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".

The Music of 'Connections' pt 1

Photo by John Lewis

Blog 25: The Music of "Connections"

I wanted to just take a second to talk about the music on the record. In the liner notes I talked about the musicians and the music in a general sense, but I thought I'd go into a little more detail in this blog.

'Connections' is the first tune on the album and is based on a rhythm in 11/4(three bars of 3/4 and a bar of 2/4). This rhythmic phrase is used against some sections of good old fashioned 3/4. Another thing worth mentioning is the use the chord F#triad/Cmaj7 or Cmaj7b9#11b13. Some people call this 'the stravinsky chord'. This part of the tune adds some intensity in the middle of the form that is fun to play off of.

The title of this tune(and the album, "Connections") come from the idea that everyone and everything in the universe is linked in some way. I started really thinking about this and the idea of synchronicity after a series of coincidences last spring. This lead me to think a lot about the concept of 'coincidence', 'Chance', and 'Chaos and Order'. I would have a strange 'deja vu' type feeling about a random object, name or idea and then subsequently would be put face to face with that thing days later. I don't believe its possible for anyone to have the ability to see the future, so the only way I could make sense of these ideas was through the concept that everything is connected. The affects of anything, no matter how seemingly trivial or pointless, ripple out and are felt throughout the universe. Everything is Connected, so, in a way: music is math is art is psychology is history is....

Momentum is a modal tune I wrote during a period in which I was trying to write melodies that were played by an ensemble as a whole rather than being stated by any individual instrument. The idea being that the trumpet part is just a portion of the melody and that the real full melody is the combination of everyone's individual parts. So that no one is really playing the melody, but we are all playing parts of it, than you can only hear the whole thing when you step back. The solo form is 4, 8 bar sections, each based on one tonality.

The title of the tune came originally from the tempo. The half-time feel is very difficult to play without rushing or slowing down. I feel this song as a 'slow walk' pace, so the steadiness of the tempo and feel are juxtaposed with the fact that each solo builds intensity. Simply said, this tune is all about keeping the Momentum going. I also called it 'Momentum' to remind myself of the saying "Nothing Succeeds like Success". Its easy to feel the momentum when things are going your way, but we all must stay strong when we have set-backs, and to remember not to let these roadblocks stop keep our momentum

Tabula Rasa is based on two superimposed maj7 chords a half step apart; Dmaj7 and Ebmaj7 or Dmaj7b9b13(with a natural 11). It has a very exotic flavor and a lot of people tell me it reminds them of Middle Eastern music. This seems to be my most popular song when we play it live. Tabula Rasa, means 'clean slate' in latin. I named it this because the solo section really end up being almost atonal over a D pedal note. The tonality mentioned above is a point of departure. I wanted each soloist to have the freedom and a 'clean slate' to create something new based on just that one note; D.

Vista is a fun upbeat tune based off a phrase in 15/4(a bar of 7/4 and a bar of 8/4). These bars break down in terms of beats to (3+4 and 3+5). The bridge of the tune is in regular 4/4 time. The trumpet and sax solo together over the 15/4 section and the piano solos over same chord progression as the bridge. Even though this tune is a bit complicated as far as the time signature, it reminds me of a Horace Silver-type tune, because of the horn harmonies and especially because of the bridge. I listened to a lot of Horace Silver when I was in high school and am also a huge Dave Holland fan, so I think of this tune as a meeting point between those two styles.

The definition of Vista is "a distant view...especially one seen through an opening" and "an Awareness of a range of time, events or subjects; a broad mental view". This relates to the ideas discussed above regarding 'Connections'. I named the tune this because I am the kind of person who is always thinking about the future and different possibilities. I like to know all the factors and then try to predict events and what will happen. I think one reason I love jazz and writing tunes, is that the tunes are all little games in a way and the fun part is seeing how the songs will play out. Knowing the people(the musicians' musical personalities), and the game(the song) and then seeing what that unpredictable factory is that makes the songs turn out different every time we play them. (Those of you who are reading and know about Myers-Briggs personality theory, I'm an INTJ, so this all makes perfect sense :)

Improvised music at its best is a wonderful surprise.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009



Finally the CD is available for purchase!!

While I received my CD from discmakers on June 25th. CDbaby re-did their website at the same time so they weren't able to process my order and make my CD available(CD also works with itunes and other online music providers, so that also stopped any digital sales).

