Kenny Wesley probably isn't a name you're familiar with, unless you're a die-hard “So You Think You Can Dance” fan. However, with his debut album The Real Thing, Wesley has immediately established himself as a serious -and seriously fun- artist who's looking to bring funk back.
Welsey influences are undeniable – half the tracks on this album sound like great 70s funk, in the vein of Parliament or the Jacksons, with a heaping helping of current-day synthesizers on top. Wesley shines on these tracks, such as Real Thing and Taffy, with some down-and-dirty fuzz guitar riffs and hot drumming that make head-bobbing a virtual necessity.
The Randy Vera song: “Here Made of Gone,” 2012 finalist for the John Lennon Songwriting Award (Jazz category) is a song about “The Gardner Heist” in Boston, MA. The robbery remains the largest property theft in recorded history.
What’s significant about this song is how it positions the Art thief in dialogue with “Aesthetics” itself. It questions the very laws of perception and beauty. The musical framework is full of meanings. Examples here are too many to mention. Some are the “creeping” and “tip towing” Bass lines which represent the thief and his accomplice. The flute and oboe nervously whisper a woodwind conversation. This represents the two tied and gagged night watchmen. Many of these subtleties were composed by Producer Anthony J. Resta (Twilight Films Soundtrack, Elton John, Collective Soul). Resta, 14 times Platinum and Gold, was living in Boston during the time of the storied heist.
Over a decade of Vera’s research into the life and Art acquisitions of Isabella Stewart Gardner, the Heist, and organized crime in Boston went into the song. “Here Made Of Gone” was originally part of a dark comedy musical Vera composed about the Boston underworld. However, when rumors of a major Hollywood studio optioning a film about the Garner Heist began to circulate, Vera reworked “Here Made of Gone” for potential soundtrack placement. He contacted Resta, who agreed to produce the track.
Vera: “I knew Anthony (Resta) was at Berklee College of Music in Boston around the time of the Heist. I hoped he would give this his attention. I was floored by the final mix. I went to him with the song. I played it on his classical guitar for engineer Karyadi Sutedja. We recorded one take on that guitar and vocals into an old ribbon mic. Then Anthony and Karyadi worked on it over three days. Our few quick conversations over those three days were vintage Resta. When he starts talking about what he “hears,” you have to let him work. He played almost every note on this busy track. He interrogated the song; it gave up the hooks you hear. He then played every instrument except the cat-gut guitar and bass. He had a few different drum beats for each part; the ones we ended up using had the coolest kick drum I have heard in a long time. By the time I went back to track vocals, the song had a life of its own. Karyadi had so many tracks on his screens that I thought he was recording The Boston Pops.
The ending was toughest. Anthony came up with the atonal keyboard riff for the last few measures. This was perfect. If you listen closely, it’s purposeful lack of “center” and atonal movement, peaks and drops. It’s the perfect conclusion to a song about an unsolved crime. That’s why Resta is Platinum, again and again.”
The lyrics could have endless footnotes, and read like a book about the heist. Vera first gained interest in Art through his farther who owned a nostalgia shop & gallery, on Cambridge Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill section, when Vera was a child. His interest in Gardner came during Vera’s graduate studies in Philosophy at Boston College. It was then he learned that the American Philosopher William James held a close friendship with Isabella.
Vera: “He (William James) was busy becoming the founder of American Psychology, and writing “The Verities of Religious Experience” while Isabella was serving him champagne and doughnuts. You can’t make this stuff up.”
The lyrics were written mostly during a series of visits Vera took to the Fenway Court, today called the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, with his young daughters.
Vera: “I have to credit my daughters Liv(8) and Grace(6) with the line ‘Titan’s ‘Europa’ still hangs, the mirror to my Pièce de résistance.’ See, the two thieves left the most valuable painting behind. It’s Titan’s ‘Europa,’ one of the world’s real treasures. Liv, during one of our visits was sketching Europa. I told her it was the most valuable painting in America once, yet was spared by the thieves. Liv said: ‘It’s the painting of a robbery!’ Grace, her sister added: ‘Ya, and it’s looking out at a robbery!’ I have read every book on the heist and every book about ‘Mrs. Jack’ Gardener too. It took two little girls from Boston to find the coolest tid-bit of info missed by the FBI. Namely, if the thieves knew anything about art, then they must have a sense of humor.
