A Reasonably Successful Jazz Chorale

This past week in my jazz arranging class, we started talking about chorale writing. In jazz contexts, a "chorale" is a work of polyphonic music played without the rhythm section. Removing the rhythm section sort of changes the rules of the game; you can't rely on their persistent improvisation to make up for a lack of rhythmic or harmonic interest in what's going on elsewhere. As a result, chorale writing is driven by melody, not by groove.

My professor started class on Monday by listing off four basic characteristics to strive towards in jazz chorale writing: independent motion, varied melodic registers, reuse of material from the main theme in the counterlines, and a flexible tempo.

With those basic principles in mind, I went ahead and put together a basic jazz chorale arrangement of Mancini's The Days of Wine and Roses. Since I've been wanting to write something for the U-Tubes (UNT's jazz trombone ensemble), I opened up a blank score with 8 trombone staves and set to work. Here's what I came up with:

The Days of Wine and Roses; trombone chorale by Adam Jensen

You can also download the score if you'd prefer to follow along on paper. The arrangement has its problems, but I do think it demonstrates the basic idea pretty well. In fact, I think I'm going to fix it up a bit and then use it as an introduction to a larger chart, which I'll be writing over the course of the semester. Keep watching for more about that piece!

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Retrospective

Tonight as we were getting ready to start our first kindegarten choir rehearsal at church, one of the kids took some building blocks and created his own replica of the NYC World Trade Center towers. No doubt he'd been learning about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at school, what with this being the tenth anniversary and all. It was sort of odd to think of the perspective from which he saw those events; for him, 9/11 is just something out of a history book, albeit a very serious something. For those of us who watched it all unfold on TV, it's something quite more than that.

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Ant Bite Blues

You know, no matter how much complex modern harmony they teach me, I do still love me some twelve-bar blues. Here's one I made up the other day before work:

I decided to call it "Ant Bite Blues," in honor of the fact that moments before I recorded it I was bitten on the foot by a fire ant out in my front yard. It's not my best performance, but I think it's fair work considering how little shedding I've been able to do lately. Besides, no matter how many mistakes I may have made, listening to this recording is a lot more fun than getting that ant bite.

As always, if you're interested in hearing more of my trombone playing, please have a listen to my Musical Résumé.

Baby's First Education

My daughter Ellie is now ten months old, and due to the fact that her mother and I both work full time, we recently enrolled her in a local day care program. It wasn't the easiest decision to make, as we'd both love to be able to stay home and take care of her ourselves; however, the experience has not been without its own unique joys. To help myself remember, I thought I'd share a few.

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