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Just returned from Venice (mid-June 2015). What an amazing city! The architecture and paintings are out of this world. I can well understand why people have love affairs with Venice as well as in Venice. Stayed at the Pesaro Palace next door to the Ca'D'Oro - a beautiful building on the Grand Canal in Cannaregio just a few minutes walk from the Rialto Bridge. I'd recommend it to anyone.
The gondolas are a feature of Venice, but they are an expensive way to get around (Vaporettos are cheaper and walking is even cheaper if you have time.) But gondolas do have a great image. I have just written a tune about a gondolier who had had too many Spritz to drink and so the punting was a bit erratic, reflected by odd rhythms in the tune. It is called Uno di Troppo (Il segreto del gondoliere) I'm not suggesting that any of the gondoliers were drunk - there must be strict rules againt that. But if any of them were, this is the sort of journey you might expect. Here is the tune.
Eisenhower warned againt the miliary-industrial complex which has enormous power and influence. Here is a video of his speech.
This tune called The Complex may not be as powerful, but it sure is tricky!
When I see business commuters going to work in the London rush hour it always looks like an army. Enlarging on this simile a bit further, some of the people act like a unit of the army in that financial deals which they might be involved in may have vast repurcussions to the economies of other countries. The fate of other countries' economies is often determined by people "in suits" overseas, trading and dealing in commodity prices, hedge funds, etc. Hence the title of the next piece: Pin-striped soldiers. Here's part of the tune:
This video will explain things more. It's over an hour in length but will reveal a lot about present-day capitalism. Watch it if you can.
When I wrote a tune called Hottentots I had no idea that the word was later going to be seen as being derogatory. I have therefore changed it to Khoikhoi which relates to certain tribal groups in Southern Africa. The Khoikhoi are pastoralists who have lived in Southern Africa since the 5th century. To find out more, look at this. Here is the tune (without drums - the drummer forgot about the rehearsal!) I'll replace this when we make another recording.
This is an interesting video about the Khoikhoi and the San peoples of Africa.
A tune I have wanted to write a big band arrangement of for some time is Under the Sun . I had previously written a string and woodwind arrangement of it with alto sax solo which is on youtube. It features the late Trevor kay (also spelled Kaye) on alto, a good friend of mine. It was played at Trevor's funeral. It is ironic that he died of a melanoma caused by cycling without a shirt on. So this tune is all about the pleasures and dangers of solar radiation, coupled with global warming. A Brighton bus was named after him - see this.
This new arrangement uses 2 flutes, 2 sopranos saxes, clarinet and bass clarinet as well as normal brass and rhythm sections.
Another old tune I have wanted to do a big band arrangement is All Sweetness and Light. How does this fit in with the topic? Well, whenever a new invention, a new pill, a new bit of technology, in fact anything new appears on the scene, it is said to be the answer to many problems and rapidly spreads around the world (hence the title). Sometimes though, the side-effects or the ultimate result of the thing in question causes a whole lot of new problems to arise. Think of DDT, thalidomide, and lots more things. It also applies to politics. Politicians seem to think that by bombing something or invading a country, it will solve the problem. Instead of which, well, look at Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc. etc. There are many other examples to choose from. This is reflected in the music in so far as the tonality constantly changes - ie. unexpected consequences. It is written for 3 flutes, clarinet, soprano and tenor, 4 flugelhorns and trombones in bucket mutes much of the time.
A brand new tune and arrangement in response to the Climate Talks in Paris. I call it +2C..(Plus 2 degrees...). Politicians have made promises about cutting back on greenhouse gases but are they sincere? I don't think so. The British government has cut back on renewable subsidies and on wind farms and other clean technologies, such as carbon capture at coal-fired power stations and instead it has signed an agreement with China for investment in a new nuclear power station. The prime minister likes to talk the good talk but his deeds fall very much short of it all. Anyway, my new piece tries to paint a bleak picture of a world with unstoppable global warming. This is also an exercise for me in using very stark small voicings (2-3 voices) contrasted with clusters.
Tidal waves may not be directly related to global warming, but they are extremely devastating. The one that hit much of South East Asia and even the east coast of Africa in 2004 caused 230.000 deaths in 14 countries as well as causing a lot of destruction. (Look up "2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tusunami" in Wikipedia for a very good graphic and more information.) Here is a video of it.
