is the journey to the Elves’ ‘Undying Lands’ at the end of “Fellowship of the Rings”.

Upon adding the Udu (played expertly by Enrique Haneine), in the studio I couldn’t stop saying ‘Udu that voodoo that you do so well’, which irritated everyone.

The Garland version, and her music, was a big part of my musical foundation. So much so that I still have the ‘That’s Entertainment’ songbook, including the sheet for ‘Get Happy’, and with the chord changes I penciled in.

Right Around the Corner (Enrique Haneine, John Minnock) – this is the first of the original tunes and is a reference to “Love is Just Around the Corner” - I know the Mel Torme / George Shearing version. In ‘Right Around the Corner’, the narrator is a younger, goofy bar-hopper deluding himself that its about looking for love. Every line is taken from real experiences.

• Refence to “Bar Friends” – not traditional friends, but still friends – common in the gay community. These are friends you see and associate with at bars, but that’s about the extent of the friendship. And in the lyric I left a hint of the person who didn’t show might be a bit more than ‘just a friend’. Notice the narrator doesn’t have the guys phone number or any way to contact.
• ‘Out of cash/who can I hit up’ means ‘who can I flirt with just to get a drink’ (rather than just asking a friend to front some cash). I literally had a young guy recently at Bottoms Up ask if I could Venmo him some money for a drink.
• ‘Cash Machine/I need an ATM’ that came to me from a sign at a bar in Boston (Cathedral Station).
• ‘Lost keys/phone at 3%’ came from an actual text from my good friend Aaron Brandon

We Synthed the song (done entirely by Enrique), which is a nod and homage to a pioneer in electronic music Wendy Carlos, who also is a pioneer in gender re-assignment.

The synth sounds represent, as close as we could get, what one hears in Hell’s Kitchen NYC at 2 am when staggering bar-to-bar – especially those damn metal doors in the sidewalk that go to building basements. And the ending devolves into (for fans of the Jetsons) a ‘Jane Stop this Crazy Thing’ situation. Finally, notice the last corner is also the first – Bottoms Up. I have occasionally gone to the same bar twice in a night.

The corners are the actual establishments that are my usual watering holes:
• 46th and 8th – Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up
• 56th and 9th – Rise, and by the way it’s the same block as Alvin Ailey, where Enrique works in the summer. So he knew exactly what street sounds I was referring to.
• 51st and 9th – it’s not a bar and it’s not any particular sexuality, it’s Mexican restaurant Arriba Arriba! Great food, great service, staff always makes it fun, and margaritas as big as your head!
• 46th and 9th – not a bar – the iconic ‘Don’t Tell Mama’
• 48th and 10th – Hardware and DBL are both at this intersection
• Again - 46th and 8th – Vodka Soda/Bottoms Up….right back where it started

And the addresses aren’t sequential – they zig and zag - like the melody and chord structure.

Sorry I couldn’t work in Industry (it's at ‘fif-ty-sec-ond’ which has an extra syllable), or Posh (same corner as Arriba). I know I’m currently missing some others - Therapy, Ritz and Boxers – but give me time. Give me time.

Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans (Eddie DeLange, Louis Alter) – The city where the blues was born. I love how the narrator of the song continually mis-pronounces ‘New Orleans’ – someone who lived there would never pronounce it this way (and this is a clue to the interpretation). And I remember about two years ago I was walking down 7th (around 22nd or so) and this interpretation came to me. I was singing to myself on the street, so I’m sure I looked nuts.
This interpretation is along the lines of someone who had a wonderful romantic few days in New Orleans, but the relationship ended soon after – very sadly and maybe tragically. The narrator is in conflict – remembering the good times which are now always associated with the sad result.

New York, New York (Jay Brannon) – WARNING This is not the wonderful Kander and Ebb tune. I heard Mr. Brannon perform this at Joe’s Pub in January 2018 and loved the vibe. He’s a wonderful performer and you should buy his version and see his show. There are more verses; I chose the ones more appropriate for me and that directly relate to the gay community. Since it’s in 3/4, and discusses not-great things about New York, John Coltrane’s ‘My Favorite Thing’s came immediately to mind (or, ‘My LEAST Favorite things…about New York’). It’s ultimately a statement of both frustration with, and celebration of, New York City.
During our first run thru, I felt the Coltrane-style came to represent the machine-world mechanics of running the city, like the film Metropolis or the Madonna video ‘Express Yourself’. To make sure this solidified, I reached out to the jazz community to find the best Coltrane sax player available. By some divine providence (‘…somewhere in my youth or childhood….I must have done something good…’) we were able to get the best there is – NEA Jazz Master Dave Liebman. The session was a thrill, and the result something I will respect and enjoy forever. Mr. Liebman’s playing also invokes for me the bluesy/jazzy ‘black and white bankrupt world’ the New York was in the 60s and 70s.

