Russell Kirk- Alto Saxophone, Flute, Sequencer
Wayne Krantz- Guitar
Ed Howard- Bass
Terri Lyne Carrington- Drums
Sonya Kitchell- Vocals
Jacob Yoffee- Tenor Saxophone
Chia-Yin (Carol) Ma- Violin
MaShica Winslow- Vocals
Eze Jackson- Vocals
Dontae Winslow- Trumpet/Vocals
Produced by Greg Osby and Russell Kirk
Recorded/Mixed/Mastered by Joe Marciano and Max Ross at Systems Two Studios Brooklyn NY2009-2011
1."Willing" The title of this movement is somewhat self-explanatory. The piece attempts to create the sound of willingness. The recurring guitar riff remains constant, despite shifts between duple and triple meter. The solo sections are free-form improvisation, meant to evoke the feeling of sightlessness in a foreign, and potentially dangerous surrounding. Nevertheless, there is a willingness to fight through any gauntlet of obstacles. To be truly willing, one must be aware of the ups and downs that lie ahead. These solo sections represent those topsy-turvy moments in life, and the act of breaking through that gauntlet.
2."Calm Before" This is the first of a four-movement suite, chronicling the journey into a new metropolis. The “Path Suite No. 1, Calm Before” introduces a sort of ‘leitmotif,’ found ubiquitously throughout all four movements. Here, the motif is presented in its prime, simplest form, in order to initiate the listener. The harmonic rhythm sets up a mirror effect of 5 and 3. The initial motif, found in the bass, is the principal figure in the conversation between the top and bottom voices. Throughout the first section, the alto and bass converse back and forth, while the rest of the band maintains the 3-5, 5-3 pattern. At section [B], the bass and alto run their motifs simultaneously, while the band continues with the 3’s and 5’s. At section [C] the alto separates and works the motif over a 5 beat harmonic rhythm. The suite then comes to a close for three sections of improvising, creating first an image of peaceful illusions, then anticipation for the storm that lies ahead.
3."Closing In" Movement II of the suite, the principal figure of successive thirds does continue, although it is hidden deep in the bass line, in inversion. Here, the metropolis – the buildings, the people, the traffic, the noise – closes in from all sides. With all the pressure caving in, it becomes a struggle just to keep pace and stay focused on goals in a bustling city. To invoke chaos, I chose rhythms from traditional Indian music, as well as the traditional Greek music of my heritage. The succession of non-retrogradable rhythms and long short long patterns, typical in Greek dance music, create the madness in the first entrance of the entire band at the [A] section. It then calms like a wave, just before the improvisation begins. Very basically, the piece is centered harmonically on the A-flat altered scale.
4. "Altered State" This title is actually a sort of triple entendre. Most obviously, it refers to an altered state of mind or consciousness, which could be arrived at by various means (intoxication, meditation, hallucination etc…). However, each individual word also holds its own significance. Though indirectly, the idea of an altered “state” evokes an image similar to the foreign metropolis presented in “Calm Before”. Likewise, altered is a loose reference to the altered scale (and related tonality) and the function of the altered dominant chord. In this movement, the main motive of the entire suite is given in its prime form, based solely on the interval of the major 3rd. Through this, it outlines the 7 notes of the altered (that is, diminished whole-tone) scale - C, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, and A#. Staggered entrances build the texture as the motif shifts between various keys, finally ending in A-Flat. The chaos of “Closing in” returns, through references to the same world rhythms, as well as to the altered motif. For the first and only time, the suite shifts to a traditional jazz swing feel, albeit broken by a half bar after each phrase and by a syncopated break at each chorus.
5. This is the story of a young woman, in love with a man who is chasing a dream. A dream that has now become hers, and a fantasy that at times seems unachievable. A dream that keeps her companion constantly on the move, leaving her to face the dark reality of loneliness, “Waiting Patiently” for his return and the realization of their dreams.
6."Circling" is how I describe an anxiety attack. The most extreme could cause even a spinning sensation, hence the lyrics “circling/oh/spinning/oh/relax just breathe”. The song portrays a day in the life of a man trying to avoid his dreaded panic attack, a man who must have faith and believe that his fate will free him. The vocal/trumpet intro starts the song (or day) in a soothing manner. The pulsing conga rhythm starts to counter that tranquil moment, beginning the spinning sensation. The whirling shifts to the underlying harmony of the Chorus, now in an upward spiral. An underlying fundamental clave, as well as several other key figures, distract the listener from the complexity of the composition and rhythmic scheme. In the third verse, a spiritual leader (or voice of reason) steps in to guide the stricken man on his path of righteousness and free him from spinning out of control. A succession of solos helps defeat the anxious moment, liberating the mind of words and distraction. Towards the end of the solo sections, a background vocal enters, like a motivator repeating life’s mission over and over again, as the chorus picks up and elevates us to the end.
7."Newark Ave" This Avenue is often considered the main drag or epicenter of a large, predominantly Indian neighborhood in New Jersey. The movement represents a long night on Newark Avenue, and the events that might transpire. In this piece, the main motive (used throughout the entire suite, most simply described as the interplay of 3rd’s and partial clusters of the Altered scale) is transformed into an odd-meter rhythm, derived from an East Indian tabla riff. Improvisation in this medium captures the essence of this Newark Avenue experience.
8. “Who’s in Control?”, originally composed by friend and mentor Gary Thomas, represents a genre that has had a profound influence on my artistic style. When arranging this piece, I wanted to give the melody more space by separating the phrases, giving the groove a dominant role. Listening back to the studio takes and hearing the space, I imagined rapper Eze Jackson flowing freely through the gaps in this complex 10/4 meter. I asked Gary for his feeling on my adding lyrics to his tune, and he liked the idea, affirming that Eze would be a perfect fit. Writing lyrics to such a complex piece was a challenge, but when collaborating with Eze on the overall message, it seemed to take on a life of its own. These lyrics were penned and recorded in one session.
9.“The Answer” was inspired by a tune titled “In Search of the Question,” written by tenor saxophonist Jacob Yoffee. The Answer starts with a 9-bar monophonic phrase, accompanied only by the drums, in a creeping triple meter swing. The 9-bar phrase breaks down to one group of 5, two groups of 1, and a group of 2 bars (essentially, 5-1-1-2). After the first phrase, the melody line splits into a polyphonic texture, through the addition of the piano. This same material repeats, with the addition of the bass. Throughout the song, the 9-bar phrases are repeated and used as the vehicle for improvisation. The horns and piano trade solos, each reverting back to the melody when accompanying the other. My intent here was to create a more pre-structured accompaniment, distinct from traditional jazz piano comping, which is typically fully improvised. The overall restraint and tranquility of the piece are intended to capture the feeling of uncertainty, knowing why (“The Answer”), but not knowing how to ask (“In Search of the Question”).