Many thanks to the Salt Lake City Jazz Orchestra (SLCJO) and Jerry Floor for making this recording possible. For my guest artists, words simply can’t express my deep appreciation for your involvement and sharing of your prodigiuos musical talents. During my 39 years as Director Of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah, I made many wonderful recordings of my and my students' music. Throughout the years I’ve also had various jazz and classical works recorded by college and professional jazz ensembles and orchestras, but this is the first professional recording of an album exclusively featuring my big band compositions and arrangements. It is sort of ironic that in the four decades of teaching jazz studies, the majority of my recorded works have been for orchestra and chamber music ensembles in the classical and classical/jazz domains. Now in retirement from university teaching, I have had the time and energy to devote to making this album a reality. This is truly the album I’ve waited 40 years to record.
Most of the works were written quite recently (in the last couple years). But some, such as Rush Hour Shuffle, which was originally commissioned by the Cal State Northridge jazz band, were written as far back as 1982. I included this work because many of the performers in SLCJO are former students and they requested this particular chart. All the soloists on this tune, Kevin Stout, Brian Booth and Reed LeCheminant are former students who, like many others, became and remain close friends and colleagues. That is another reason this recording is dear to my heart. Almost everyone in the band is a former student or University colleague. I’m also very proud to have Kris Johnson, , the new University of Utah Director of Jazz Studies playing on 3 tracks. Finally I could not have done this album without the love and support of my wife, thanks Lois!
In Sea is an up beat, joyous “through composed” piece written as a tribute to that master of jazz composition, Bob Brookmeyer. Brookmeyer’s works have highly influenced my concept of jazz composition technique and the possibilities for individualistic expression within the confines of the traditional jazz orchestra. This tribute was composed before the sad passing of this jazz titan. Bob Brookmeyer was a musician’s musician who left an indelible stamp on at least two generations of jazz composers and performers; I’m certain there will be many more.
In Sea uses “add 4” voicings, a tricky harmonic device used judiciously by Brookmeyer over many years. An add 4 voicing includes the normal avoid note 4th degree with the third in major chord configurations. Another device employed often by Brookmeyer is a sort of bubbling ostinato on unison notes with different rhythms. In Sea opens with this effect, and is followed by simple motivic snippets strung together to form miniature call and response phrases.
The title is a wordplay as the piece is essentially in the key of C, but the ending coda paraphrases a few parts of the well known tune “By The Sea”. Many thanks to guests Kris Johnson on trumpet, and Greg Floor, alto sax, for your brilliant and tasty solos.
This quirky 4/4 lullaby by Debussy is one of six movements from "Children's Corner" for solo piano. "Jimbo" was a misspelling of Jumbo which was a toy elephant owned by Debussy's daughter. The lullaby is for Jumbo the elephant doll. Unlike many of his piano works, this one lays well in its original tessitura and key of Bb for jazz band instrumentation. It is a medium tempo bossa rock ballad with written and improvised solos for trombone. Many thanks to guest Kevin Stout for his remarkable impressionistic trombone solo. The harmonization follows Debussy's own very forward thinking, as it’s based on fourths, fifths and seconds, a technique now known as ambichord harmonization. Lots of rich ensemble work interspersed with long melodic lines make for a lovely adaptation of this early gem.
A Piece Of Cake
This Piece Of Cake was inspired by two of Debussy’s better known melodies from “The Children’s Corner” (the clue is in the title). The major part of this chart is in a samba groove with solos for soprano sax and trumpet. The themes are presented with turn of the century (19th -20th) idiomatic rhythms modified for 21st century tastes. An imaginative and energetic strut through the past features guests Kris Johnson on trumpet and Greg Floor on soprano sax.
Cantaloupes, Aisle 1
On his maiden voyage in search of cantaloupes on an enchanted isle, Captain Herb visited a floating Costco where he discovered he needen’t find an island, he could instead find cantaloupes, aisle 1. This tune is clearly a tribute to the captain and the jazz rock style he developed in the mid 20th century. Trombone solo by 1st Mate Brian Keegan definitely rocks the boat, while the tenor solo by Seaman Brian Booth is first class.
A hard bop romp beginning with guest soloist David Halliday on an open ended unaccompanied tenor sax solo and continuing on with a joyous mix of open-ended motivic melodies accompanied by energetic rhythmic/melodic ostinati. The second solo features guest Greg Floor on soprano sax after which the chart slides into a half-time burlesque phantasmagoria. Jay Lawrence brings the chart back to reality with an energetic drum solo which sets up the last section and recap of the chart.
