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Monday, December 5, 2011

SOUL-JAZZ from November

Here's our second set from November 22, 2011 at Tala Vera.

Trumpets: Ron D'Angelo, Nikola Tomic, Dave Chisholm
Trombones: Russell Scarbrough, Bob Kalwas
Saxes: Dann Brown, Ethan Helm, Casey MacFarlane, Karl Stabnau
Piano: Marcelo Magalhaes Pinto
Bass: Dave Kluge
Drums: Devin Kelly

Watch live streaming video from talaveracantina at livestream.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Premieres and upcoming performances

November 22 - The SOUL-JAZZ Big Band appears for the final time in 2011 at Tala Vera in downtown Rochester, featuring guest drummer Devin Kelly! Sets at 8:00pm and 9:30pm, $5 cover.

December 4 - Onondaga Community College Wind Ensemble, directed by Dr. Robert Bridge, performs Encomium, for wind ensemble. Storer Auditorium, Onondaga Community College, Syracuse NY. 3:00pm

December 9 - The Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble presents a concert of Living Jazz Composers. Mike Titlebaum directs the premiere of Promethium, a new work for jazz ensemble. Other composers represented on the program are Russell Schmidt, John Hollenbeck, Dan Cavanagh, Adam Bartczak, and Dean Sorenson.

Friday, October 28, 2011

New original works for jazz ensemble - high school & college level

I've completed two new original works for large jazz ensemble so far this fall:

Every Move In The Groove: For Hilton High School, Hilton, New York. I was asked to write a "Bob Mintzer-ish" funk chart, with a "strong bass line" and "maybe some mixed meters". So this is what I came up with.

I don't know if it fits the "Mintzer-ish" criterion; since I've never looked carefully at any of his scores, so I don't know how I'd determine that. I certainly didn't reference any of his recordings for this piece.

At any rate, the rhythm section has an unusual 10-beat pattern in the "A" section of the tune, which seems to cadence in the middle of the melody once or twice. I worked out a tune that fits rather well over the shifting meters, to the point that I don't think it's obvious that it's not a simple 8-bar phrase.

There is a tango-like interlude for a sax soli (also requested). This is the latest in my ongoing series of attempts at sax solis that are not like all the others you've ever heard in your life.

The ending is a drum solo, which recalls, in my mind anyway, the Don Ellis drum routines where 2 or more percussionists would trade back and forth over a shifting pattern, and builds toward some kind of resolution.

Every Move In The Groove will be premiered at Hilton's Day of Jazz in February 2012.

Promethium: For the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble, Ithaca, New York. Here's some of what is included with the score:

Promethium is element 61 in the Periodic Table of the Elements. Due to its unstable nature, it is extremely rare in nature, found only in trace amounts on earth. It has been made artificially in laboratories, however.

The element is named, of course, after the mythical figure Promethius, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. As a byproduct of uranium enrichment during the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s, it was suggested that the scientists were “stealing fire from the gods,” as it were, and so the element was named Promethium accordingly.

It is an interesting fact that, due to its high radioactity, in crystalline form promethium literally glows green in the dark, spewing atomic particles at an enormous rate.

It is the mental image of tiny glowing crystals that I somehow associate with this music. Not that this piece makes any attempt to necessarily “draw a musical picture” of that image, but the spirit of something which is quietly unknown, lethally radiating away in its obscure beauty seemed to me to fit this particular piece.

Promethium features the most thoroughly-written out piano solo I've ever done for a jazz ensemble piece. It's a stretch for me, as I'm not a pianist at all. However, the IC Jazz Ensemble has a pianist with fantastic classical chops, and I thought this might be the time to grow in that direction. Even though it's not a virtuoso piece, there's enough there to really set the chart apart from most others.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The SOUL-JAZZ Big Band: Every FOURTH TUESDAY at Tala Vera!

