On Tuesday, March 29th, “Five Leaves Left: A Tribute To Nick Drake” by the Jason Parker Quartet was released. Each day thereafter I wrote at length about one of the tracks – how the arrangement came about, what went down in the studio, thoughts about the performances, etc. Click here to read them all.
Click the play button to listen to the track while reading
“Time Has Told Me” is the first track on Nick Drake’s stunning debut album Five Leaves Left. It also happens to be the first song I ever heard of Drake’s. It will always hold a special place in my heart because of that. The original is one of only three songs on the album that features the piano of Paul Harris, and the only one that features slide guitar playing by the great Richard Thompson. It stands out because of this, but also because it is one of the few fully hopeful tunes on the record.
When I was working on the arrangements for the album, I knew that I didn’t want to stray too far from the original on this one. I figured if I just put the music in front of the band and let them read it down, we’d be able to put our own stamp on it without changing things too much. I also knew that this was one of the songs on which I had to have Michele Khazak sing. The power of this song is in the lyrics, and to do it justice I had to have a vocalist.
As for Michele, she was the one and only vocalist I wanted for this record, and the only one I asked. Thankfully, she said yes! She’s a huge Nick Drake fan, and from the first time I heard her sing her own songs I realized that she shares a sensibility and temperament with Drake. I was sure she would approach the tunes with the right mix of reverence and the desire to put every ounce of her own being into them. I think you can hear that in spades in this performance. In fact, after she cut her vocals on this tune she broke down in tears. Now that’s a sign of full emotional investment!
Our track starts with the gorgeous piano playing of Josh Rawlings. I toyed with the idea of having Josh play the actual piano part from the original version to set up the record, but in the end realized that it’d be a stronger statement to have him improvise his own rubato intro. He really shows his gospel/blues chops on this! We did a couple of takes of the tune where he did more extended intros, but after I told him that this would be the first thing on the record, he paired it down to the final version, which is concise and powerful.
The moment where Evan Flory-Barnes and D’Vonne Lewis come in with bass and drums is one of my favorites on the album. Evan’s bass is so deep and resonant and D’Vonne’s hit to the cymbal with the butt of his brush is like a bell tolling the beginning of a wonderful journey. And then comes Michele. The way she caresses each word with restrained but intense emotion makes me feel that she feels each and every ache of longing and love that Drake felt when he wrote the song. Just check out the way she sings the word “cure” at 1:08. She turns it into a three syllable word, and the slight rasp in the middle is completely intentional. The control Michele has over the little nuances of her voice like this was truly amazing to behold. She sure knows how to milk a lyric!
The restraint showed by all on this track is a testament to how much we all wanted to serve these beautiful songs. I’ll admit that the JPQ is often about the throwing off of restraint. At times we all love to throw down! But these songs are so delicate that it’d be a shame to trample them. Josh’s accompaniment, Evan’s bouncy bass triplets and D’Vonne’s masterful brush work are there to support Michele and the song. No more, no less. 😉
Some of my other favorite moments on this track: D’Vonne’s “brush bomb” at 2:58, the way Evan echo’s Michele singing the word “ocean” at 1:36 and his double-stop at 4:37, Josh’s trills at 5:30, and Michele’s achingly beautiful vocals throughout, especial when she crescendos into her upper register. I’d like to think that Nick would’ve dug these things too.
For comparison purposes, here’s the Nick Drake version of the tune:
Tomorrow, track 2, “River Man”.