I was blessed to partake in an exciting opportunity over New Year’s Eve in 2015 that has ended up becoming a rather bittersweet memory. I was asked to join pioneering guitarist Larry Coryell for a performance in Naples. The horn section was filled out by fellow Orlando resident Danny Jordan, and the rest of the band was comprised of Larry’s sons Julian and Maurali as well as some other internationally renowned jazz artists. The bassist was Ralphe Armstrong, who among many other impressive credits was a member of John McLaughlins Mahavishnu Orchestra. Larry’s long-time collaborator and inaugural Weather Report member Alphonse Mouzon was on drums.
I was subbing for Randy Brecker, which is a baffling thought first of all. I joked that I was subbing for a man who once was part of a judges panel that placed me third of three jazz trumpet contestants! This is a true statement. Despite the disparity in stature between myself and Mr. Brecker, Larry practically treated me as a peer throughout the experience, and was often quite complimentary, particularly regarding my reading and ability to learn material by rote rather quickly. Getting a nod of approval from an older giant like Larry was an affirming experience that is a source of confidence even now.
I was on something of a "music high" for a time following our performance. I knew I had come into close contact with "giants" from a golden age. The reality of our generational gap came suddenly when news of Alphonse' passing made the rounds, just shy of a year after our meeting. That was truly a shock. The news of elder jazz musicians passing has practically become a weekly ritual, but this was the first time the deceased was someone I had shared the bandstand with in a professional setting. He had seemed so vibrant a year prior, and a titan of a personality, not to mention powerful on the drum set.
It was only two months later, in February of 2017 that Larry Coryell himself passed. I had seen Larry just a few months earlier at a benefit being held for him at the Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts in Orlando. Larry had just recovered from complications due to a surgical "mishap" that had almost taken his life earlier that year. Larry played at the end of the show, a gorgeous solo performance. I remember that when we spoke afterwards he seemed legitimately bummed that he didn't know I was going to be there, and missed the opportunity for us to play together again. I felt certain we'd get a chance to play together again.
In just over two years I had the opportunity to play with two musicians with stature beyond most others I had performed with in my career, only to see them leave this world suddenly. I'm grateful to have been in their "sphere" if only briefly. I like to believe that I've learned to greater cherish those who've given so much for so long to this music. Thank you Larry and Alphonse!
I've had the pleasure over the past several months of playing with a new, exciting central Florida band. The band is "ISM" to be pronounced like the "ism" in "pluralism" or "embolism" (there's been some talk of changing the branding to include a hyphen before a lower case "-ism" in order to dissuade some from calling the band "I. S. M."). As esoteric as the name may seem it's actually derived from the initials of the vibraphonist/band founder/leader Ian (S-name ?) Mcleod.
ISM is a funk/fusion/etc band that does a little bit of everything, like a lot of instrumental bands out there in the post Snarky Puppy universe, though probably a bit more strongly rooted in funk than SP. Much of the bands material comes straight from the pen of Mr. Mcleod, but we have a penchant for covering some good tune-age from time to time, ISM has tackled compositions from Soul Live, The Gap Band, Nas, John Scofield, and some traditional latin tunes. I didn't compose for the band (besides a bit of horn arranging) until recently.
On June 29 (2014) we had the pleasure of performing at the Orlando White House, aka the personal home turned concert venue of Orlando Cirque Du Soleil music director Benoit Glazier. The show was a collaboration between the band and the Central Florida Composers Forum (CF2). It was primarily an opportunity for CF2 members (most of whom are contemporary classical composers) to compose for a funk/fusion band that has the capability to realize their creations at a high level. As a member of the band and CF2 I was all but obligated to compose for the concert. I wrote a piece titled "Mind Grapes" which is a nod to mine and Ian's mutual love of Tina Fey's 30 Rock (you'll get the reference if you're a "true" 30-rocker).
I had a blast writing for the band and playing the tune, not to mention pieces by other talented composers from ISM and CF2.
