When Stef Scaggiari decided to record his latest album, "Global Function," in the compact disc format, he discovered that making the music was the least of his problems.
The hardest part, he said, was production and packaging, which cost about $9,000.
"It's not like record covers, where you can have a big space and do a lot of different things in that space," said Scaggiari. "CD inserts (including liner notes and cover art) are very restricting, and you have a certain amount that you want to get in. I think that's whatmakes it expensive. That's why more people don't put out their CDs."
"Global Function" is Scaggiari's third album in his own right, although he has played on at least 10 other albums for other performers. It was recorded and mixed at studios in Annapolis and Washington onthe independent Stefco Music Inc. label.
Expensive, but not extravagant, the end result is definitely worth every penny. Between the artwork on the outside and the sounds on the CD within, this is certainly one of the mid-Atlantic region's most creatively packaged and superb jazz albums of the year, easily a match for any product put out by a major label.
One song, "Blackbird," written by John Lennon andPaul McCartney, was recorded at Scaggiari's home studio, with the artist "playing" all the instruments on his synthesizers.
Afterward,Scaggiari's regular drummer paid him the highest compliment, Scaggiari recalls. "He said 'Who's on drums?' He thought that I'd hired a drummer, but I said 'No, I'm on drums.' "
In fact, his original intention with the album was to do it all himself. But "then the band sounded so hot, I decided that I've really got to use the guys in the band," he said. "There's just no substitute for live musicians."
Along with Scaggiari, the album features Mark Russell on bass, drummer Greg Grainger and Gali Sanchez on percussion.
The album has a distinctive look, with its eye-catching color scheme of purple and lime-green, separated by one bold, circular brush stroke. The look was created by Daniel Vong, the art director of the Annapolis-based advertising firm of Sass & Associates.
"The design is very simple," said Vong. "It's like the Japanese style of art -- sumi-e -- that tries to say everything in one brush stroke."
The music-making end of the project was a relatively quick and painless process. Scaggiari describedit as "basically two days of recording and two days of mixing . . . for the whole project, and that's pretty unheard of these days."
The process went quickly, Scaggiari said, because "if you're playing together like we have been, it comes together pretty quickly in the studio.
"The band (also known as Global Function) plays every Mondaynight at the King of France Tavern, 52 weeks a year. It's like a built-in rehearsal. So when we went into the studio, we had all our stuff together. We knew the tunes, and we knew the arrangements. That's what was wonderful about doing the album."
Russell, the bass player, who has achieved a certain amount of notice for his expressive and surprisingly lyrical solos on what he describes as the "thankless instrument" of most musical groups, expressed his pleasure with the results of the album and the group.
"I like these guys," he said. "Thereason we play well together is because we get along, we respect each other musically and professionally. Onstage, there's an interactionthat, in many cases, in other groups you don't have. In other groups, people are too busy playing their instruments and not the music. The key to our success is that we approach the music first. Then, too, the way we relate spontaneously to each other, has a kind of magic ofits own that works."
Sanchez, who provides a certain Latin snap and energy to the group, both during live performances and on the album, has performed with artists such as Carlos Santana and Tom Principato. He echoed Russell's sentiments, saying "these guys are fabulous. Ican't say enough about them. Any time you can work with artists of this caliber is a wonderful experience."
Right now, the Global Function album can be found locally only at the Annapolis Tower Records store and at the Maryland Inn's regular Monday Night Jazz Jams, which Scaggiari has been running for the past six years. His group has beenplaying with him there for at least two years.
"I'm keeping it limited like this. because we're working on a bigger deal. I wanted to get the product out and attract bigger companiesthat have distribution networks. That's real important," he said.
Scaggiari said that the album has also attracted the attention of several national and international labels, "and we're negotiating right now to see the best deal. It's amazing, the response that we've gotten in just the few weeks the album has been out."