To my mind, there have been three powerful and inescapable trends in post-1950 jazz-Modern (bop/post-bop), Avant Garde ("free jazz" of the '60s), and Third Stream (an overt blend of jazz and classical) of the latter third of the twentieth century. This recording embraces all three, a kind of generalization of the three performers' personalities.
The Three Cities idea came to me as I listened to the tracks with our producer, Dan Royer. Three different styles, three different periods, three different players, three different instruments. So, A Tale of Three Cities it is. Are they at loggerheads? I don't think so-more like three "ways of looking at a blackbird." Despite their different styles, these pieces all emerge from a singular tradition of improvised music whose roots reach back to antiquity.
Are they all "jazz"? I think so, but Wynton Marsalis would likely disagree. For me, the most important thing about this music and jazz in general is that it's all improvised. As such, jazz is constantly in a state of flux. It changes from one day to the next, and from one generation to the next as it assimilates the new personalities and cultures it encounters. It refuses to obey the edicts of stylistic conservatism expounded by many of today's players and critics. It has become a style far too universal in scope to be defined narrowly by region, nation, race, class, or by era (i.e. which decade exemplifies jazz? 20s? 30s? 60s? What a ridiculous question!) In short, it is (and always has been) a living and breathing art that thrives on change. It resists any who would rule or classify it and cannot be defined or limited by authorities of any type.
On this CD, all three styles are represented: Modern (i-iii) with its received chord progressions and improvisational language; Avant Garde (iv-x) with its stated avoidance of tradition and tonality; and Third Stream (xi-xiv) with its heightened chromaticism and renewed melodic focus.
But no drummer? How can it be jazz if you can't dance to it? Well, one might ask the same of Bach in one of his Baroque "Dance" Suites, which were certainly not meant for the dance hall . . . by Kurt Ellenberger
NOTES ON SOME OF THE PIECES:
I have always been captivated by music that has strong melodic and harmonic character. Walking out of a recital and being able to remember the melodies that were played has always stayed with me as being one of the most paramount features in music. Closing (Afterthought) is the third movement from a big band suite I composed in 2002. I had pianist Keith Jarrett and composer Vince Mendoza in mind - using Jarrett's simple melodicism with Mendoza's colorful harmonic sense.
The Quincunx and The Unburied
"Quincunx: An arrangement of things by fives in a square or a rectangle, one being placed at each corner and one in the middle; especially, such an arrangement...repeated indefinitely..."
Both titles are taken from novels written by British novelist Charles Palliser. The Quincunx is a 19C historical mystery that is a modern masterpiece; in no way is this piece meant to portray the enormous scope of this work, merely the curious, archaic title that is reflected musically in the form of this piece.
The Unburied is a much shorter novel in the same genre (different century!) with a more sinister storyline.
David Renter is the Instructor of Saxophone and Director of Jazz Studies at Oklahoma City University. He received his BM (saxophone performance) from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, and his MM (Composition) from the University of Texas at Austin. He has studied saxophone extensively with Harvey Pittel, and composition with Richard Lawn, Dan Welcher and Kevin Putz.
He is the winner of the 2002 Brussels Jazz Orchestra International Composition Contest. His winning 9-minute composition Closing [Afterthought] is the third movement of The Conversation Suite, a 30-minute big band jazz work. The piece will be featured in the Brussels Jazz Orchestra's repertoire and released on an upcoming CD.
He is a member of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) and of ASCAP. He attended the 2000 and 2001 Banff International Jazz Workshop, where he studied and performed with Maria Schneider, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, Don Thompson and Kenny Werner. He also leads his own jazz quartet, which tours the United States and Canada.
Kurt Ellenberger received a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Windsor, a Master's Degree in Theory/Composition from the University of Northern Colorado, and a Doctorate in Composition from the University of Texas-at-Austin. He is a composer and jazz pianist whose opera includes music for solo piano, voice and piano, orchestra, brass quintet, percussion, brass choir, mixed chamber ensembles, carillon, strings, and two concertos.
As a multi-instrumentalist (trumpet/piano) he has performed with Danny Gottlieb, Kenny Wheeler, Billy Eckstine, and Della Reese. He is a Challenge-A Records recording artist, and his first CD (Songs From Far West) was received enthusiastically by critics in Canada, Europe, and the United States. They have been unanimous in their praise, calling it a "tour de force," "an extraordinary CD," and "one of the major surprises of 1999." He has been hailed as "a gifted pianist who combines the lyricism of Bill Evans with the energy of Keith Jarrett in his playing." He has been leader of his own jazz trio for over 15 years which has been recorded by CBC radio, featuring Dr. Ellenberger as both performer and composer. His latest recording is a CD of solo piano entitled Quadrants, which was released by the Grand Valley Review in 2003 and has since received extensive radio play on NPR.
He is the author of a pedagogical text on jazz improvisation entitled: Materials and Concepts in Jazz Improvisation. It is currently being used at institutions in Canada and the United States. He also heads his own publishing concern (Assayer Publishing) which actively promotes his compositions and pedagogical writings. In the area of music theory, he has a particular interest in the music of Johannes Brahms and Paul Hindemith (an article entitled: Hin und Zurück: Hindemith Recycles in Ludus Tonalis was published by the Alberta New Music Review in 2001); as a jazz pianist, he has studied (by building a large personal library of unpublished transcriptions) the improvisations of Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, among others.
He is an Associate Composer in the Canadian Music Centre as well as a member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) who recently recognized Dr. Ellenberger's work as a composer by presenting him with his sixth consecutive ASCAP Composition Award in 2003. His music has been performed throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. His nocturne for 'cello and piano entitled After The Swans' Song was recorded by Clef Records as part of a compilation of new music by Canadian composers. The resultant recording, Nine Visions, was nominated for "Best Classical Recording" in Canada in 2003 by the Western Canadian Music Alliance.