Dave Brubeck (b. 1920)
Chromatic Fantasy Sonata Five Pieces from Two PartAdventures Tritonis
The Salmon Strikes Rising Sun
Notes from the Composer
A question I am repeatedly asked is \What is the differencebetween your composed pieces and your piano improvisations?" My approach towriting for the piano is basically the same as my approach to improvisation,the difference being the gift of time and opportunity to edit, rewrite andrefine what is written. I would venture to say that the best of my compositionswere probably never notated or recorded, but were created at the moment for themoment. That is the nature of improvisation. There is a story about a meetingbetween Mozart and Beethoven in which the young Beethoven played hiscompositions for Mozart, who left the room unimpressed. However, the storygoes, Beethoven remained at the piano and began to improvise. It is said, thatupon overhearing these improvisations, Mozart exclaimed, "This young man willmake a great noise in the world". He had caught a glimpse of the workings of acomposer's mind. I hope to capture in my composed pieces some of the freshspirit of improvisation.
My association with pianist John Salmon began over thirtyyears ago. It came in the form of a letter from a young man, who played bothjazz and classical piano, seeking advice about pursuing a professional careerin music. There was such obvious sincerity in the tone of the letter that Ianswered, telling him about my own sons near his age, who were just enteringthe professional world. Bestowing a modicum of fatherly advice, I wished himsuccess. Seven years later he showed up in my dressing room at the Universityof Maryland, where I was performing with my Quartet. He was there toparticipate in a piano competition taking place on the campus (a competition atwhich he won a prize, by the way!). Throughout the following decades weexchanged holiday greetings and John would show up at our concerts whenever wewere in his area. In 1992 John interviewed me for an article he was writing forthe magazine American Music Teacher. The article was entitled "What Brubeck GotFrom Milhaud", and upon reading it, I knew that John was a serious scholar aswell as an accomplished pianist. One day I received a telephone call from Johnin which he told me that by changing the fingering, he had finally figured outa way to play some parts of the fugue in my composition, Points on Jazz. I had consideredit almost impossible for any soloist, since it was a reduction of a pieceoriginally written for two pianos. The following year I received in the mail atape of a John Salmon piano recital at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.His performance of Points on Jazz and the difficult Fugue amazed me. It beganan exchange of letters, followed by more articles for music journals, andeventually my asking him to edit my piano music for publication by Warner Bros.Publications. I really became aware of John Salmon's dedication to my music in1994 when he came to Germany to deliver a presentation (both in German and inEnglish) for the ceremonies at University of Duisburg, in which I received anhonorary degree. For the past decade I have relied upon John's expertise inpreparing my new works for publication.
The major work on this recording is the Chromatic FantasySonata, a composition that emerged from a commission by the chamber musicgroup, An die Musik (violin, viola, cello, oboe, piano). The originalcommission stipulated that I open the work with a few bars from my favouritecomposer. I chose Johann Sebastian Bach, and the exciting, dramatic risingscales of Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor (BWV 903) as an opening for myown Chromatic Fantasy. Various allusions to B-A-C-H (the German note names forB-flat, A, C, and B natural) are heard throughout, most obviously in theAllegro molto movement and appear in various disguises in other movements aswell. The influence of Bach carries over into the titles of the movements.Chorale starts out in a four-voice format that suggests the SATB choral textureof Bach's own chorales. Fugue is actually a triple fugue in four voices whosethree subjects are woven throughout the four movements. Two of these subjectsare tone rows, one of which starts out with a kind of inversion of the B-A-C-Hmotif. Chaconne uses a left-hand ostinato and a right-hand melody, similar to apiece I had written for jazz ensemble, called Jazzanians. With its livelytriplet feel and blues riffs Chaconne is the jazziest of the four movements. Astring quartet version of Chromatic Fantasy Sonata was recorded by the BrodskyQuartet of England. John Salmon subsequently transcribed the fugue movementwritten for the string quartet to the present solo piano version.
Bach's influence is again reflected in selections fromTwo-Part Adventures, inspired by the Two-Part Inventions, BWV 772-86. BachAgain resembles Bach's C Minor Prelude from Book 1 of The Well-TemperedClavier, and is dedicated to John Salmon, who sometimes combines the two inrecital. Brotherly Love was first recorded in 1998 by my Quartet for the TelarcCD So What's New?. Winter Ballad, from my album Jazz Impressions of New York,was originally played with Paul Desmond's alto saxophone on the upper line. TheEleven Disciples is taken from my cantata Voice of the Holy Spirit and wasoriginally written for chorus. Chasin' Yourself is in canonic imitation,swinging and light.
Tritonis, like so many of my more extended, written-out compositions,has a varied history. Originally written on commission as a piece for guitarand flute (1978), it then became part of my jazz quartet repertoire using thetheme as the basis for improvisation. (This jazz quartet version can be heardon the Columbia/Legacy CD box set Time Signatures: A Career Retrospective.) Inthe piano solo version I retain the central harmonic device, namely two chordsa tritone apart, as in the opening where an E major arpeggio is followed by onein B flat. The tritone has played a prominent r??le in my own improvising, sinceit consists of two very important blues notes, the key note and flattenedfifth. My composition teacher, Darius Milhaud, frequently placed two chordstogether whose roots were a tritone away, creating a polytonal texture thatresembled the extended harmonies of the bebop era in jazz. Since the pieceoriginated as a guitar and flute piece, guitar sounds, especially those of theopen strings (E-A-D-G-B-E), permeate the work, occasionally evoking the sound offlamenco music.
The Salmon Strikes was written as a tribute to John. Thetitle refers to his strong piano attack, as well as my personal remembrance ofa fishing expedition in the Alaskan wilderness when an actual salmon didstrike, fight, and eventually win its freedom.
The Rising Sun is from my 1965 album Jazz Impressions ofJapan. It recalls my first dawn in Tokyo after a long flight across thePacific. A Basho haiku expresses the poetic intent of the ballad.
A lovely morn! The summer night is gone,
How hushed and still is all the world
In wonder at the dawn.
The pieces on this recording vary in mood and style, and Iam extremely grateful to John Salmon for his artistry in interpreting thismusic in the way I conceived it.