This is the beginning of my first website. I received an artist initiative grant for $10,000 from the Minnesota State Arts Board and my year long project has officially begun.
I’ll be back daily, weekly, monthly…? I’m not sure yet, but right now I’m off to a rehearsal with the Nova Jazz Orchestra. We’re working on some very cool charts by Bill Simenson (Twin Cities trumpeter/composer), Mark Pappas (from Michigan via Duluth), and Michael Burton (grad student at Lawrence & son of Bill). We just finished a huge project recording the music of Bill Mathieu from his early years with the Kenton Orchestra that was very enlightening to me as a composer. I guess that will be my first essay – what I learned about composing from playing the music of Bill Mathieu for 6 months.
In 2002, William Grim wrote a review of the Kenton album from 1959 featuring all Mathieu arrangements. He was 22 at the time. (CD review from All About Jazz.com)
The Mathieu arrangements we played with Nova are very similar to those on this CD, and were written at the same time as the album, but never recorded. The music is dramatic and deliberate, but also subtle. The characteristic we all noticed eventually was how uniquely interconnected each note was to the plot of the story. That might sound simplistic, or obvious, but we didn’t appreciate that immediately as a band. Some of the Mathieu charts were very slow and the voicings sometimes made us uncomfortable. My personal revelation about half way through the project was that the voicings were changing, note to note, in almost every soli and ensemble line. After playing each chart so many times I started to identify certain notes with other great jazz composers, especially Ellington. One note in particular sounded to me like a spot in one of the compositions from Masterpieces By Ellington (1950) – Sophisticated Lady, I think. I’ll have to go back and listen to that album.