The Way Up—“A great deal of water is flowing underground which never comes up as a spring. In that thought we may find comfort. But we ourselves must try to be the water which does find its way up; we must become a spring at which men can quench their thirst for gratitude.“ This quote, from Dr. Albert Schweitzer, was the inspiration for the title of this track. The Way Up was originally the fifth and final movement of The Gussman Suite, a piece commissioned to celebrate the life of the late Herbert Gussman, businessman, philanthropist, art collector, and jazz enthusiast, who spent time in Gabon, Africa, with Dr. Schweitzer. The ostinato motive (played by piano and muted trumpets) is based on a melody played on the Ngombi harp, used in traditional Iboga initiation ceremonies of the Mitsogho, who live in the Lambaréné region of Gabon, Africa. To the Mitsogho, music is the “lifeline” that reaches from this life to the hereafter, and serves as a means of locomotion in visionary space. Originally scored for a larger jazz ensemble, this version of The Way Up was newly arranged for WW&SM@L on this recording.
Nica’s Dream—This two-tempo arrangement was originally written for Maynard Ferguson and his Big Bop Nouveau Band. The beginning bossa nova section was designed to feature Maynard’s often-overlooked, lush middle register. Listen to John Rutherford’s rich trombone playing on the second “A”! The second, faster section of the arrangement features a brilliant chorus by pianist Gary Schunk, and a challenging horn soli, which is a combination of the transcribed solos of Harold Land and Phil Woods, plus newly composed material. Maynard always loved playing on open “spacey” vamps, so one is incorporated here after the soli. It also offers a sonic breather before heading into Jeff Trudell’s exciting drum breaks, Bob Jensen’s soaring lead trumpet work, and the coda (false ending included!).
Florence—I spent several summers in the late 1980s at the Banff Jazz Workshop in the Canadian Rockies of Alberta, studying, teaching, and performing with the likes of Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, and David Liebman. During a moment of musical overload, I searched out a practice hut in the woods and started playing a simple three-note motif (the ostinato for this tune) to clear my head. Practically writing it in fifteen minutes, I performed it that same night with a great sextet that included John Abercrombie, whose guitar solo from that first performance was the inspiration for the horn “soli” in this arrangement. (I lost the cassette after transcribing the first chorus!)
Florence was a girl visiting Banff from France, whom I encountered in the woods while we were both searching for a beach along the Bow River. After a somewhat awkward afternoon on the beach (due to the language barrier), she enjoyed a couple weeks’ performances at the jazz workshop, and then disappeared (from my world, at least). In the little time I got to know her, I was impressed with her simple yet beautifully expressive nature. A sextet version of Florence was recorded on the eponymous CD, Atlantic Bridge, and a full big band version was recorded on Being There by the Des Moines Big Band. The recording on this CD is from a new arrangement, written especially for WW&SM@L.
Beauty and the Beast—I’ve always loved Wayne Shorter’s beautiful, intriguing compositions, and I was enthusiastic when Bobby Streng suggested Beauty and the Beast as a trumpet feature. His great arrangement really highlights the composition itself and gives the band many chances to shine. The rhythm section and Gary Schunk’s playing on the Fender Rhodes evoke a sincerely funky 1970s vibe. The delay effect on the trumpet is not only a nod to Miles Davis, but also to the experimental trumpeter/composer, Don Ellis.
Thank You, Joe Martinez—This piece started out as a brass quintet (originally titled Maywood Quintet) and has been performed with electric jazz quintet. I wrote the Chorale Introduction on a lunch break during one of the sessions for this recording. I’ve always wanted to combine a fast jazz ride cymbal pattern with longer harmonic rhythms. The intervallic, pointed melody happened by chance, as did the last phrase, which conjures up Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. The open, yet moving, chord structure allows for a lot of fun, and at a tempo of 325 to the quarter note, drummer Jeff Trudell is hitting his ride cymbal over six thousand times in six and a half minutes! As a tribute to Jeff, the title became Thank You, Joe Martinez, for the guy who sold him a new boat at around the same time the tune was composed.
Promised—Pianist/composer Charlie Ernst and I had a quintet while he was at New York University and I was attending Juilliard. We played around the city for private affairs, and even a few gigs at The Blue Note, often rehearsing at Juilliard (to the occasional frown, as it was before they had an official jazz program). Charlie went on to write songs for Nancy Wilson and Phyllis Hyman, among others. Promised was written for and performed with our quintet. I always loved the chord changes, and after transferring to the University of Miami, I used the tune to explore the new harmonic understanding I was experiencing there, particularly the ascending form of the melodic minor scale and all its permutations. Hidden in boxes of sheet music for years, Promised resurfaced during a move. I was excited to find it, and to arrange it for the band and this recording.
Lonnie’s Lament—While on tour with the Mingus Big Band, Conrad Herwig and I started this chart as something to do while enduring a twelve-hour bus ride through Spain and France. On return to the States and the studio, I finished it up. Originally for full-sized big band, we based the chart on a version Conrad had recorded on his CD, The Latin Side of John Coltrane. The version on this recording is a new one for the band.
Sing, Sing, Sing—As a somewhat new approach to this ever-popular and much-recorded Louis Prima tune, I wanted to utilize some modern harmonies and rhythmic ideas. My favorite pop band, Steely Dan, and its iconic composers, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, inspired the dominant 13th chords in the bridge.
In The Mood (Not!)—This is a twisted, tongue-in-cheek redo of the classic Glenn Miller hit, with original melodies (and some harmonies) turned upside down and sideways. It features the saxophone section (Mark Kieme, Bobby Streng, and Mark Berger) trading on a chorus, a trumpet solo, and another great piano solo by Gary Schunk. Bass trombonist Randall Hawes (of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra) really gets a hold of the low pedal D in the quiet section before the final shout chorus. This is an original arrangement for WW&SM@L.
Waitin’ For Walter—Guitarist Steve Brown wrote this nice jazz blues while waiting for me in his office at the Ithaca College School of Music in upstate New York. I finished the last two measures when I finally arrived! Steve headed the Jazz Department for forty years, and I served as an adjunct jazz faculty member for a little while. Steve’s good friend and colleague, bassist/composer Chuck Israels, then arranged Waitin’ For Walter for jazz quartet to feature the bass. It’s Chuck’s arrangement I used as the basis for this arrangement, which features bassist Miles Brown (Steve Brown’s son, coincidentally).
Taps (For Maynard)—I arranged Taps (For Maynard) on September 14, 2006, after reading Christian Jacob’s account of Maynard Ferguson’s last notes: Maynard playing Taps at his home for the laying-to-rest of their dearly departed cat, just days before Maynard’s own passing on August 23. Christian described how Maynard played slowly, with a full, beautiful tone, and faded out on the last note. The bugle call Taps has been a special part of my life since the age of three. I first heard Taps played in the woods of Interlochen, Michigan, when I was a mascot with the Ferndale High School Band at band camp with my parents and siblings. It was the first tune I learned to play on my brother’s Boy Scout bugle, when I was five years old. I played it later as a member of the Boy Scouts, and for “lights out” as a camper at the Interlochen National Music Camp (now Interlochen Center for the Arts).
I’ve always thought Taps was, compositionally, a beautiful melody, and I’ve grown accustomed to playing it—like Maynard—slowly, with a full sound and a long diminuendo on the last note. I added the high Maynard-esque part last, as a very conscious tribute to the man I called a mentor, friend, and inspiration.