Rachael & Vilray
I Love A Love Song!

Rachael & Vilray’ has been a musical act ever since Rachael saw me play a very short set of covers and said she wanted in. Her voice is singular, agile, beautiful, and, as I found when we started performing original music, the most rewarding instrument to write for. In the seven years since we began, our configuration has ranged from an intimate duo, to the 9-piece formation you hear on six of these tracks. No matter the set-up on stage, my friend Rachael and I sing right to each other, tell stories about how the songs came to be, and relate them to the many old love songs we love to love.

There’s a lyric on this album that summarizes the qualifications of the musicians who made it: “we’ve all heard the legends.” Each of us has keenly absorbed the work of a pantheon of jazz giants that inspires and informs this music. Just invoking the name of any one of these is efficient shorthand, positing an approach to a phrase or song. “Let’s remember Louis Jordan,” I said before the master take of "Why Do I?"" to encourage a jolt of the proto-rock’n’roll that was missing. Or when Rachael was considering how to clearly deliver a tricky line in "Hate is the Basis (of Love),"" I offered that I thought it was “a Betty Carter thing.” Some names suggest a constellation of techniques, flourishes, and accents that illuminate a corner of the musical universe. And if these original songs provide any light, it is in great part a reflection of some past brilliance that we admire.

Inside Studio A at United Recording in Hollywood, for three and a half days in April, the company around us also felt legendary. Five superlative horn players steeped in the trad jazz scene, some going back forty years. A rhythm section comprised of three eminent session players who we’ve listened to and read about in DownBeat Magazine since high school. They told stories about playing with Benny Goodman, James Brown, Bill Evans, and Tony Bennett! And in the control room, keeping us on task, was Dan Knobler, who engineered, mixed, and produced this album, dynamically capturing the interplay between these wonderful musicians in the single open room we all shared.

Eleven of these songs are my own, and I’ll say a bit about the thrill of writing in this style. I love stories told by characters. The era’s repertoire is rooted in songs for theater and films, so a lot are written in the first person and from the perspective of a dramatis persona, rather than reflecting an omniscient narrator or the writer themself. I also love how the music of language is explored in this idiom. Three-in-one singer-lyricist-composers of the time—like Johnny Mercer or Peggy Lee—made clever use of slant rhymes and dense consonant combinations to propel the rhythm of their music. Their songs “ac-cent-tchu-ate” the chaotic and amusing ways that syllables run together, and how the mouth dances to put them across. Like Johnny and Peg, I love to write songs about feelings that feel good to sing.

—VILRAY, New York City, Summer 2022


1. Any Little Time began as a consideration of Mercer-esque lingual acrobatics. I liked the three words together. The sound of the t in “little” is articulated differently than the t in “time.” The first is soft but percussive, the second explodes with a puff of air behind a rigid tongue, and the leap from weak to strong accents creates a musical bounce. Even when flatly speaking the phrase, “any little time” kind of swings on its own. Jacob Zimmerman’s playful arrangement, with hints of Ellington’s small band blues sound, expertly bridges the gap between a lilting melody and the narrator who can’t stop crying. Jim Ziegler (tp), Larry Goldings (p), Dan Barrett (tb) and Nate Ketner (ts) all weep a bit themselves.

2. Even in the Evenin’ Her working man stands her up, again. Rachael wrings so much humanity out of this lonely, resigned character and she tells me that she’s never gotten more out of a ballad. Indeed, in fewer than four minutes she powerfully and subtly emotes reverie, disappointment, exhaustion, impatience, heartache, longing, derision, understanding, acceptance, regret, and in the end, an explicit threat of revenge. Jacob’s lush treatment matches her dramatic performance with cinematic strains, reminiscent of Billy Strayhorn and Kenyon Hopkins. Jacob (as) solos, and Larry deftly fills the space that Rachael’s missing workaholic once occupied.

3. Is a Good Man Real? I love Rachael’s delivery on this one, so cool and enchantingly detached: she’s just curious! Like The Lady Is A Tramp (1937), which implies unsaid volumes about high society scolds, describing normal activities then dismissing them snootily, Good Man is a portrait of the singer’s life drawn in negative space. She sings about decidedly ordinary courtesies and wonders tartly if the man exists who can offer them to her—and we glean much about the awful men she’s been dating without her mentioning them. Jacob and Larry each take a chorus.

