Marc Free of Posi-tone Records asked me to compose some notes to the tunes on Juxtaposition, released today, Friday, Feb 2, 2017. I was listening to a lot of Duke Ellington live recordings at the time, and the sound and cadence of Ellington's stage banter seems to have crept into my subconscious. I think these notes make more sense if you imagine Duke Ellington reading them out loud.
Imagine a small village in Tuscany. The church, at the center of town, with the beautiful bells in the tower, lets all the townspeople know the time of day. It’s sundown, the close of day, and as the CHIMES ring, the people stop working and begin all their nighttime activities. We make a Db blues out of this scene.
ST JEROME is the primary author of the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible, which was ‘the Bible’ in the Western world for nearly 1,000 years. Translating the Hebrew, he made a lot of mistakes, which is reflected by the dissonance between the saxophone melody and the piano harmony, and, armed with Latin scripture, the Church was ruthless in becoming a dominant cultural force, which you can hear in the bass line.
HOUSE ON HOXIE RD, WEST EDMESTON, NEW YORK is a portrait of a house where I spent a lot of time as a boy. The people in the house, as you’ll hear, were the best kind of people, as they lived with and laughed through some great sadness, which I hope the melody reflects.
On our title track, JUXTAPOSITION, Chris Speed and Bruce Barth freely improvise together for the first time in their respective careers. It’s a pleasure to hear them find each other, and a double pleasure to join them.
ALTER EGO is James Williams’ best-known composition, and a perfect self-portrait. He was a kind, generous, gentle, funny man, and I miss him dearly. I’d like to think he’d enjoy our rendition, which owes much to Victor Lewis’ version.
Tony Williams’ influence is everywhere on this album, and in music today generally, so it seemed appropriate to include one of his tunes. THIS NIGHT THIS SONG is from his Turn It Over album, which I think is a masterpiece. Maybe now you'll go hear it, if you haven't heard it yet. I simplified the form and added a little more harmony, to help the tune exist in this setting.
I wrote ONE HOUR in exactly that amount of time, for a gig with saxophonist Tony Malaby in 2009. I’ve played it on a lot of shows, with many different musicians, because it’s easy to play. The melody sounds a lot like Cecil Taylor’s tune “Air”, which I hadn’t heard when I wrote the tune. Probably Cecil time traveled from 1960 to 2009, transformed himself into a grocery bag I carried into my house, stole my tune, and improved it. Oh, there's also a Ron Carter tune called Gypsy, which I heard for the first time in 2014, that is eerily reminiscent of this tune.
Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s SOMEWHERE is the most beautiful, meaningful song of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Given the state of our country, and the despicable men governing us, I dedicate this performance to the dispossessed, silent, deprived, and despised humans of the US; to our immigrants, our native people, the brave people of Black Lives Matter, the pioneers for marriage equality and LGBTQ fighters, Syrian refugees, and the animals losing their habitat to climate change (ia result of unfair wealth distribution). I am with you, if I may be, and there’s a place for us. I re-worked the harmony, to make the tune “new” again, out of love.
The list of animals without food and habitat will soon include humans. The chord changes to WARM WINTER are meant to bring to mind the pleasant, unsettling feeling of warmer-than-usual weather, and the melody is the humans struggling to adapt and pretend that everything’s fine.
The year is 1908, the place is a beautiful, upper middle-class street in Prague, and the time is late afternoon, on a weekday. All the kids have finished their studies, and are now practicing their piano lessons. A young boy, 9 years old, bored with his piano practicing, improvises a melody on the piano, in the style of the melodies his grandmother sings. Our music world is deeply HELLENIZED, that is, inherited from the Greeks, and brought up in Europe.
The man comes home, from a good day at work. He is satisfied in his work, but lonely in his life. Night falls, loneliness creeps in, and, wishing to stave off despair but unwilling to debase himself, he consumes- food, drink, entertainment- with no one around. He is a SOLITARY CONSUMER, seen frequently in New York City. The melody and harmony refer to Ellington’s “In My Solitude’.
Though we are serious in our intent, jazz is not a formal, serious music. We let our inner goofiness and irreverence guide our instincts for the few pleasurable minutes we share at the end of this album, in SAY THE SECRET WORD.