Sleep Won't Come

Sleep Won't Come

John McNeil, Trumpet
Jeff Jenkins, Piano
Kent McLagan, Bass

available for purchase at

John McNeil: Sleep Won't Come

OmniTone 15208

In Spring of 2003, pianist Jeff Jenkins and I were planning a recording project. We had gotten as far as deciding that the music would be free and fairly open-ended, but we lacked any kind of unifying concept. As time went on, we kicked around a lot of ideas, but nothing seemed to click with us.

Then, sometime around May, I received a notice that L.A.-based artist Robin Palanker was having a show of some new works. When I opened the brochure, I saw that the name of the show was Sleep Won't Come. There was a series of paintings entitled Sleep Won't Come I-IV illustrated in the brochure, and I immediately felt that I had found the organizing principle for our project.

The first painting in the series is now the cover art for my new CD which is pictured at the top of this page. The phrase “sleep won't come” has a very personal meaning for Robin, in that it is used in the spirit of acceptance. When sleep won't come for her, instead of fighting it she embraces it as something of value. In the middle of the night, without distractions, she can work freely and creatively, a welcome state of affairs for every artist.

You can see this in the painting. It's night, but the lights are all on. There's not just one lonely light in the bedroom, but the whole house is glowing and pulsing with energy. Clearly, sleeplessness has been accepted and creativity has been turned loose.

This is a little different from my take on insomnia. I tend to lay awake in the dark, playing out scenarios past and future. The way I look at it, the house in that picture represents my mind, surrounded by darkness yet burning with ideas. The vignettes on the Sleep Won't Come CD represent a loose interpretation of some of these mental meanderings. Some are dark and brooding, others are peaceful, and still others are just this side of mental illness.

Robin Palanker has been kind enough to allow me to use her unique imagery on this CD, and to use her phrase “Sleep Won't Come” as the title. Incidentally, one critic has already said it gets his vote as the best album title of the year.

I agree.

John McNeil, 2004