After our debut in August, the SOUL-JAZZ Big Band has been invited to play every month at Tala Vera in downtown Rochester! Come out and dig the grooves on the FOURTH TUESDAY of each month starting at 8:00pm: September 27, October 25, and November 22.

Friday, August 26, 2011

SOUL-JAZZ Big Band Live at Tala Vera!

August 25, 2011
Trumpets: Ron D'Angelo, Nikola Tomic, Dave Chisholm
Trombones: Russell Scarbrough, Bob Kalwas
Saxophones: Bill Tiberio, Ethan Helm, Doug Stone, Brad Batz
Piano: Marcelo Magalhaes Pinto
Bass: Dave Kluge
Drums: Phil Lake

Set 1 (our opener, Cornbread, was not recorded because of technical issues):

Set 2:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Introducing the SOUL-JAZZ Big Band: August 25 at Tala Vera

Russell Scarbrough's SOUL-JAZZ Big Band will be appearing at Tala Vera in downtown Rochester on Thursday, August 25 at 8:00. This new 12-piece ensemble performs the music found in the "sweet spot" where jazz, funk, gospel, and the blues intersect, in a fat, horn-rich setting. The SOUL-JAZZ Big Band will be performing new arrangements of the music of Lee Morgan, Cannonball Adderly, Herbie Hancock, and many more. The band consists of some of Rochester's top musicians, including Bill Tiberio, Doug Stone, Ron d'Angelo, Nikola Tomic, and others.

Sets at 8:00pm and 9:30pm, $5 cover charge.

Tala Vera (California-Mexican Cuisine) is located just inside the inner loop at 155 State St. in downtown Rochester.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Russell Scarbrough Big Band concert: May 3, Roberts Wesleyan College

Come hear the latest incarnation of the Russell Scarbrough Big Band!

Featuring ten new original compositions, played by 19 of Rochester's finest musicians: Clay Jenkins, Bill Tiberio, Evan Dobbins, Aaron Staebell, Mike Van Allen, John Britton, Derek Reiss, Nikola Tomić, Keaton Viavattne, Dustin Marling, Scott Quinlan, TJ Ricer, Levi Saelua, Casey MacFarlane, Brandon Kelley, Dann Brown, Katie Ernst, and Gabe Condon.

Free Admission!

Tuesday, May 3
Roberts Wesleyan College, Cox Hall at 8:00pm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Upcoming performances in NY, MD, NYC

Upcoming opportunities to hear some of my work:

April 25: Clay Jenkins with the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble: Performing my arrangements of Clay's original tunes Tray-Bo and Humble Stumble. Ithaca College, Ford Hall, 8:15pm.

April 28: Calvert Hall Jazz Orchestra - Brian Ecton, director: Conducting the CHJO in the premiere of my newly-commissioned work Upswing on the Jazz Showcase Concert. Baltimore, MD, Calvert Hall, McManus Theatre, 7:00pm.

April 30: Genesee-Orleans All Star Jazz Ensemble: performing my tune Older & Wiser. Genesee Community College, Stuart Steiner Theatre, Batavia NY, 8:00pm.

May 3: Russell Scarbrough Big Band: Featuring ten new original compositions, played by 19 of Rochester's finest musicians: Clay Jenkins, Bill Tiberio, Evan Dobbins, Aaron Staebell, Mike Van Allen, John Britton, Derek Reiss, Nikola Tomić, Keaton Viavattne, Dustin Marling, Scott Quinlan, TJ Ricer, Levi Saelua, Casey MacFarlane, Brandon Kelley, Dann Brown, Katie Ernst, and Gabe Condon. Free Admission. Roberts Wesleyan College, Cox Hall at 8:00pm.

May 7: Al Chez and the Brothers of Funk Big Band: At Dominion NY in New York City. Performing my arrangement of I've Got News For You. 8:00pm. Ticket Information.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It kinda goes like this

Since almost everything I write lately is for other people, I've taken to including performance notes with my scores. Sometimes almost nothing needs to be said. Other times, well......

