“Batik Journey” was born out of Jack’s desire to take a break from co-writing and joint musical efforts, and to entirely call his own shots for a CD. He would write all the songs (and sing on most), and make all final decisions on arrangements and production. He contacted his longtime recording partner, Steven Bell, owner and engineer of state of the art studio Top of the Hill Music in Duvall, Washington. Steven was on board with Jack's vision, and enthusiastically agreed to support the endeavor. Jack began bringing in bits of developing songs - music always first before lyrics - and he and Steven would pick up whatever instruments they felt would work, and create rough demos for Jack to return home with in order to work on the balance of the music, and the lyrics. As each song was finished, over the course of 2 years, Steven and Jack would call on musicians they knew to come in for final recording sessions. Over 20 musicians contributed to Batik Journey, including guest lead vocalists on two songs.
If you were to ask Jack what genre the songs on Batik Journey are, he would ask back, “Which song?” From a cappella choral, to pop-rock, to piano ballad, a jazz-show tune, to a Johnny Cash-styled country-folk number, the listener is constantly surprised as the album progresses. “I never did like the approach,” Jack says, “of being locked in to one genre - of saying it was necessary to decide ‘what your sound is’ in order to have a ‘target demographic’. That seems artificially limiting to me - however the music is supposed to come out, it comes out. Look at the Beatles - Eleanor Rigby was on the same album as Tomorrow Never Knows.”
A similar lack of limitation applies to Batik Journey’s instrumentation. “We used whatever instruments we felt would fit any given song. In some cases they were the standard piano/guitar/drums/bass, but if a song called for accordion, or saxes, or french horn, or hammered dulcimer, we didn’t hesitate to use them.” Jack played several instruments himself, including piano, guitars, bass, synth and organ.
The leadoff song is the short “Introit” - “In the quiet stillness there is sound; beyond the darkness light is all around. Listen, listen, you will hear.” The tone for the CD is set: overcoming challenges, and keeping the hope that one will emerge on the other side of whatever life throws our way. The songs are drawn from Jack's own experience, also a new approach for him. “Emotionally it’s easier to write fictional lyrics, about other people or situations. But I made the conscious decision to mostly write from within.”
Songs such as “Drowning”, “Sacrifight”, “In the Quiet Stillness” (an expanded version of the Introit featuring Michael Johnson on vocals), “Grey”, and “Carry On” speak to the theme of overcoming barriers and “making it to the other side”. The balance of songs address topics such as hanging on to our childhood goals (“This Old Dream”), wistful remembrance and acceptance of life (“Ascending”), and in “Dry Bones”, Jack ventures into the surreal and disturbing. A tip of the hat to the musical 87th and Viridian is “I Am”, with a beautiful guest vocal by Gillian Shepodd, who sang the jazzy song in the original stage production.
"Making this CD took a huge effort, but was extremely gratifying. Working with Steven Bell and all the other musicians made it a most enjoyable journey. I hope the listeners enjoy the music, and can identify with these not-always-sunny songs, as we have all faced challenges in our lives, and figured out how to persevere, and carry on."