In an effort to fuse the intention of the compositions with the result, here are some of my thoughts about the pieces.
One of my favorite compositional techniques is to write a phrase then repeat it, changing only the bass notes. This way, the chords and melody take on a whole new meaning. In this example, a repeating C major chord is played in the beginning section while the bass continually changes the root of the chord. When we performs live, I might change these bass notes and vocal line, but the new progression continues to work beneath the repeating keyboard pattern.
Yard Full of Joes
On a break between sets, I often jot down a tune for the next set, write it out on cocktail napkins and give it to the band. I keep the ones that I think work well. This is one of those “cocktail napkin” tunes. Regarding the title of the song: if you had a yard full of Joes (perish the thought), this Boogaloo would be the song they would be dancing to...
Worker Bees (from the Bee Suite)
In Russia, which I was fortunate to visit in the 1980s, workers seemed to be honored. In this piece I imagined the worker bees doing their job day in day out. I also imagined an ancient tribe of hardworking people who tended their sacred bees while singing to them as they honored their mutual work. I invented the “bee language” to reflect this. Musically the piece is composed of one-chord vamps with small cued sections separating them. This allowing the musicians a bit of a breather where they don't have to read so much and can just play.
Strength and Kindness
This bass line, borrowed from the Cedar Walton tune “Bolivia”, has stuck with me.
It is elegant and perfectly designed for a bass, open strings sixths and dominant seventh notes. The intent for this song was to use this line throughout the piece while changing the harmony. Here, the A section is open for the horns to improvise a melody.
The Light Will Show the Way
I absorbed poetry and jazz while sneaking into the San Francisco North Beach nightclubs as a teenager. Today’s rap is to me an evolution of this tradition. This is my expression of it.
Drones (from the Bee Suite)
This speaks of the sadness of being a drone, hearing their call and realizing their purpose. As the queen leaves the hive for the first and last time flying miles straight up in the air, the drones follow to mate with her. Then they return to the hive where their one and only job is done. The harmonic energy towards the end of the piece evokes their moment of joy. Then they go back to being a drone.
Generic Happy Song
At times I have been teased - by both players and audience members, that I play and write too many sad songs. In response to them, the patterns and phrases in this piece say: HAPPY!
I picked up an Armenian double reed flute called a Duduk, and decided to learn it and write a piece around it. For the next round of compositions I am planning on writing Middle Eastern-fusion-Dixieland music
I've always loved standards. The world at large decides which tunes eventually become standards. They become part of our lives, enjoyed by generations to come. Lonely Town has some elements a standard. A few nice phrases, hopefully, a memorable melody. It follows the typical AABA structure of countless standard tunes.
It was composed from a warm-up exercise. This self-created exercise consists of playing a complex bass pattern while singing a melody to compliment the bass part. I may do this for hours, sometimes stopping to write out a few ideas. This song was born from one of those ideas.
Life goes on. Many times we search for something to look forward to. This is the sound of the promise of a better tomorrow. This composition was inspired by the final scene of the film Black Orpheus in which the child picks up the father’s guitar and plays so that the sun might rise once more.