Monday, February 13, 2012

Stealing From Jim McNeely

It is no secret that Jim McNeely is one of my musical heroes.  I have studied with him privately and within the BMI Jazz Composer's Workshop.  I have thoroughly analyzed his scores.  I have performed his music both as a pianist and conductor, and in April, I will again present his music with  the UConn Jazz 10tet.

The Swiss Jazz Orchestra CD, entitled "Paul Klee", is one of my favorite recordings of his work.   On this CD there is a piece entitled "Paukenspieler" (Kettle Drummer), where Jim had the ingenious idea to outline a blues progression on the drum kit.  The blues in it's rawest form consists of 3 chords, so by using 3 well-tuned tom-toms, it is entirely possible to outline the root motion of the blues using nothing but solo drums.

I took this idea, but decided to incorporate unconventional slash-chord harmony (triads over a foreign bass note).  I think it creates quite an eerie effect, giving this blues a "creepy" quality.




My performance instructions are as follows:

1) Intro: One chorus of drums w/ mallets playing the bass line
2) Add bass line, doubled in piano
3) Melody twice, over bass line
4) 1st soloist: one chorus of the slash chord changes, then Dmi blues (open)
5) 2nd soloist: Emi blues (open)
6) 3rd soloist: F#mi blues (open)
7) outhead (melody and bass line)
8) bass line, doubled in piano, w/ drums
9) drums alone, outlining bass line w/ mallets

TONIGHT: my 10-piece band, the New Directions Ensemble (plus 2 very special guests), plays at the Tea Lounge Cafe in Brooklyn, NY, as a part of the Size Matters big band series, curated by JC Sanford.  If you're in the city, I hope you will join us.  We start at 9 p.m.

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