Claire De Lune
This arrangement takes its orchestration directly from Debussy’s 1890 solo piano masterpiece, Suite Bergamasque, third movement. Debussy’s impressionistic harmonies are well suited for jazz harmonizations and his waltz lends itself well to a jazz waltz interpretation. The chart starts as a stately waltz that proceeds to an medium tempo jazz waltz for the solo section featuring amazing clarinet work by Jerry Floor, then returns to the original tempo for conclusion. The developmental material following the solo, closely follows Debussy’s own, and features gorgeous and lush harmonies with non contrapuntal melodies.
This is a composition David Halliday originally recorded in New Orleans with Crescent City’s drummer Stanton Moore, San Francisco organist Wil Blades, and Utah guitarist Corey Christiansen for Halliday’s upcoming release The New Orleans Project. This very hip “hurts so good” tenor sax feature is an exquisite ballad in a non-standard form. I first heard David perform it at a University of Utah jazz concert where he was backed by a graduate jazz quartet. Like other listeners, this composition grabbed my attention, and my mind immediately started scoring it for big band. David graciously gave me permission to do it and after a few revisions this is the definitive version we both worked out. I have known and worked with David for several years, but this recording was the first time I’d worked with our extraordinary pianist Kurt Reeder. I had no idea what an incredible talent I had on keyboard until hearing his solo (a first and only take) on this cut.
I asked David to give some background information on Home. These are his words.
“The song represents the journey of life: leaving home for the first time, adventures, trials and tribulations, the resulting discipline and resolve, and finally a triumphant return 'Home.' I wrote the three sections of the song at different times: the ‘A’ section while an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University, the ‘B’ section a few years later while a graduate student at the University of Utah, and the triumphant, unifying ‘C’ section just before recording The New Orleans Project. Fans have responded to the song with praise, making “Home” a fan favorite at my live shows, and much to my delight, the ultimate compliment culminating in Professor Wolking’s beautiful big band adaptation."
This 1914 ragtime standard undergoes a 21st century transformation with an Afro/Cuban 12/8 pattern competing and alternating with tailgate two beat, and straight ahead swing four, in other words, it offers A’ Plenty of contrasting styles. Guest Kris Johnson lays down a gutsy trumpet solo in the Afro/Cuban section, and Brian Booth, a cool tenor sax solo in the swing section. This fresh, new arrangement takes a familiar tune to less familiar, but surprising places. You may never hear this song quite the same again.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Annon Beginning with a moderate waltz chorale, this wonderful old tune finds its groove as a bossa nova alternating with a jazz waltz. Guest artist Kevin Stout sets the mood with a beautifully conceived trombone solo in the bossa style. The arrangement puts a relaxed and richly melodic spin on this favored tune of the ages.
This arrangement of the traditional 1901 march by Porter Steele has four sections, the third section trio is what was recorded by the early jazzers and contains the melody most people are familiar with. This arrangement presents all four sections of the original march without the repeats and travels through the styles of march, swing, and finally samba, which is the feel for the main body (trio) of the arrangement. Solos are by my dear friends, colleagues, and former students, Brian Booth, tenor sax and Reed LeCheminant, trumpet.
This arrangement takes its orchestration directly from Debussy’s solo piano masterpiece, not the popular fake book lead sheet. Debussy’s impossibly difficult to forget melodies, transitions and interludes, forged in the 19th century, work exceedingly well with 20th and 21st century jazz sensibilities. Reverie, with its symmetrical phrases and 8th note ostinati make a natural fit for a laid-back bossa nova interpretation. Jerry Floor on soprano sax introduces the melody which quickly transitions to a full ensemble presentation, and then Jerry takes a beautiful and fluid clarinet solo. The chart unfolds following Debussy’s own harmonic and melodic journey. And a beautiful journey it is.
Rush Hour Shuffle
Rush Hour Shuffle was commissioned by the Cal State Northridge band for a premiere performance at the Pacific Coast Collegiate Jazz Festival at Berkeley California. Director Joel Leach requested a sort of LA hip, laid-back, post Steely Dan chart that would also be strong enough for a centerpiece performance at a major festival. He got it. This 2013 revision is slightly different from the original in that the opening flute choral has been deleted, and the shout chorus has been somewhat simplified. It is gratifying that all the horn and guitar solos are performed by former students who played in my university bands about the same time this chart was written. My thanks to Brian Booth-tenor sax, Reed LeCheminant-trumpet, guest Kevin Stout-trombone, Keven Johansen-guitar, Kurt Reeder-keyboards, and Jay Lawrence for laying down the vibraphone track.
– Henry Wolking
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