Urban Dance Music is a group of three works in a contemporary jazz style for alto saxophone and “virtual” ensembles of
sampled instruments. The first two were composed between January and March, 2000 for my friend and colleague,
saxophonist Paul Bendzsa, and the Kittiwake Dance Theatre of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The project was assisted by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, and the first performances took place in
April of the same year at LSPU Hall in St. John’s, with choreography by Martin Vallée.
The third piece was added in 2003 in honour of Mr. Bendzsa’s 60th birthday.
A CD player and good sound system is required for concert performance, and the volume levels should be
balanced so that the saxophonist is no more prominent than the sampled instruments in the virtual ensembles.
1. The first piece, Late Night Blues, evokes for me the image of a group of jazz musicians playing very late at night, perhaps in a hazy old warehouse; they have become so entranced by the music that time has become suspended. This is “cool” jazz. I have written several works with “Late Night” or “Night Music” in the title, because I like the slow, languorous mood that this image evokes.
2. Industrial Park Stomp begins with a considerably more aggressive feel, as befits the title; think of Stomp (the urban percussion/dance group) doing their thing at an abandoned oil refinery or elsewhere in the industrial wasteland. The second section (with Balinese bells playing the theme) is more lyrical, and works its way eventually to a false ending, complete with the sound of a record-player needle stuck at the end of a record. The needle is hastily lifted off the “record” (this was all done with samples; no actual records were harmed), and the next section begins with a drum solo. Actually, there are two virtual “drummers” heard on separate speakers, who are soon joined by the saxophonist. This turns out to be a relatively lengthy transition section, and leads back to a return of the opening material, slightly varied. At the end, if you listen carefully, you should be able to hear birds, which have come perhaps to assess the damage done by all the aggressive dancing and pounding. 18 tracks were used to create all the percussion sounds in this piece.
3. Suspicious Activity is like Late Night Blues in that the mood is initially similar (“cool”), and it is scored for a smallish virtual jazz ensemble (perhaps a quintet of sax, piano, bass, and two percussionists), but the mood here becomes a little more hyperactive (and it includes occasional piano cluster chords). The first main section ends with a with a final-sounding descending glissando chord, but is followed by a quasi-developmental section, which in turns eventually runs out of gas; the "virtual" performers gradually start dropping out leading to the brief silence before the percussion solo. After a while the bass rejoins, followed by the others, and this leads to a return of the opening materials.
I am grateful to Paul Bendzsa for asking me to write these pieces, and to everyone involved in its choreography and production at Kittiwake Dance Theatre, particularly Martin Vallée and Linda Rimsay.
©Clark Winslow Ross
1. Late Night Blues
2. Industrial Park Stomp
3. Suspicious Activity
Saxophonists: Below are links to the audio files for each piece, without saxophone; if interested in performing this, download them (control-click on OSX, right-click on Windows) to your computer. Contact me if you have any trouble with this: clark at mun.ca (replace the word "at" with "@").
[#1. Late Night Blues (WITHOUT SAX)]
[#2. Industrial Park Stomp (WITHOUT SAX)]
[#3. Suspicious Activity (WITHOUT SAX)]