Click here to view a preview of all songs from the show:
I composed my first full length orchestral piece this past July (2013). I was informed by one of my work colleagues of a composition contest strangely suited to my abilities/knowledge. It's the Doc Severinsen International Composition Contest, housed by the College Music Society and it's regional conference at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
The composition was announced late 2012, but I had no knowledge of it until the end of June 2013. The due date for submissions? - August 1st! After some deliberating and traveling I was left with little more than 3 weeks to compose an 8-12 minute piece for orchestra and trumpet soloist. The only other requirement was that the piece should contain elements of jazz and classical music.
After a few weeks of marathon composition sessions (and one all-nighter on July 31) I was able to get a submission in by the due date. The 1st also happened to be my daughters 1st birthday, so I was NOT allowed to be tired the rest of the day :)
A few months later I was notified that my composition was selected as the honorable mention in the competition. I was simultaneously very excited about being recognized and somewhat bummed about getting so close to having my piece performed by world renown trumpeters (Vinnie DiMartino, Gabriel DiMartino or Allen Vizzutti).
I later found out that there were nearly 100 submissions, and the three winners are all composition chairs at major institutions. Overall it was a very affirming experience. Hopefully I can convince an orchestra to perform the piece at some point.
The piece is called "Apparatus", it consists of 3 continuous movements each derived from a 5-note motif. The score can be viewed below.
It's rare that a composers 1st attempt at composing within a particular genre results in a piece being performed and recorded by world class musicians in a packed venue. I was fortunate enough to have these series' of events happen to me last month. It's not that my piece was particularly awesome, actually the performers committed to playing it before they saw it, and without knowing who I am. These are just some of the perks of being a member of the Central Florida Composers Forum (CF2).
I happen to work closely with the president of CF2, Dr. Tim Stulman, a fantastic composer who's had pieces premiered by multiple ensembles and orchestras at venues across the globe, including Carnegie Hall!
CF2 provides incredible composition opportunities for Orlando composers. One such opportunity came this past November (2013) when the Heisler/Yeh Duo was invited to Orlando to perform a concert of premieres by CF2 composers. The Heisler/Yeh Duo consists of saxophonist Jeff Heisler, and pianist I-Chen Yeh, both professors at Oakland University. It was my first opportunity to compose for a CF2 event, and I was anxious to do so.
I was mildly conflicted when I sat own to compose for this event. The majority of CF2 composers stylistically fall within the "contemporary classical" area generally speaking. I consider myself a jazz performer/composer, so I experienced a sort of internal struggle over how I would approach the piece. This struggle ultimately became the inspiration for the piece. My goal for the piece became to a make it sound, well...like something composed by someone conflicted about whether they were going to write something firmly rooted in jazz, or closer to contemporary classical sensibilities. The title, "Conformation" comes from the idea of "conforming" (though I didn't really feel I was conforming!) stylistically to fit into the predominantly contemporary classical CF2 "vibe". Also the title is very similar to that of a prominent Charlie Parker composition (though it has nothing to do with "Confirmation").
An extra note is often added to the set to tie in the "jazz sound" through the use of an outlined diminished Major 7 chord, which is a friend to all jazz composers and/or chordal instrument players. The final note is often expressed in it's original octave in relationship to the other pitches, or in the next higher octave, outlining the mentioned chord in root position.
The piece arguably has an "A B A C A" form, with the A sections largely derived from the above motifs. In the four bar introduction the piano is alternating between the two shapes/sets ( with rampant octave displacement) while the saxophone plays only key notes. The chords in the piano are at times a result of the bass voice following the shape of the motifs, but often have no unifying theoretical basis. The first several bars demonstrate the intent of the A sections. You can follow along with the score and check out a live recording of the piece below.
The latest Orlando Jazz Orchestra (OJO) album "Chloe" was released this month (11/13) and I had the pleasure of joining the band for the recording session in June. I've yet to perform with the group, but I got in where it counts, similarly to Whit Sidener and KC, though not quite as lucrative I'm sure.
Anyway, the album is terrific, and sounds quite pristine especially considering the traditional recording method. This is certainly not a "frankensteined" recording, like so many that I've been a part of in the past.
