JAZZICAL FUSION Listening Guide
The saxophone is the newest of all our acoustic musical instruments. It was patented in 1847 by the Belgian instrument maker Adolf Sax, who modestly named it after himself. On this CD you will hear an alto and a soprano saxophone. We begin our CD with a piece originally for alto saxophone & piano by American composer Maurice Whitney called Rumba. It was written for my teacher Sigurd Rascher who, by experimenting with harmonics and overtones, discovered the altissimo register of the saxophone, increasing its range by another octave. As you listen it should be obvious that a lot of these notes are very high “illegal” notes, way above the normal range. This piece is thoroughly written with no improvisation.
The modern flute evolved from the 1700’s first as wooden, then as metal tubes with
the sound being produced by the lips shaping an air stream and blowing against the sharp edge of an opening, not unlike blowing air across a bottle opening. There is no reed vibrating, only air. On this piece you will hear the soprano flute in C. This is the most common of flutes. (Also on this CD you will hear me play the largest and newest member of the flute family, the bass flute, and the tiniest member of flute family and the whole orchestra for that matter, the piccolo).
Johann Sebastian Bach was prolific in more than one way. Not only did he write more than 1,200 compositions, he fathered 26 children! In this selection from his 2nd orchestral suite, we will play the final movement called Badinerie, which is a quick light movement and means “a pleasantry” in French. We will play it the first time as Bach wrote, and improvise on the repeats.
Heitor Villa-Lobos was the most prolific Brazilian composer in history with his more than 2,000 works! In addition to his operas, musicals, chamber music and film scores, he loved and studied Bach, and presented him in a native style with the “Brazilianization” of
Bach in a series of nine Bachianas Brasileiras. His number five was originally written for soprano vocalise (singing without words) and 8 cellos! We will play this atmospheric music and fuse it with the beautiful theme from the Brazilian film – Black Orpheus – Manhã de Carnaval. In the Villa-Lobos there is no improv, but in the theme from Black Orpheus it is all improvised. Listen to the very personal dialogue between Ron and me in the second chorus where we trade two bars, and remember that these moments are so special that they can’t be repeated. Holding hands with someone dear to you during this pairing might intensify this experience to another level!
We now move to Venezuela and its national dance – the joropo. This folk music is like a swinging jazz waltz in 3/4 and 6/8 meters at the same time. Very exciting! (My interest in ethno-musicology led me to travel with my wife Elizabeth to Caracas, Venezuela, with an invitation to sit in at the Juan Sebastian Jazz Club, the top jazz club in the country. The fabulous musicians there were very surprised that this Gringo knew their music. It was a great experience, and they treated us royally!) It is on this track that Regan and I introduce our good friend Ron Murray, guitarist, as our guest artist. He is a talented composer and 7-string guitarist whose versatility you will notice in that the 7th string is a low B so that he can now play a lot of notes in the bass range, as you listen to his incredible rhythm guitar playing. I am playing the piccolo on this one.
Next in our fusion we present a pair of pieces that seems to a have a symbiotic relation- ship because of chord structure and the bass line. Although it was written more than 300 years ago, you will of course recognize Bach’s Air on the G String. Listen to the bass line and you will hear (notice that Ron is playing a double of the bass line), even though it’s slow and docile, there is a certain drive or pulse that is almost hypnotic (three hundred years earlier than jazz). In what will become a driving beat we transition to the music of the famous Brazilian composer and creator of the bossa nova style, Antonio Carlos Jobim and his Samba de Una Nota.
The bass flute as we know it today (see page 7), is one octave lower than the normal soprano flute and was developed in 1935 in England. Its sultry and evocative sound enhances this piece, which was originally written by French impressionist composer Erik Satie as one of a set of three piano pieces. Satie revived the term and wrote his three Gymnopédies in an unusual modal style. A Gymnopédie is an ancient festival of Sparta “where naked youths displayed their athletic and martial skills through the medi- um of war dancing. The custom was introduced in 668 B.C.”, according to Wikipedia.
Track 7 and Track 8
As you are beginning to notice, this is a very international program, and these offerings are by the father of ”Nuevo Tango” in Argentina, Astor Piazzola. Nuevo Tango itself is a fusion of jazz and tango. Piazzola’s remarkable career led him from his jazz and Latin influences to his study of classical form with Alberto Ginestera in Buenos Aires and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. He wanted to be trained to write classical music, but when they met, Boulanger asked him to play what he had written, and when she heard him play his tangos, she said “You have already found your music. This is what you must write!” He went on to write about 3,000 pieces, and the tango became the national
dance of Argentina! He made his tangos swing and gained international recognition. In his four movement suite L’histoire de Tango, the history of the tango moves from the bordello of the 1900’s to the mainstream: café 1930 and night club 1960 and concert d’aujourd’hui (today’s concert). Here are two of those movements, without improvisation, but with only our interpretation (which may make it sound like improv): the café 1930 and night club 1960. I think you will find this music so romantic you might want to consider opening a bottle of a fine Spanish red, perhaps a Tempranillo or Rioja.
Entr’acte, as you probably know, means “intermission” in French. Jacques Ibert from France writes in a Spanish flamenco style. In the midst of Ibert’s music you will hear us doing our own improvisation in this style.
Certainly Piötr Tchaikovsky is one of Russia’s many fine composers. I love conducting his symphonies, and one of his most beautiful melodies is the love theme from his overture-fantasie Romeo et Juliette. The dramatic and chromatic chord progressions seem to fuse a symbiotic bond with the hauntingly poignant Matt Dennis tune Angel Eyes. The R & J music is all written, and Angel Eyes is all emotionally improvised.
The driving pulse of Bach’s music has influenced jazz to a large degree. In our next fusion, we will move through Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, which is all written, seamlessly into the wonderful jazz waltz by Belgian composer “Toots” Thielemans, called Bluesette. Here you will hear lots of improv that includes full choruses, trading off on eight bar phrases and then four bar phrases, until we have an “amen” ending after re-quoting the “Jesu” theme.
I was introduced to American Jeff Tyzik’s tune Florentina in the jazz club in Venezuela, loved it, and brought it back with me. It is added to our CD as a bonus in that as we were recording with our guest artist, Ron Murray, we felt it might be fun for the three of us to try. We did a reading of it, loved it, and decided to record it. Hope you love it too. It has a sort of spacious and expansive quality about it, which reflects in the improv.
Lucia is written by Ron Murray. As a guitarist, he wrote this in the style of a Flamen- coan (new word?) samba, and dedicated it to Paco de Lucia, the famous Spanish guitarist. You will hear Ron’s exciting guitar playing on this track as well. After the statement of the melody, everything else is improvised. The samba is also the national dance of Brazil. I play the piccolo on this piece.
Remarkably, just as the Argentinian Tango was developing in South America in 1913, it was almost simultaneously being introduced to Paris and Moscow. From this time, the Russian form of tango grew on its own. During and after WWII, there were many Russian tangos, mostly in minor keys, which told stories of sadness, loss of love
and life. Here we play this tango as originally written for alto saxophone and piano: Koncertnoe Tango by Grigorie Kalinkovitch. Remember that I mentioned the opening piece, the Whitney Rumba, was also originally written for alto sax and piano: these
are the only two pieces on this CD that were, thus bookending our CD. (Because the saxophone is the newest instrument, obviously none of the earlier composers knew about the yet-to-exist single reed instrument. All the other pieces I play on saxophones here are transcriptions of pieces originally written for other instruments).