My approach to singing was my interpretation of ‘fitting in to a Coltrane song’. I tried to adapt the vocalizing to match the players. This is different from what I did with ‘Skylark’ (see below).

Jay Brannon’s original version is a hipster struggling to live in Manhattan while celebrating New York. My version is the similar, with ‘older guy’ replacing ‘hipster’. My character has been doing it longer. And the character image for me is of someone I overheard at Posh – something like a more-angry Robert Preston in ‘Victor/Victoria’.
And by the way, a great way to listen to ‘New York’ is sitting in Arriba Arriba near the front or at the bar, looking out the large front windows, and watching the outdoor world play out like a move. This way, the lyric ‘drop the tortilla chip’ is a direct order – and let’s face it Sunday Brunch and alcohol and tortilla chips are just part of the urban Gay lifestyle.

Are We All Alone (Enrique Haneine, John Minnock) - dealing with the challenges of a relationship without much experience, and without much support. This is from direct experience. Without naming anyone, I’ve experienced the dismissive attitudes (don’t worry about it/it will work out) without meaningful support. The opening line is a nod to “Disneyland” from “Smile” (Howard Ashman) a beautiful song from a not-too-successful musical.

FYI I wrote the last verse watching the finale of RuPauls’ drag race this year. No big connection, it’s just that I can do two gay things at once.

Moon River (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer)– I perform this in the live show. We do it Bossa Nova - the melody just sounds like it’s in this style to me. And of course, its from the movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, from the short story by Truman Capote. Regarding Bossa Nova, I’ve been to Rio De Janiero and Ipanema beach, and went many times infamous restaurant ‘Garota do Ipanema’. My recollection of Rio plays a big part in this interpretation.
I love listening to this in the album, as it’s a relaxing bit of beach break from the urbaneness of the rest of the songs.

You Don’t Know What Love Is (Don Raye, Gene de Paul) – an awesome Billie Holiday tune. Let’s just leave it at that. Oh wait no, the tragedy of how she was treated, especially in later years, pisses me off.

I Love Being Here with You (William Schluger, Peggy Lee) – From the live show - a great standard, and I love that it’s composed by none other than Peggy Lee.

Everything Changes (Enrique Haneine, John Minnock) – two gay men with more life experience. The theme is ‘building lives together when lives are already built’ - the opposite of ‘We've Only Just Begun’ (hence the reference). There’s a section of happiness like an anthem, then a section of doubt and complication, maybe a bit neurotic (I call this ‘the Seinfeld section – it’s a bit neurotic - and much of the subject matter comes from issues and topics of the LGBTQ community: worrying about relationship with both guy’s mothers, getting back to the gym, we can trade clothes but I don’t like his taste, etc . There’s a reference to Stephen Sondheim (‘There IS a place for us’) and another for Gershwin (this one is very clear….’Our Love is Here to Stay’).

Skylark (Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer)– – I’ve done this song for a while, but we recently adapted it – it’s reworked and fine-tuned. A significant factor in this development was, I performed this song in a Cabaret workshop with super-instructor-director Lina Koutrakos.

This was one of the two songs we did in the session with Dave Liebman - he was very involved with the arrangement and what we were trying to achieve. His playing is wonderful; I’m thrilled with the result.

The vocal approach to this was different than in New York New York – here the goal was working together as a duo, each responding to what the other is creating. Was I worried about this approach with the level of playing of Mr. Liebman? You bet I was. But we carefully prepared in advance to get the highest result possible.

You know, they say that Johnny Mercer’s lyrics to Skylark are about Judy Garland.

A Note About Album Design -

My family manufactured brick on the Hudson river from the 1880s to 2001, as partners in Powell and Minnock Brick Works. in Coeymans, just south of Albany. Many of these are in structures all over New York City. The brick on the album cover are emphasized as a nod to this background.

THANKS: Erick Holmberg who helps guide the process, David Anderson who keeps my feet on the American-Songbook-Ground (I tend to go a little too jazzzzz, and also David is the person who I’m imitating vocally in ‘Right Around the Corner’), Dr. Candida Fink (it’s good to have a prominent psychiatrist as a friend!), Josmar Silva and Andrew Healey who help with all aspects of my complicated life, and of course the wonderful Lydia Liebman.
Further thanks to Aaron, Taylor, Marshall, Sarah, Jennifer, Matt, Olivia, Matt, James, Erin, Nick & Brooke, (and of course the rest!), Jude and dear Deborah Lippmann. All our conversations and jokes about life in Manhattan, socializing, and the Hell’s Kitchen ‘scene’ rounded out the original songs.

Special thanks to Joan Minnock.

And special thanks to the wonderful Bernie Furshpan.

And of course, Dave Liebman.



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