The Streisand Project: The story behind the album
Written by Bill King
It was the summer of 1976 when I found myself working under the baton of conductor/arranger, Peter Matz -- Emmy, Grammy award-winning Hollywood icon -- as part of The Carol Burnett Show in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. As music director for the Pointer Sisters, the four women had a twenty-minute feature half-way through Burnett and company's live show. Matz contributed a medley of Ellington tunes strung together with marvelous harmonic transitions and slight time changes for sisters.
Afternoons, Matz and I would congregate around the outdoor swimming pool of the MGM Grand and talk music. It was then I realized this was the same Peter Matz I'd spent hours absorbing his arrangements for Barbra Streisand's Third Album. I could hear the string section on "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered -- It Had To Be You" and "I had Myself A True Love," as if the great outdoors was an amphitheatre for the mind.
Years later, I would interview Matz and wife Marilyn Lovell Matz in Toronto. Both had become activists in the fight against AIDS. People, certain occasions, and chance encounters endure a lifetime . . . I met Cornelia Luna when she was 19 and worked with her on her one-woman show which sold-out 1,200 seats at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto. From the downbeat, I knew there was something special about her composure and self-assuredness on stage. Then came the voice; pure and clear tones, soaring notes, and excellent vocal control. I thought, what if we could work together beyond one brilliant evening. That didn't happen because the world and fate had other plans for her. Off Cornelia goes to Broadway and a twenty-year career performing in top venues and shows befitting this exquisite artist.
Cornelia and I reconnected, and began thinking of working together; a project we could collaborate on and the first to come to mind was the early music of Barbra Streisand. The music that captured our attention and spectacular vocalizing of Ms. Streisand. Cornelia and I began researching the early years -- the first recording, the specials -- "My Name Is Barbra," "Funny Lady," even the "Third Album" . . . songs that have gone unanswered through the years beyond Streisand's initial encounters. We then composed a list of songs, not a tribute album, to create a fresh take on the songs that have such great emotional range, lyrics with a story, melodies that surge and harmonies that are flexible for a piano-based jazz trio -- piano, bass, and drums -- songs that we could bring to life again.
Cornelia Luna and trio played the Jazz Bistro in Toronto and explored twenty selections from Streisand's catalog and the music began to take shape. The past was now the present. With Order Of Canada recipient, bassist Dave Young, the brilliant musicianship of drummer Mark Kelso, and me on piano, the trio instantly orchestrated as the songs underwent improvisational shifts and blending of rhythms and colors in support of vocalist, Luna.
The transformation was swift and re-birth inevitable. It was at that moment Cornelia Luna and I decided the right players were in place and the music would get a true makeover worthy of the recording studio.