On the 23rd and 24th of May I’ll be playing my music at the Jazz Gallery with an eight piece group featuring the Sirius Quartet. I’m excited to be playing some new music as well as some older music that we had a played for my Jazz Gallery residency in April of 2012 – you can watch part of this show here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl3rSvG_6j4.
The group will be slightly different – featuring pianist Matt Mitchell (who I’ve had the opportunity of playing with quite regularly with the Dave Douglas Quintet) fellow Manhattan School graduate – Sara Caswell and drummer Ches Smith. Ches is featured on Matt’s duo record “Fiction” and we’ll be playing one of Matt’s etudes from that album orchestrated for this group. The other members include Greg Ward on alto/soprano saxophones, Fung Chern Hwei on violin, Ron Lawrence on viola and Jeremy Harman on cello.
In December last year I had played at the Beijing Jazz Festival with saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and spent a bit of extra time checking out the scene there. While I was there, I asked vocalist Jen Shyu about some traditional musicians to check out and she gave me some excellent recommendations. I was lucky enough to meet a great musician – Liu Yu (刘禹) who welcomed me into his home and sung for me with his father playing sanxian. I also sat in at a community workshop conducted by Liu Yu and Jen’s teacher – Professor Zhang.
The genre of shuo chang (说唱- literally “speak sing”) is something I know very little about, but I was so moved and impressed with the attention to detail. One thing I’ve noticed when listening to recordings of shuo chang and learning some of the melodies was how it strengthens a different part of melodic memory. So many of these melodies are long strings of notes, in many cases using a limited palette of notes within one main key and no time signature.
Also, I know it would require a higher level of Mandarin to really get deeper into this music – my “restaurant” level of Mandarin only gets me so far, so I’m working on it. So much of this music is in the story telling.
On the 23rd and 24th we’ll be playing some new material including a piece based on some melodic material from a traditional shuo chang piece “Song Yue Rao” or “Moon in the Pines” (松月绕).
Another new piece we’ll be playing is called Deep Sea Dancers – inspired by the long strings of melodic material from some of the shuo chang I’ve been listening to. We played this piece with the Sun Pictures Quartet on our West Coast tour in April and I’m glad that I managed to finish orchestrating it for this group.
We’ll be playing an arrangement of Charlie Parker’s Au Privave as well – this was kind of a bit of an experiment with what I could do with limited note choices.
The restriction with this arrangement, was to have the strings (including bass) to play the melody of Au Privave in any rhythm, octave jumping is allowed, but you have to stay in the same key (didn’t have to be F, in fact Violin I and Cello are in C, Violin II is in Ab and Viola is in Eb). The piano plays the composite melody while alto plays the bass rhythm but outlining the harmony. Here’s a screenshot of the first few measures.
Anyways, enough nerdiness, hope to see you there at the Jazz Gallery.