Jazz musician and educator Peggy Duquesnel is hosting a CD release party this Wednesday night at Fields Piano in Santa Ana. The album, All I Ask For Christmas, features a selection of familiar classics and original songs written in the spirit of the season. The album, beautifully recorded at bassist Brian Bromberg's studio, features performances by Joe La Barbera, Brian Kilgore, Jay Leach, Rick Brown and features vocals by Duquesnel, Bill Cantos, and Emma Werdeman.
"It has been a long-time desire of mine to record a Christmas album, and the timing was finally right. I had several songs that I had already done, many Christmas arrangements for my various concerts over the years, so I started with those. I also had some Christmas originals I pulled out from many years ago, and then got inspired to rewrite two songs and write two fresh Christmas songs.
"I wrote 'Under the Christmas Tree' more than 20 years ago, and did some rewrites on the lyrics and the chorus. It really flowed pretty naturally and I am thrilled with the final recorded version of the song. 'All I Ask for Christmas' I wrote from scratch this summer. It was inspired by George Gershwin's 'I've Got Rhythm' for the form and the lyrics all came together pretty quickly once I got my hook and theme. I wanted it to have that old fashioned Christmas feel like Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald or Dean Martin might sing.
"'Christmas is Here' was also composed this summer, and I took more of a Henry Mancini approach to that, similar to 'Moon River.' It is about family, friends and the love we all share at the holidays. Also, memories of our loved ones that have passed are touched in that song."
"'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' is just a fun song and I did a fresh arrangement of that this summer, based on my Nat King Cole influences, particularly learning his arrangement of 'Straighten Up and Fly Right' for a concert earlier this year. I think it totally fits. I am performing it with a big band for a Christmas show show every weekend at a theatre in Tustin."
For those who prefer to play holiday music without vocals, Duquesnel also created instrumental versions of all the songs.
"The bass and drums are mostly the same on both takes. I did two piano parts, one for the vocal version and one for the instrumental version. I also had some of the guitar, bass and percussionist play some melodies for the instrumental versions. It really worked out quite well, because I think the vocal and instrumental versions have a different mood for listening."
Duquesnel has a relaxed, easy style, both vocally and instrumentally, creating a distinctive musical voice.
"It is many years and hours of practicing and performing. Listening and tuning into the greats. Playing with great musicians who bring out the best in you. Living life and expressing my experience through my writing, arranging and improvising. Having a loving and supportive husband. Having great coaches and mentors.
"I grew up in a musical family and remember being passionate about music from kindergarten music class, and singing around the piano with my parents and siblings at home. My mom played piano, my dad sang, as talented amateurs. My older brothers played in bands before I did, and we all studied piano and other instruments in our school years. Our parents took us to musicals and concerts rather than sporting events! By the time I was 15 or 16, I wanted to pursue music as a career. I felt a life calling to it.
"I wrote my first song when I was 12 and, as my skills developed, I continued to write both instrumental and vocal music through my high school and college years. I almost would have liked to be a composition major, but loved performing so much that I wanted to focus mostly on that.
"I started at Fullerton College and was surround by incredibly gifted teachers and an inspiring circle of talented students. There were so many opportunities to develop my skills, play in all sorts of ensembles, perform, record, and write music. I wanted to at least have my BA degree so that, when I was older, I could teach in a college environment. I chose CSU Northridge, which was a great choice. I was surrounded by incredible teachers, opportunities to perform, write and record with some fabulous colleagues, of which many are still professionals like myself. It was a great time to meet people and grow as a musician and start to build a career."
With so many professional performance and recording opportunities in Los Angeles and Orange County, Peggy finds Long Beach to be an ideal spot to call home.
"When my husband and I were engaged we were trying to find a central location between OC and LA due to the nature of my freelance work and where his office was located. Long Beach was our first choice. We are one mile from the freeway, two miles from the Long Beach airport, and four miles from the beach! It has been great for us.
"I recently joined PADNET as a producer / business member and have been very impressed with the opportunities there to learn about video production and to have their support in airing my music project videos. We love Shoreline Village, and Parkers Lighthouse is one of our special places.
"I love performing a few times a month on the Queen Mary which is nice and close to home. It's worked out to be a great place to live."
Fields Pianos is located at 810 Dyer Road in Santa Ana. The free CD Release party begins at 7PM.
Peggy is performing Thursday through Saturday at the Encore Dinner Theatre in Tustin, and Upstairs At Vitello's in Studio City on Thurdsay, December 19th. For more information about her CD, and upcoming performances, visit PeggyDusquesnel.com.