Jim Self, one of my favorite musicians, asked me to write a tuba concerto for him in the summer of 2010 for a performance with the U.S. Army Orchestra in January 2011. I heard a Brazilian rhythm on a record a few weeks later that became an earworm, and I was off and running. Although I have been primarily a jazz pianist, composing has been my favorite activity lately, with influences of Hindemith, Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Prokofiev entering the mix.
This was a one-movement work with three discrete sections — the first, a Brazilian rhythm that turned into an allegro dialogue between tuba and orchestra. The second movement, an adagio, allowed me to express my lyric side and try some different orchestral colors to work with the tuba. The third movement is an Afro-Cuban 12/8 rhythm with a big climax and a wry ending. Although I wrote out the cadenzas, Jim added his own improvisational touches to them and to the repeated vamps in the finale.
Although the Hollywood Ensemble is technically a “pickup” group, the musicians all know one another and have played together on probably hundreds of occasions, from television and film dates to concert recordings. Many of them are friends of mine; they were extremely fun to work with, and the result speaks for itself.