One of the towns that was razed to the ground was Teunom in the Acah Province of Indonesia. I have therefore called this piece Teunomy Tsunami. I dedicate this piece to all the survivors of this terrifying event. The tune is based on the pelog scale used in Gamelan music and solos also use this scale with 1 additional note.
I've also done an arrangement of a small group piece of mine called Vortex. Examples of vortexes or vorteci are tornados and hurricanes/typhoons on a larger scale. With the greater severity of storms experienced throughout the world now it seems a good topic to explore. The piece is in a fast 3/4 tempo. The tune is harmonised in a 4-part voicing with the lead played by 1 soprano and two flutes in unison with the other 3 saxes in harmony below (there are 6 saxes in my band). After a bass solo there is a solo by second tenor and then a tricky ensemble passage before part of the tune is reiterated.
I've also written a piece about endangered species called Going, going, gone. It didn't go particularly well when we rehearsed it. There were several deps and several absentees, including the drummer, but it was recorded anyway. I was very tempted just to ignore it, but the issue of endangered species is very important to me. Besides which, one of my trombone players played a great solo on it and it would be nice for him to get some publicity. Here it is:
Possibly the last tune of the suite is another old piece of mine called originally Karma which I have retitled Samatha which roughly translated means the calming of the mind which occurs during meditation. Calming of the mind is just what is needed in a world of hot-headed politicians. In contrast to some of the wilder pieces this is a quiet and subdued arrangement. It consists of a simple mainly pentatonic tune harmonised first with a couple of sustained chords and then in a more modal fashion using a lot more chords. It should give a bit of much needed respite to the audience (and band).
The following video I found to be very informative. It is nearly 2 hours long but is well worth it.
Here is some information about my (former) band as it was at my final concert:
David Moorhouse, Raul D'Oliveira, Jon Brown, Bob Turner, Lyndsay Gray (trumpets)
Paul Nieman, Tarik Mecci, Gram Canyon (trombones), David Macari (bass trombone/souzaphone),
Kate Tuff (lead alto/soprano), Phil Paton (alto/clarinet/baritone}, Brendan Kelly (tenor/bass clarinet), Beccy Perez Rork (tenor/soprano/flute), Angele Veltmeijer (flute/alto), Andy Pickett (flute/alto-flute/ tenor),
Jerry Dearden (guitar), David Beebee (bass), Matt Hobson (drums), Paul Busby (compositions/piano). Special guest: Mark Bassey (trombone).
History of the band
The band was formed in 2009 when I was commissioned to write a suite for the Watermill Jazz Club. This was followed by the Brighton Jazz Suite in 2010 and the East Sussex Jazz Suite in 2012. Then there was the first part of the One World Jazz Suite in 2014 with special guest sax player, Mihaly Borbely from Hungary.
I would like to thank previous members of the band for being part of the various projects, especially the late Simon D'Souza and Ian Price - two wonderful sax players. Other past members are: Anna Jordanous, Jim Cheek, Alex Bondonno, Rob Leake, Alan Sandilands (saxes), Paul Jordanous, Robert Heasman, Martijn van Galen (trumpet), Howard Beagley, Tim Wade, Mark Bassey (trombone), Dave Trigwell, Simon Cambers (drums) ,Terry Pack (bass), Richard Bowen (guitar). Also Barnaby Dickenson (trombone) who played with us on a gig in All Saints Church, Brighton and Kris Jones (trumpet) who played with us on the gig in St Bartholmews Church.
I'd also like to thank the deps who have helped out over the years. Pete Cornish, Ali Helsby, Kate Hogg, Dan Cartwright, Dave Brown, Linda Atkinson, Philippe Guyard, Ken Fordham, (saxes), Chris Whitwell, Jon Bailey, Jack Kendon, Kris Jones, Laura, Rupert Cobb, Matt Ellis, James Macmillan (trumpet), Sam Dorrell, Bill Guy, Charlotte White, Nick Brion (trombone), Chris Ford (drums), Paul Whitten, Ken Austin, Marianne Windham (bass).