Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Countdown to Monteton - 5/4/3/2/1!

Probably the piece I was looking forward to playing at DJSS the most this year was a new one called “5/4/3/2/1,” written just after Dave Brubeck passed away. At that time, I was obsessed with his “Take Five,” and wondered if I could write something in 5/4 time that would sound as natural as his piece.

I came up with a seemingly simple and repetitive motive that worked itself around a 12-bar blues form, with one small twist in the harmony at measure 10. I instantly thought of Sandy Williams (Sandy is the exceptional guitarist on my new CD who is very open to experimentation) so I dedicated it to him, and was very proud when he said he loved it (esp. measure 10!) It’s hard to describe the feel with words, but to me, it has a hip vibe, like something from the 60’s. The word “beatnik” comes to mind. (I guess we should all wear berets when we play it. . . I wonder if Sandy ever wears a beret??) So it should be perfect for a concert in France!

I gathered a group of students and teachers to rehearse the piece. Afterwards, Ian, one of the great sax teachers, said to me, “It’s so hard – why did you write it in 5/4 time?” After my initial worry that no one will ever, ever want to play it, I remembered a discussion we had in the class that I lead at Anderson University for my composition students. Difficulty seems to raise the bar in our creativity. When we can’t solve something quickly, our minds actually get excited about the challenge. If it’s easy, I might be too bored with it and never finish, but if I’m puzzled and confused, I will probably keep going back to it.

The Monteton performance on July 22 was phenomenal, featuring Ian Bumstead and Tanguy Pellen on saxes, Jonathan Bratoeff on guitar, myself on piano, Ferg Ireland on bass and Guy Clapham on drums. Afterwards, I said to Ian, “That’s why I wrote it.” And he agreed that it was for a good reason.

Look how happy Ian Bumstead was!

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