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On My Own vol. 1 - New Works: Liner Notes
1) Two Shadows That Flow Together (T. Ray) My brother Dan was getting married, and I was faced with the age-old question - what is the perfect wedding gift? After much thought and discussion, I decided to celebrate their union by writing a new song for them. It took months to find the perfect love poem by Pablo Neruda, but once I read it I knew this was the inspiration I needed to compose this gift. The title comes from this poem, and the tune has turned out to be one of my favorite original compositions.
2) Film Noir (T. Ray) An improvisation on a blues form, invoking some of the dark, brooding atmosphere of this classic style of movie making.
3) Meet Mungo (T. Ray) Mungo is my little improvisational friend that pops up from time to time throughout this recording. I never quite know what he's up to at any particular moment, but his theme intrigues me, and he never seems to linger for long before making his exit.
4) I’ve Been to Memphis (Lyle Lovett) This is my favorite composition by singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett, with whom I've had the pleasure of touring around the world over the past 15+ years as part of his Large Band. The intro and funky stride-like groove on this performance is reminiscent of his original recorded version; the careening-out-of-control ending is similar to the ones I would improvise in Lyle's concerts, and he always seemed to enjoy those moments. As for the improvised solo section in the middle? I'm guessing he wouldn't approve...
5-6) Exploring Schuller’s “Magic Row” (T. Ray)
12 Ways to Go
A set of two improvisations based on a twelve-tone row conceived by composer Gunther Schuller, which he termed his "magic row". He based the slow movement of his 2nd violin concerto (and many subsequent works) on this pattern of the twelve notes in a chromatic scale (arranged in the serial row of C#, D, G, Bb, E, F, A, B, G#, F#, Eb, C). Although serial compositions tend to be atonal, Schuller's row has elements of tonality built-in, and these improvisations reflect this juxtaposition. The first movement starts with the row intact, and various permutations of it come back throughout the piece. In the 2nd movement, the row is less literally stated, and is more of a launching pad for some up-tempo splashing through tonal and atonal waters. The title for this part, Angular Velocity, is actually a physics term referring to the rate at which an object rotates or revolves about an axis. (And for anyone who might wonder - yes, I am sometimes a bit of a nerd.)
7) Strayhorn’s Mood (T. Ray) This composition was written some years ago as part of a Duke Ellington Tribute concert for a jazz quartet that featured my friend and trumpet-player extraordinaire Herb Pomeroy. The harmonies and certain melodic shapes are reminiscent of those of Ellington and his musical compadre Billy Strayhorn (one of the unsung heroes of jazz composition). I learned of Herb's passing not long after I recorded this solo version, and so I thought it fitting to include it in this collection. This tune is dedicated to him.
8) 5 for 3 (to 1) (T. Ray) One of the first pieces I wrote for my "chamber jazz" trio Tre Corda (piano, cello and trumpet) was a piece entitled 5 for 3 - because it was primarily in a 5/4 time signature, and was to be played by the 3 of us. Although we have performed it in concert on several occasions, I was somehow never satisfied enough with the results to release it on CD. I decided to re-work it for solo piano, muting the strings on one of the primary notes, and am pleased at how it turned out - not only sonically and compositionally, but also because the countdown in the title is now complete.
9) Mungo & His Friend Bob (T. Ray)Mungo's back - this time with a friend. They engage in some improvisational dialogue for a while, and then float away as mysteriously as they arrived.
10) Hutch is Dead (T. Ray)I was composing this rather mournful tune one evening when my sweetie commented on the piece from the other room, and inquired as to what the title of this new work was. Not wishing to be interrupted, I ignored her question. Bad choice. She persisted, asking if it was an elegy for her friend Martha's recently departed dog "Hutch". In my attempts to end the dialogue as quickly as possible so I could finish my work, I blurted out, "yes, I'm calling this one... Hutch... is Dead!" (I was being rude, and yet somehow she found it touching). She was in fact so moved that I would write a song for Hutch that she immediately called Martha and told her that I wrote a tune to commemorate her dog, and named it "Hutch is Dead". To both of our surprise, Martha laughed and the name stuck.
11-13) Adventures With Dogs (T. Ray)
First Snow at Midnight
Don't tell the agitated cat(s) this, but I am actually a dog person. I have a great fondness for big dogs and I am crazy about our 2 big mutts. They are great playmates, companions, and are always up for the next great adventure, no matter the time or weather. Each of these improvisations represent a favorite dog/people activity in our world. Music (and life) are always a bit better with dogs lying under the piano.
14) Sound Escapades Part Two: b prepared (T. Ray) An improvised escapade into the world of prepared pianos. A variety of metallic, fabric and foam objects decorate the strings of the piano to help create interesting percussive, bell-tone and buzzing sonorities. My father long ago remarked about a piece I played, saying it sounded "like stuff was falling randomly onto a piano." Well, in this case, that's not too far from the truth.
15) You Will Walk in Good Company [The Valley] (Jane Siberry) Perhaps one of the most beautiful songs ever written, by long-time musical partner and friend Jane Siberry (who now goes by the name "Issa"). Originally titled The Valley, the lyrics to this piece are based on the 23rd Psalm, and this piece remains one of her most popular works.
16) Mungo’s New Toy (T. Ray) Mungo makes his final appearance to end the CD. He's acquired a special new "toy", upon which he improvises a melody along with the piano (the only overdub on this collection) to bring the recording to a close.