Performance notes for Amber, for 18-piece jazz ensemble:

Like ancient insects preserved in amber, in this piece four saxophones are presented as specimens for admiration and study.

Time is an important element in this chart, specifically tempo. There are four tempos, one for each saxophone, progressing inversely with the sounding voice (in other words, as the saxophone voice moves higher, the tempo decreases).

The four tempos are related by simple mathematical relationships. At the threshhold between each section, there is a specific metric modulation which is the key to the subsequent tempo. The upshot of this is, whatever tempo you start with is going to affect all the others, so it’s important to make sure you start out as close to q=278 as possible.

Another key element is, actually, key. There are a number of key changes in this piece which sometimes, but not always, synchronize with the tempo changes. But they always go down by step, either by a whole tone or a semitone. The piece begins in Db (a mixolydian flavor of Db), and ends up in the depths of G minor. The tritone movement over the course of the piece is deliberate, of course.

Helping to enforce this sonically is that the bass instruments are all pitched unusually high in the beginning of the chart, and progressively descend throughout the piece. Therefore, those playing bass instruments (baritone saxophone, bass trombone, acoustic/electric bass, left-hand piano) should resist the temptation to play anything down an octave from where their parts are written.... there is a method, as it were, to the madness. The bass part actually has a little note included to that effect.

Regarding bars 304-305: by this point, the 3-note chromatic figure has been broken up among many voices in the ensemble, so that no one is synchronized with anyone else, making a sort of quiet murmuring texture endlessly repeated. However, everyone should continue to play their 3 note lick with rhythmic precision (not succumbing to rubato). Soprano solos overtop of this, and drums play colors quietly in the back.

In bar 305, everyone continues to repeat (or rest) as they have been while the conductor counts off the drummer. The metric modulation goes like this: the group of 3 dotted sixteenth notes in the old tempo becomes triplet eighths in the new tempo. So conducting one beat for each group of 3 notes is the new tempo (should feel pretty slow). Count off the drummer “one-two-three...” and on four he plays his part in bar 305, four dotted eighth notes on the “four” of the count-off (four notes in the space of three). These are sixteenth notes in the new tempo, which is a sixteenth-based funk groove.

The voices who were playing the repeated 3 note lick just keeps on repeating through all that, and when we reach the downbeat of 306, they complete the lick whereever they happen to be and hold their final sustained note until beat 4 of 307.

No problems, right?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Some things are worth the wait

In 2002, I composed a tune for a sextet to have a trombone solo to be played by myself. The purpose of writing the tune was not because I was really looking for more solos to play, but because that year the Thelonious Monk Institute was having a trombone competition, and they had a category for trombone compositions, and I needed something original to submit (at that time, I was mostly arranging existing tunes). I didn't win, but I liked how the tune came out anyway, and played it in that sextet format on my graduate degree recital.

This was the first original piece I wrote in my "personal voice", going in the direction I really wanted to go with my writing. It is a fairly long form, 42 bars, in ABCDE form (basically through-composed), with a rhythmic refrain that occurs twice. I still consider it one of my best melodies. It was dedicated, as the title suggests, to my wife Kathy.

After almost 9 years, I have finally gotten around to arranging it for big band. I hope to program it, along with a number of original tunes, on a faculty recital later this spring... watch this space for details about that! Meanwhile, here's a midi rendering of the arrangement for you to enjoy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Something In The Moon

Just completed my third jazz ensemble commission in as many months... a piece for Bucknell University called Something In The Moon. It is a trombone feature (!), which I have not done for about 8 years. He gets to play the melody at the top and at the end, as usual. But for his creative role, I've tried something different in this one. Instead of the trombone improvising over the rhythm section playing time, I've given him a series of ad lib cadenzas, each over different chords. The only instance where he plays over time is for a few bars at the very end, and it's still cadenza-like. Then on the last chord, he doesn't improvise... just holds a unique note in the chord. We'll see how that goes over.

Something In The Moon will be premiered at Bucknell University on April 1, 2011.