Welcome to the second installment of Live at Studio B: Behind the Music! If you’ve just started reading (welcome!) I am sharing stories that inspired the music of my new album (set to release July 28th) with you here on my blog. Some stories are a little weird, but all of them are true (I promise!)….

A few people have asked me about the recording of this album, if it was recent, etc… This album was actually recorded around 4 years ago up in Greeley, CO. Ever heard of it? Didn’t think so. Greeley is home to the University of Northern Colorado (where I got my masters degree) and I had one of my performances recorded. The mastered album sat around for several years and it wasn’t until recently that I decided to release it. Great story right?!

The Climb

Nope, not Miley Cyrus’ version. I was actually pretty disappointed in myself after I found out that my piece had the same title. Or maybe I should have been proud to share the same title as one of the great… oops… went too far.

I wrote this song after I had finished backpacking the 26-mile Four Pass Loop trail in Aspen, CO. It’s a 26-mile trail that goes through some of the most beautiful terrain Colorado has to offer and climbs over four 12,000 foot mountain passes. It is probably one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken. I wish I could say I had some kind of “vision” during my adventure in the middle of nowhere, but that’s not how it happened. The idea for the melody came to mind as I was climbing each of the passes. When I got back to civilization I continued working on a melody that would sound like it was ascending.

The music side was a little different. I had always wanted to write a piece with strings (violin, viola, cello) but was intimidated by the fact I had no idea what I was doing. I found out that it’s actually really fun to write for strings because, unlike brass/woodwinds, you can set their notes at a range above the melody note. When writing horn lines I usually try to keep the ensemble below the melody note, but strings can do all kinds of awesome stuff with dynamics. The string quartet I asked to play this piece were great, I can only imagine what was going through their minds when I put this music in front of them… “WHAT IS THIS CRAP THAT THIS SAXOPHONIST WROTE?!?!” I also wanted this tune to sound more electronic, so I added a Fender Rhodes, electric bass, and a microKorg synthesizer to the background. See if you can hear the difference:

 

I (Almost) Got Rhythm

Just like “The Meaning of Love”, I can’t take all the credit for this song. It’s a contrafact of the song “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin. Jazz musicians have been writing their own melodies to the chords of “I Got Rhythm” for a long time. They do it so much that they call this set of chords “Rhythm Changes”. If you’re at a jazz jam session and say “rhythm changes in Bb” everyone will (or should!) know what you’re talking about. In fact, half of Charlie Parker’s career was based on rhythm changes… not really, but he wrote a lot of melodies over the chords to “I Got Rhythm”. If you’re not familiar with that tune, you might recognize this one.

For this tune I wanted the groove to be a mix between funk and straight ahead bebop. To accomplish this I had to write a melody that could support both types of music, something that had a lot of fast notes as well as wide leaps between those notes. In musician terms, I needed to write a melody that featured a lot of angular 8th notes so I listened to as much Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as possible. Take a listen and see if you can hear the different grooves:

 

Thanks for reading and be sure to check back next week for more behind the scenes of Live at Studio B, my new album set to release July 28th!