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"See My Baby": A Chord-And-Melody Reunion Between Teacher And Student

The “See My Baby” chords and melody were conceived in 2019 in my New York apartment in a reunion and collaboration with my former student Max Rifkin some time after he had graduated college. Max was always an incredibly dedicated and talented guitarist and especially acoustic finger-style and traditional blues guitar. I worked with him throughout high school and during that time he taught himself banjo. At the University of Virginia, he joined a bluegrass band and kept getting better and better. We had written the instrumental “Out of Your Element, ” which we recorded live in my apartment years before for the Sailing for the Sun. Max is just such a special guy. Incredibly funny, kind, and smart above and beyond his obvious musical talents. It’s always a blast playing with him. We generally laugh together all the time (part of that is captured in the “Out of your Element” instrumental recording). He pushes me to stay on my game.

When we got together to play and write something, he brought his banjo, and “See My Baby” came together very quickly in about 20 minutes as an instrumental for the guitar and banjo. We recorded it on a voice memo and I went back to it to come up with a lyric that basically followed the instrumental melody lines. It was such feel good song that the lyric had to be happy.

My relationship with my partner was long-distance at the time and I wrote the song with an image of my visits to see her in Sausalito in my mind. She is the director of the San Francisco Zoo and my favorite line is “She spends her days at the local zoo, knows what the monkeys do…” iHeart Radio and Audacy suggested she use the music as part of the zoo’s radio ad campaign so I changed the last line for them to say “let’s have fun and be with the animals down at San Francisco Zoo.” They have been using it ever since and I played the song live for the Zoo’s big fundraiser this year to open for and introduce (Sly and) The Family Stone.

On the final recording, produced by Adrian Harpham remotely during the pandemic after my move to Sausalito, I tripled the melody line from home on my Martin HD28, a Takamine using the Nashville high-strung tuning (a trick my good friend Jon Bendis turned me on to), and slide on my National Resonator. Adrian Harpham recorded the drums at his brand new basement studio in Philadelphia using drums in a New Orleans approach with claps and even some sticks on his washer and dryer. Fred Cash played upright bass in NYC. Steven Bernstein arranged and recorded all of the brass from his apartment in Nyack, NY. I invested in a Shure SM7B mic so I could record guitars and vocals from home in California. It’s a short tune packed with pure joy. I love the mix and arrangement. Max came to play it with me live at the Chelsea Table and Stage show with my band in New York last fall.

All About Jazz named it “Track of the Day” shortly after we released it on Ropeadope/Modern Icon Recordings in 2021, and Relix magazine featured it on one of their summer artist playlist compilations as well. It is the first single from my third album which we aim to complete this fall.

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