The Painting’s white bull (The god Jupiter) is running off with – stealing - the goddess Europa . (The painting’s real title is ‘The Rape of Europa’ though it’s hardly risqué) In it, the white bull’s eyes look in the direction of the Museum’s Dutch Room, where the priceless Rembrandt’s and Vermeer were stolen from. The chorus of the song ‘Titan’s Europa still hangs, the mirror to my…’ shows this irony at the center of the ordeal. If you draw an imaginary line from the bull Jupiter’s eyes, he runs off through the empty frame of Rembrandt's self portrait.”
Vera: “It should be added that my daughter Liv says she feels safe in the museum. My daughter Grace, the wild one, will sit and draw for hours in the long hall. When I told them that “FENWAY COURT” is the only place like it on Earth; that it was designed by a woman, where every piece of Art, every manuscript, and every brick, was acquired by a woman, and left exactly as a woman directed in her will, my daughters Liv and Grace never wanted to leave. We have never met the ghost of Isabella Stewart “Mrs. Jack” Gardener, but the girls love it there.”
Vera: “It’s tough writing about this event. I edited out verses that mention organized crime, Charlestown and Southie. Blue collar Boston, where I live, has taken enough abuse by pop culture. My friends who grew up in Mishawum in Charlestown are firefighters now, not criminals. They certainly don’t rob banks, or art museums. If I were them, I would be tired of the stereotype. My friends from Southie are not Whitey Bulgers. They work for Fidelity Investments and have families. One of them couches our old High School Hockey team at BC High in Dorchester. He has a law degree from BU, he’s from Southie, and he is what they're like. They're good people, not gangsters. I could not, in good conscience, write about the speculation of who robbed the Gardner.
I wanted this song to evangelize the miracle that was Fenway Court. Isabella was crazy. This is a monument to her wild courage, and philanthropy. Other families like hers have a giant trust fund. The Gardner estate? Most of it is right there at Fenway Court. She left it here, in Boston, for us. I can’t wait till the real crew who did the heist is caught and we find out they are from out in Newton Mass (one of the wealthiest enclaves in the United States) Mitt Romney country…There is a lead, and public speculation, that two brothers from Newton MA, reputed antiquates smugglers, did the Gardner Job. If so, it would be the pan-ultimate irony from a Bostonian’s perspective. Imagine: It was not Whitey or Pat Nee. It was Barry & Elliot. (Bostonians will chuckle at that one)”
Vera: “We also found, and should mention, though it’s not in the song, that Isabella did lose her only son to an illness when he was a little boy. A small shrine to him is on the left after the main entrance to Fenway Court. What’s more, it’s rumored that she was knocked up years before her son was born. It’s said that she and Jack Gardner, before they were married, when she was in school “on the Continent” in Europe, eloped through a window at her finishing school. One way for rich folks to cover up a scandalous pregnancy back then was to say the child was a “younger sibling.” Well, Isabella’s mother gave birth, in her 40’s, before the long ocean liner ride back to the states with Isabella after finishing school. You don’t need to be an investigator with the Boston Police to see that kid could have been Isabella’s. There is loose speculation that her brother was actually her child. This could account for some of her, say “eccentricities.” How loopy she was at times. She also had devotion to Boston’s children’s charities. To say her presence is defiantly felt in Fenway court would be the mother of all understatement. It’s no play ground, but on a hot day in Boston, the Gardner is a great place to take your kids.”
Randy Vera and Anthony J Resta team up again this February on a new album. “Here Made of Gone” will be available on ITunes after its 2013 release. Today it can only be played on Randallveramusic.com or Bopnique.com