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Here is my arrangement and recording for the arranging Ellington project.
I do not have any project notes because most of any thoughts I had are in my head( writing stuff down is not my best skill ) like most musical things I do.
Studying Duke Ellington’s compositions has been such an enormous part of my musical development. One of the first things that truly got me excited about jazz as a young listener was the energy and sheer joy that I heard on the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival recording of Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. From hours upon hours of listening and transcribing, I’ve learned about how Ellington combined the unique identities of his band members –he called them is “sound entities”– to create unbelievable textures and timbres. His focus on creating beautiful, independent melodies that intersect to produce rich and interesting harmonies has taught me so much about voice leading.
My arrangement of Ellington’s Come Sunday attempts to retain the character and lyricism of the original, while creating a new context for improvisation and while using the most prominent motivic material as a point of departure for development. The first five notes of the melody emerged as a very important focal point to the arrangement both rhythmically and melodically. Groups of five are used throughout to introduce rhythmic tension and interest, while the melodic cell of the first five pitches serves as a unifying element in the form of an ostinato. Bringing in my own compositional voice, I endeavored to find successful ways of using chromatic motion against the original melodic material to produce a starker contrast between dissonant and consonant moments in a piece that is ultimately about hope.
Mike - I really enjoy your arrangement. I found it interesting that you and I both utilized some of the same elements of the melody as repetitive figures, particularly the 5-note fragment, but in very contrasting ways. The way you used those descending chromatics in minor in both the solo section and introduction comes across well since that's such an identifiable sound. It creates a nice, coherent development, but also with good variety since it's separate from the actual form of "Come Sunday." I think your cadential extension from m. 135, featuring the ascending variations of that final melody in trumpet, alto, and piano really creates a nice lift in the music, and definitely reinforces the theme of "hope" that you mentioned in the program notes.
On a personal level, the most striking quality of Duke Ellington’s arrangement of “Come Sunday,” from the Concert of Sacred Music, is the way in which he accomplishes meaningful expression of the text through subtle orchestration. In contemplating the meaning of “Come Sunday,” a number of different possibilities come to mind – spiritual prayer, representation of African-American culture, the balance of peace and conflict in human existence, and undoubtedly others as well – quite an impressive feat for a four-minute piece of music! With my arrangement, I seek to illustrate my own perception of how self-reflection or prayer may strike a balance with conflict in life, while also commenting on Ellington’s musical representation of struggle and triumph in African-American culture.
Structurally, my arrangement is divided into three distinct sections. The opening depicts building of conflict, represented by the juxtaposition of fragments of the melody. As the conflict grows to an unbearable level, the cry of “Lord, dear Lord!” signals a release to the confines of human spirituality: a single voice, defeated, pleading to find the strength to carry on. The re-harmonization that follows expresses elements of both serenity and conflict in the text and, while not in the same subtle setting as Ellington’s arrangement, it strives to illustrate the gradual overcoming of struggle between people (the vocalist) and the environment surrounding their existence (the orchestra). Upon the arrival of “Sunday,” resolution is finally achieved, but the final section observes that peace cannot be sustained forever in this reality. In the end, personal inner resolution may triumph, but the conflict created by infinite sources, however vague or minutely important, still imparts challenges that must be overcome.
Dan - I loved the way you blurred the line between what is written and what is improvised. It was really interesting to follow along in your score the second time I listened through it. I was surprised that so many of the melodic fragments that sounded improvisatory were actually specifically notated. I also thought that the contrast between the chaos in the beginning and the unaccompanied vocal solo in the middle was very effective.
Below is my complete entry of Come Sunday. As always, I look forward to any and all comments and advice that can be offered. Best of luck to all fellow contestants!
Regarding the recordings: The MIDI recording is accurate to the final copy of the score, whereas the live recording is accurate to a previous draft. I chose to include that latter, however, to give a sense of human interpretation of the piece, in particular the baritone sax solo (which I performed).
The music of Duke Ellington, with its unparalleled charm and one-of-a-kind majesty, has been a more vital part of my musical education than that of any other composer. I have had the opportunity to study his music first hand, as a performer, by performing a number of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Essentially Ellington charts for each of the past three years. I have taken to frequent score study of these compositions, as to fully absorb as much of the detailed elements of Ellington's compositions as possible. In particular, three compositions have been especially influential in my arrangement of Come Sunday: Isfahan, Sunset and the Mockingbird, and I Like the Sunrise.
As a performer, my instrument of first choice has long been the baritone sax. Considering this, and being that Ellington's longtime baritone saxophonist Harry Carney is among my favorite performers, it was a natural choice for me to arrange Come Sunday as a baritone sax feature. In addition to Carney's playing, I was largely influenced by the smooth tone bending and luscious technique of alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges on Isfahan. Ellington's dazzling piano playing in Sunset and the Mockingbird impacted the piano part for Come Sunday; background parts throughout were imagined from those in Sunset and I Like the Sunrise. Come Sunday thereby stays true to Ellington by drawing influences from other works of his, but also largely demonstrates my own compositional voice with an active bass part, use of straight eighths in a swing chart, and dense orchestrations. All in all, Come Sunday has been a highly beneficial learning experience that will have a long-lasting influence on my compositional endeavors.
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I'm not sure why the SoundCloud links didn't embed properly, but here is the link to my page where you will find both of the recordings!
Hi Andrew (and others) — for future reference, to embed SoundCloud embed links, click the "Media" button (looks like a filmstrip) and then paste the embed code into the pop-up window. Pasting the embed code into the main body of your comment won't work, unfortunately.
This is my arrangement of "Almighty God Has Those Angels." As a person with very little formal training in music composition, I tried my best to come up with an original take on this Duke Ellington piece. In addition to adding some dissonant walking bass, I made changes to the jazz melody as I saw fit to give the piece a creative spin while retaining its allusion to the original. Please note that the eighth notes should be swung after the four measure introduction.
"Come Sunday" was my original intention. Then, the eleventh hour arrived. Feeling uninspired, I listened to "Almighty God Has Those Angels"; the sparseness was striking, and the prospect of arranging a relatively unknown piece was powerfully irresistible.
One of the most notable features of Ellington's arrangement of "Almighty God" is the perpetual motion bass line; I chose to preserve this. I wanted to condense the introduction of the original, finding it a bit too meandering for my taste. I created a spare and dramatic beginning; the bass figure hints at the rhythmic feel to come. The saxophones are the chief vehicle for counterpoint throughout, while the brass support the vocal line at the end. After the trombone solo, the saxophones' lines are less about the specific figure and more about the gesture itself. These gestures (along with meticulously marked dynamics) aim for a vocal-like effect, underscoring the bluesy nature of the piece. The density increases markedly after the trombone solo, reaching apotheosis with the melody performed by trumpet, trombone, and voice.The melody is brassily reinforced while the saxophones wail.
I mistakenly uploaded my score in landscape view; here it is in portrait.