The Ivan Variations

When I first put out my solo album, “Ivan in Paris“, back in 1998, the title track was intended to be a total afterthought, buried at track 14; at the time, I had no reason to think it had any future at all. Here’s that original version, played by myself with Tim Dickey on dobro:

Right around then, the Philharmonic got started, and it became evident that “Ivan” was a great way to showcase our terrific horn players, and give them some room to blow, and we played it frequently for the next decade or two, sometimes with different rhythmic variations, but that was just the tip of the eventual iceberg.

Last year, we booked a show at the Once Lounge for Groundhog Day, and our drummer, Jerome Deupree, made the mistake of suggesting we just play the same song all night, in keeping with the Groundhog Day concept, and that’s when things got out of control. We wrote two different sets of lyrics for it; we had our trombonists Bob Pilkington and Dave Harris do completely different arrangements of; even transcribed and played it backwards, and we had a ball. The challenge, of course, being making such a concept entertaining for a full set for the audience, and not just the players.

The Ivan Variations” (or at least some of them):

“Ivan in Paris” -Basically the normal version we’ve played for years, plain old regulation “Ivan in Paris”, albeit in this case recorded live at Janice Perrin’s birthday party back on July 26 of 2014 and featuring Rikki Bates on drums and Jim Gambino on keys; always a good occasion to give our horn players some room to stretch (in this case, that’s Berke McKelvey doing exactly that.) Wanted to start with a nice long normal excerpt, so you know what we’re departing from!

The balance is all from last year’s First Annual Groundhog Day show, which was such a blast we decided we’d keep going this year, too.
The selections are:

    “Ivan Quickly”
    “Eventually There’s a Rhyme” (aka Ivan Meets Gloria), with words by David Greenberger
    “Ivan Pilkington”, arranged by trombonist Bob Pilkington
    “Ivan Goes to Church”, arranged by Dave Harris, who plays keys on this one (he was mostly on tuba the rest of the night
    “sariP ni navI” (Ivan backwards), transcribed by Pilk
    “Ivan Ska”

The players: Dinty Child, guitar and mandocello; John Clark, string bass; Cliff Spencer, keys; Jerome Deupree, drums; Dave Harris, tuba, occasional trombone and keys; Berke McKelvey, tenor sax; Bob Pilkington and Quinn Carson, trombones; Sam Dechenne, trumpet; Fred Boak, vox, moral support, and recording; and me on guitar, vox, and arrangement ideas (where otherwise unspecified.)

Sexy Ivan With Bongo“- Chandler demo, recorded in The Hole in Truro. Among the new “Ivan”s for 2018 is this pokey little thing… at this point, I can no longer remember who I thought I was imitating – I’ll bet it was somebody – but isn’t that the way, though?

We also hope to be doing “Elvis in Paris” and an as-yet-untitled upside down version (to go with last year’s backwards version. Does this idea have legs or not? We’ll see on Groundhog Day at the Once Lounge…

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