Down for the Count's new album - out now!
This month Down for the Count have released our long-awaited new album, Just You, Just Me. I say long-awaited because it’s taken us a very long time to prepare this album for release – we recorded it just as the country was coming out of lockdown in March and April 2021, however it’s taken us nearly two years to complete.
Various life events seemed to get in the way to prevent us to from mixing the album and releasing it – including babies being born, everyone re-adjusting to a post-lockdown life, and much more besides.
However, it’s now here – and we couldn’t be happier with it! Here's the first single from the album, Exactly Like You, sung by Hannah Castleman.
This is a very special album to us, because it’s the very first time that a Down for the Count album has consisted solely of original arrangements of jazz standards. 10 of the arrangements are written by me, and the other four are by Simon Joyner. We’ve been performing and recording more and more of our own original arrangements over the past few years, however this is the first time that one of our albums is entirely original – meaning it sounds more “us” than anything else we’ve released to date.
The album was actually conceived in record-quick time – all of the arrangements (except one, The Frim Fram Sauce) were arranged in a two-week spell just before one of the live streams we produced during lockdown at Siyan Studios in Buckinghamshire.
The album starts with Simon’s arrangement of C’est Magnifique, a Cole Porter classic given a late-Swing Era shuffle groove. We think you’ll agree that every aspect of Callum’s personality comes across in the performance!
After that comes an arrangement of That Old Feeling, arranged by me – a song that I had wanted the band to perform for several years, which features one of Alex Western-King’s ferocious tenor saxophone solos.
A key aim for us at this recording session was to give as many people as possible a feature tune. Track 3, Easy Living, is a feature for our lead trumpet player Luke Davies who plays a beautiful rendition of the melody before Katie Birtill joins in on vocals for the second chorus.
Next up is one of my favourite jazz standards, Exactly Like You (the first single from the album). This is one of my favourite songs to perform in a small band setting, however I struggled to find a big band arrangement of it that I liked – so decided to write one myself! This tune features Hannah Castleman on vocals, and you’ll hear quite a bit of James Smith on drums as well...
Track 5 is the first of two Duke Ellington numbers on the album – In a Sentimental Mood, arranged by Simon, is also the only instrumental track on the album. It’s a baritone feature for Jamie Hone, and Simon really indulged in the Duke Ellington style - his arrangement features complex clashing Ellingtonian harmonies, which we all loved playing.
Taking a Chance on Love is also a baritone feature, this time for Jake Burgess (who was playing our 3rd sax chair on the second recording day, as Jamie was unavailable). This tune featured on Frank Sinatra’s seminal Songs for Swingin’ Lovers album, arranged by Nelson Riddle, but I took most of the inspiration for this arrangement from Billy May, a trumpeter-turned-arranger whose signature sound was “slurping saxes” and punchy brass. Luke described this arrangement as “the ‘Love on Top’ of the big band world” – it’s one of those “if you know, you know” things!
The next song is a feature for Lydia Bell, with her fantastic interpretation of Simon’s arrangement of There Will Never Be Another You. This is Lydia’s only track on the album – she actually hadn’t officially joined the band when we recorded the album so we decided to add her vocals at a later date so that she could be part of it!
The instrumentalist features continue with I Can’t Get Started, a Johnny Hodges-style solo for Luke Pinkstone around Hannah Castleman's vocal, followed by a feature for Katie Birtill (vocals) with a scat on The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else).
Track 10 is one of the songs from the album that has very quickly become a part of our live shows – Simon’s bossa nova arrangement of Meredith Willson's jazz standard Till There Was You, sung beautifully by Katie Birtill.
You Bought A New Kind Of Love To Me is another Sinatra classic, and then Hannah sings the title track to the album, Just You, Just Me. This arrangement started as a drum feature for James Smith on brushes, in the style of Neal Hefti’s Cute – however everyone else wanted to get involved and, in the end, the arrangement ended up also featuring solos from Sam Ainslie on guitar, Charlie Pyne on bass, Simon Joyner on trumpet, Hannah Castleman on vocals and me on piano – in other words, virtually the whole band got featured!
Track 13 is my personal favourite, Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me. As you may know if you’ve seen us live, this song started life as Concerto for Cootie – written by Duke Ellington for the trumpeter Cootie Williams, and a hint from early on in Duke’s career about his ambition to compose orchestral-style works. Words were later added to the song and it gained its more popular name, and this arrangement features aspects of the original Concerto alongside Callum’s vocal.
The album closes with The Frim Fram Sauce – another tune made famous by Nat King Cole, and the only arrangement on the album which the band had performed before the pandemic.
The album was recorded across two days at our favourite recording studio, The Cold Stores in Kent, where we were ably assisted by Ben Thomas (the studio engineer) and Jack Childs (our touring sound engineer). The album is essentially a “live” album – we were all recording in the same room, at the same time, with hardly any overdubs or other sneaky fixes.
We really are very proud of it – and hope you enjoy listening to it!
The album is available now from our Bandcamp store in both downloadable and physical formats.