4. Just Two Each line is just two syllables, just two singers croon mostly two notes each, and the arrangement is just too dreamy. Joe La Barbera’s (d) brushes make it a flying dream. Dan Barrett’s solo is a classic.

5. Why Do I? A rejoinder to Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It (1928) and every lovestruck squirrel in a Walt Disney cartoon. Real turtledoves aren’t cooing about romance. The lonely hearts can find inspiration in nature’s cool. But we, in contrast, are a fierce and feisty quintet. Joe dances ebullient circles around David Piltch’s (b) maypole. Jacob solos, and we all remember Louis Jordan.

6. I’m Not Ready As we come to the end of SIDE A, you are again treated to the power of the small but mighty chamber orchestra that Jacob Zimmerman dreamed up for us. Producer Dan Knobler carefully applies the secret sauce from our favorite vocal jazz albums of the 1950s: a singer mixed so far forward that she must be sitting at your table. And a band recorded live without soundproofing, mic’d somewhat obliquely, to suggest a party on the bandstand. It’s a risky approach (because you can’t easily punch-in a corrective note when you flub one), but it captures the vitality and dimension of a real space and the real humans who played in it for the three-and-a-half minute life of the song. Dan Barrett, Nate Ketner, Jim Ziegler and Jacob (cl) all strut beautifully.

7. Join Me in a Dream Larry’s delicate celeste fluffs our pillows and by the time his B3 organ creeps into the room with the rest of the band we’re well on our way to Dreamland. Jim Ziegler and Larry Goldings both solo and we discover an altogether new side of Rachael’s voice: very quiet, and very tender.

8. Hate is the Basis (of Love) On every song he plays David Piltch's pulse and note choice provide a mighty foundation and an irresistible layer of melody. He and Rachael pirouette alone for the length of a verse and when Larry and I enter, we’re off on a merry race! Nat King Cole had a song in 1940 called Gone With The Draft, celebrating being flat-footed and draft-exempt, and cleaning up with the girls on the home front. I’ve always admired the genuinely funny breeziness with which he sold that prickly subject matter, and this is my admittedly less bold attempt at exploring love from a cynic’s angle, while hiding behind a deep-pocketed swing. Larry’s solo cleverly echoes the bounding energy of Cole’s classic trio.

9. A Love Song, Played Slow Written at the very start of the 2020 pandemic, this is a study of a young lover doing his wooing from a Victorian distance. The epic arrangement evokes the florid beauty of Radio Age dance bands, orchestrating the full form of the song before modulating for my vocal entrance.

10. Just Me This Year There are all sorts of Christmas songs. Too many, really. We have ones to play among family, nostalgic ones, sexy ones, childish ones, melancholic ones, even ones about picking up the pieces of a broken heart and getting a new lover (thanks, Wham!). Mine is a celebratory holiday song for the happily single, the emancipated, the ones enjoying their independence and getting a jump on the New Year.

11. I’ve Drawn Your Face is among the first songs I wrote for this project, and one of Rachael’s favorites to sing. Consider the many incidentally disturbed narrators in the Great American Songbook. The one who refuses to walk anywhere but On The Street Where You Live (1956), another one who persists in describing the hideousness of My Funny Valentine (1937). I offer this one, perhaps still tossing and turning later on In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning (1955), who draws a lover’s face on the ceiling because she knows she’ll never see it again. Try to rest, kid. Larry solos.

12. Goodnight My Love One of my early guides through this kind of music, when I was discovering a passion for it in high school, was the wise and exuberant Danny Stiles. Broadcasting his Music Museum weekends on WNYC, he played a mix of swing dance bands, crooners, movie scores, and European torch singers. His voice sounded like it belonged to a very energetic 110 year old, and he told many great stories about all the old musicians he knew as a younger deejay. Sometimes he put on their records and sang over them. At the end of each broadcast he played and sang along with Shirley Temple’s saccharine recording of Goodnight My Love by Mack David and Harry Revel. One weekend in fifty, he would play Ella Fitzgerald’s version instead, which I adored. The song dates to 1936 and it’s one of a handful of songs that first brought me into contact with the American tradition of love songs that occupies so much space in my head and heart to this day. It’s a perfect song. Larry Goldings highlights so much of the whimsy in its slightly idiosyncratic form, and Rachael and I sing it to each other just as we have done to close so many shows over the years. I recommend that every pair of friends sing it to each other at the end of an enjoyable evening.

For more information, please contact Louis D'Adamio or Carla Sacks at Sacks & Co., 212.741.1000.