B-flat Soprano saxophone
E-flat Alto saxophone
B-flat Tenor saxophone
E-flat Baritone saxophone
None discovered thus far.
I heard Charlie "Bird" Parker for the first time when I was an enthusiastic (but only moderately skilled) alto sax player in the junior high jazz band. The solos were so dizzyingly fast I had a hard time believing someone could negotiate their fingers around the instrument that adeptly and quickly. But even more than the “technical” virtuosity, what really blew my mind (and led me to the inescapable conclusion that I would never - could never - be a professional jazz saxophonist) was that I simply couldn't comprehend how someone's brain could negotiate, improvise, execute a solo at such breakneck speed, with every turn of phrase feeling like a surprise and yet inevitable at the same time.
My favorite Bird tune when I was 13 years old remains my favorite to this day: Ko-Ko. When I started thinking about writing a saxophone quartet, I found myself drawn back to the song, and in particular to the arrangement by Buddy Clark and the group Supersax where Bird's solo was transcribed note-for-note and arranged for five sax's playing in drop-dead perfect rhythmic unison. I decided to revisit Ko-Ko again, though rather than make an "arrangement" of the song, my piece is a total recontextualization based entirely on Bird's solo. The harmonic and rhythmic schemes of the original chart were abandoned, and the solo was removed from the context of the song. I then stripped the solo of it's rhythmic component and deleted all rests, creating in effect a tone-row of 1,058 pitches (which Bird jammed into 1 minute and 50 seconds of a 2'53" song!).
Every note of Bird's solo is played in the original order, but it isn't until the very end of the piece that a snippet of the solo is actually quoted (the final phrase of the solo). Throughout there is a recurring chord progression similar to a jazz chart, the chords all derived from a 12-tone row drawn from the opening phrase of the solo.
OK-OK was commissioned by The Fromm Foundation as part of a special grant to Composers In Red Sneakers. Thanks to Chris "Doc" Stewart for his transcription of the Ko-Ko solo.
- Recording by The Frost Saxophone Quartet included on the Sixth Species CD, Albany Records, 2008 (TROY1044).
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
- Slippery Rock Sax Quartet, Slippery Rock University - 7 November 2011
- Athens Sax Quartet - 9 April 2011; UCM New Music Festival
Works for Winds by this Composer
- blur (2009)
- Madding Crowd, The (2007)
- Processione di lacrime (Pavan)
- What We Do Is Secret