Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Music of 'Connections' pt 2

photo from a jam session in brooklyn, by mitchell parsons



Blog # 26: The Music of Connections Pt 2


Ambrosia is a mysterious ballad. I had the sax come in with a harmony line for the second time through the head to change the texture. This song contains a lot of minor-maj7th chords and maj7#5 chords that fit the unsettled vibe of the song. I named this tune 'Ambrosia' which is the 'nectar of the gods' in greek mythology. According to legend, the greek gods had to drink this substance to stay immortal. This got me to think about the idea of addiction. If the gods had to drink 'Ambrosia', then they were addicted to it in a way; which means they were slaves to it. I think the image of old gods consuming this strange substance in a dark, smokey room really represent this song well and its exotic vibe. I think there is something majestic yet melancholy about this song. I find that coming up with a visual image helps me get into feel/vibe of a tune better. I'm sure people are familiar with the idea of 'program music' and Berlioz's "symphony fantastique."


For Icarus, I wanted to do something that would change the form a little bit so it wouldn't be just a 'lead-sheet' tune. We start this one with a vamp up front on Ebmaj6/9#11. The harmonies I use for the horns come from the piano voices I used when I wrote the song. The form of this song follows the Greek Myth of Icarus. Icarus and his father were prisoners on the island of Crete. His father made the two of them wings out of feathers and wax so they could fly off the island, but warned Icarus that if he flew too close to the sun his wings would melt and he would fall. The first chord(Ebmaj7#11) represents the first part of the flight, where Icarus feels happiness and excitement flying over the open ocean. The maj#5 that hits in bar 7 represents a moment of concern, maybe Icarus looks at his wings, sees they are melting but doesn't realize how serious the problem is. At bar 9, I used a maj7#9#11 to represent that moment of panic for when Icarus realizes the full extent of his mistake and that he has flown too high. And the descending maj7#11 chords at the end of the tune represent his fall into the ocean. Its also worth mentioning that its a 17 bar form.


Right Now is a burner and features John Beaty on Alto Sax and Nick Anderson on drums. This tune has a a strange structure, as far as phrase lengths. The phrases break down to 6,5,4,6,4(bar phrases respectively). John solos on the form and Nick takes an open solo. There is something about this tune that reminds me of Joe Henderson(one of my main influences), but I can't figure out what it is. I named it "Right Now" because I wanted something that represents the urgency of this tune, and an aggressive excitement; like a fighter about to enter the ring. Sometimes when listening to John Coltrane's quartet I have the feeling that those guys are playing music like they are ready to die right there on the bandstand. I wanted to write something with that feeling.


City Mood was inspired by Dave Holland's music, which I am a big fan of. I wrote this during a period in which I was trying to write counter-melodies that could stand alone IE either the trumpet OR the sax could be the actual melody. This tune also plays around with delayed resolutions between the Trumpet and Sax parts, having the trumpet finish a phrase and then the sax with finish its phrase a beat or two behind. After the Sax and Piano solos we have a building section on the opening vamp where the Trumpet and Sax solo together before playing the head-out.


I named this tune 'City Mood' because I wanted it to have that dark feeling of walking around a bad neighborhood late at night. When I am in this situation I put on certain mental attitude of toughness, usually accompanied with a 'don't mess with me' scowl on my face. I would say the feeling behind this song is readiness and alertness...."something might go down"


Decision is one of the first songs I ever wrote. I wrote it during my time at NYU when I was listening to tons of Alex Sipiagin. It uses the same concept I used in writing 'Momentum', where the two different horn lines are both parts of a collective melody. I was also spending a lot of time at this point writing counterpoint and this tune is a great example of this. There is actual a third melody that can be played on top of the two heard on this record, written for trombone. The form of this tune is AABBAA(with some added chords on the B section for the solo form). The progression for the A section is Abmaj6/9, Bmaj7nat.11, Eb-11, F#13sus


The concept behind the title was my decision between moving back to Philadelphia after graduating NYU or staying in New York City. The two horn melodies represent those different conflicting ideas. This was a hard decision at the time because Philadelphia represented home, safety and stability, and New York represented uncertainty, adventure and a new frontier. In the end, I chose to stay in New York. Fortunately, I will always have ties to Philadelphia due to my family and friends there. I always enjoy coming back to Philly and playing there.


If you made it through all this reading, thanks so much. I hope you enjoyed this inside look at the music and concept behind the album. Thank you for being a part of my musical experience that was "Connections".


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