In the meantime, I set up an 'Amazon Advantage Account', so I could sell my CDs on their website. I didn't really tell anyone or publicize this, because I knew the CDs would be available cheaper on CDbaby and itunes, besides the fact that also takes 55% of the sale, plus shipping(!!!)

I had been emailing Discmakers this whole time and nagging them, and started email CDbaby too, with no response. Finally on the September 15th, I sent three emails to CDbaby all with different titles, hoping one of them would be read and responded too.

SUCCESS! I got an email back saying they were reading to process my order, so I shipped them some CDs, set my prices, filled out my composer/publisher info on their website and NOW THE CD IS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE!

I also am now selling the CD as an 'Amazon Seller' under my new business; JCrowMusic. I will write more about why I am doing this, but essentially, if you buy from JCrowMusic(a private seller through amazon), you can buy the CD for cheaper, PLUS I make more money (and Amazon makes less) I encourage you to buy this way.

Different ways to buy:$18.99

Amazon Seller.............$16.99$14.99

CDbaby download..........$9.99

(itunes download coming soon.....)

here are the links:

ALSO alternatively, if you would like you can also mail me a check for $14 and I will send you an Autographed CD.

Jon Crowley

723 8th Ave Apt 4G

Brooklyn NY 11215

Please Check out my Debut CD and enjoy the music


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Copyrights Pt 2

Blog # 23 Copyrighting Part 2

A Few days ago I got a notice from the Goverment office of Copyrighting, asking for the track "Bass Intro" from my CD. I didn't include any sheet music or Audio for this song when I sent the Copyright office my stuff because it is an improvisation by Peter Schwebs, the bass player. So I uploaded the track to them, so everything is pretty much taken care now of in the Copyrights department.

I'm mentioning this on the blog to give you a time frame on how long it takes to get stuff copyrighted with the Government. I sent them all my stuff back in April. It is now September, so its about 5-6 months to get the copyrighting done.

Friday, September 4, 2009

My ASCAP Publishing Story

Blog #22: My ASCAP Publishing Story

On April 27th 2009, I signed up with ASCAP Publishing, to start my own publishing company so that I would own all the rights to my own music.  After signing up online I received an email saying within two weeks I would get a membership card in the mail and that I would be able to start Publishing my music on their website.  In filling out the forms I got to pick three different potential names for my publishing company and whichever wasn't already taken I would get.

my potential publishing company names were:


Jon Crowley Music

Crow'sNest Music

After a month of waiting and hearing nothing I started calling them on May 19th.  They told me to be patient and that I would get my card(with account info to sign in) in the mail by the end of the week.  I also asked them if I had been approved for a publishing company name yet; they told me 'yes' and that my publishing company would be called "JCrowMusic". (I needed this information to give to the graphic artist to put on the back of the CD.)

After not receiving my card after two weeks I called again, and was told the same thing.  That I would get it in "a week or so".

All of May went by, then June, then July.  I would call ASCAP every two weeks and they would say "It should come in the next week".

On July 25th I received my CDs from Discmakers, and was looking forward to selling them, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, "This stuff isn't even published yet, someone could steal my music right off the record".  I mailed a copy of the CD to myself just in case, so I would have myself covered(?).

I continued to call and FINALLY on August 28st, I talked to someone at ASCAP that told me there had been a problem and that my publishing company was no longer called "JCrowMusic", but "Jon Crowley Music".  Despite being frustrated by the fact that the publishing company would be listed incorrectly on the back of the CDs I was happy to finally be able to publish my music.  ASCAP told me I would get an email with a account number and that I could go on the website on monday and register.

I checked my email that sunday night, and realized they had spelled my publishing company "JOHN crowley music".  Misspelling my first name. (for the record I had signed every email from them 'Jon', showing that to be a truly stupid mistake on their part).

I immediately responded to the email, informing them that they had misspelled my name.  After a week had gone by, I resent my email.  Then again after another 5 days.  Still No response.

September 1st I called ASCAP again, and recounted the whole story, and how I just wanted to publish my music.  They told me that the correction to the Publishing company name had already been made (they just never told me).

September 2nd I FINALLY was able to get onto the website and publish my songs from the album, with my new publishing company; Jon Crowley Music.

The entire ASCAP process that was supposed to take 2 weeks took 4 months!!!!

I am telling this whole story, so that anyone reading who is recording an album and setting up a publishing company gives themselves MUCH more time to get the Publishing done.  I think next time I do this, I will publish the stuff before I even go into the studio.  My advice to other people who havn't yet set up their own publishing company is to do it before you even record; it may take a VERY long time.