The aesthetic of the band fits somewhere between Basie, Herman, maybe Buddy Rich, etc. Definitely some more "modern" elements but generally a very traditional big band style. Eight of the thirteen tracks were either composed, arranged, or transcribed by members of the band, and a couple more by local composers.
I'm briefly featured on "The Eagles Have Left The Building" which is the middle track in Matt McCarthy's "Serious Business Suite", which contains heavy traces of what I may call "mobster jazz". Very "film noir", sounds like it could be an alternate soundtrack to the Dick Tracy movie, or maybe Kung Fu Hustle. Matt can also be heard on a few trumpet solos throughout, as well as sharing the lead book a bit. Definitely a monster musician.
My favorite track without a doubt is Dave MacKenzie's "Hooloovoo" which is at times hauntingly beautiful, and others quite bluesy and raucous. It features Rex Wertz on the tenor throughout. Rex is one of those players that consistently crafts really compelling solos, even in the big band setting. We recorded a few takes of Hooloovoo, and each of Rex' solos/cadenzas was equally as musical as any other.
I was honored to be included in this fantastic album and only hope that my relationship with the OJO will continue to flourish! If you'd like more info on the album or if you'd be interested in purchasing, please follow this link to the AppleJazz Record Store.
In late 2012 I was part of a recording at Full Sail for an album funded by the Tim Tebow foundation. Thanks to my buddy Dave Champagne for including me in that awesome experience!
As a result of that session I was asked to put together a horn section and create some charts for an event that was part of Full Sail's annual "Hall Of Fame" week in February 2013. The headlining artist was self described "bayou-soul" artist Marc Broussard. I wasn't familiar with Marc or his music at the time, but he's an extremely talented performer/song-writer. Laura and I continue to put his music on in the house from time to time. Ansley will gladly dance to it with no less vigor than any other of her favorite artists' music.
The concert was produced at a very high level, and ultimately became an album and DVD/bluray. Both are available at Marc's website, but you can also check out the album on Spotify (the horns can be heard on "Mardi Gras", "Come in From The Cold", and "Shine") or check out a couple cuts from the DVD on Youtube (unfortunately no horns on the 2 DVD samples).
I spent quite a bit of time in school. I'm actually still a student technically, until my doctoral research is completed. But for all intensive purposes, my college career (as a student anyway!) ended in Spring of 2012.
My wife (Laura) came down with a serious case of the pregnancy the November prior to my finishing coursework at Miami, so my path was made quite clear. I needed to put my advanced degrees to work and get a roof for this baby.
After a fairly trying application/interview process, I was finally contacted by my current employer, Full Sail University, with Laura's due date looming a matter of weeks away.
I was originally interviewed for a position as an ear training/aural theory instructor, but was ultimately selected for my current position as Associate Course Director of Musical Arrangement, partly due to having created an arrangement of a "Radiohead Medley" for a quasi-classical jazz ensemble. Big thanks to those who were a part of that!
So now I teach commercial arranging techniques, orchestration, and sequencing orchestral instruments (as well as music theory and aural theory topics) to eager students across the globe! Quite literally across the globe, because I'm working in Full Sail's online music production department. I would have never guessed I'd be teaching music online, but it's been a welcome challenge and an experience that has informed my pedagogical approach in many ways.
I'm actually quite honored to be part of such an impressive department. My co-workers represent just about every facet of the professional music community. Collectively they've produced major recording artists, scored major TV series', and had their music played on major televised sporting events. They're professional sound engineers and certified specialists in most modern audio software. They're composers for film and games. They've had orchestral works played at Carnegie Hall, and created ground-breaking performance art pieces. They're music theorists on the forefront of pop/rock/commercial music theory. They're songwriters, instrumentalists, and vocalists in every major genre. I can honestly say that I'm not aware of another program in which the faculty work so tirelessly to insure that the material they're presenting is effective as possible.
Some neat things have happened in the past year since moving to Orlando. I'll be detailing the high points in upcoming posts.