Chicago IllinoisChicago, Illinois - It’s finally done! A few weeks ago I got serious about finishing my piece Scenes from America and devoted all of my free time towards completing the Chicago, Illinois movement. I’m very happy with it and definitely think the tons of rewrites and time that went into this were worthwhile. This movement took me a good year to fully realize, delayed my CD, and generally caused me a ton of anxiety and grief throughout 2011. Sheesh! 

I think it took so long because Chicago is a very special place for me. I lived there for four years while I was getting schooled (literally and figuratively) at the University of Chicago. I spent countless nights taking in the local jazz clubs, symphony shows, and theater productions. I gave my debut recital at Chicago’s Smart Museum. I was in Chicago when I learned that my mother had died, and it was in Chicago that I met and later married my wife. Needless to say, Chicago and I have HISTORY, and it took time to put that history into the music.

The piece is an homage to one of my favorite composers, jazz bassist Charles Mingus, and it was also inspired by the work I’ve done with soprano Alicia Hall Moran and pianist Jason Moran. All three of them seamlessly blend classical music and jazz into a unified and original narrative and have been huge inspirations for me. As a result, the piece starts and ends with a basic jazz head but morphs into a more intense classical baroque texture in the middle. This texture gets increasingly complex and modern (paralleling my university music studies) and then we are brought back to the opening theme. After this recapitulation, an exotic scale run blows in and takes us away (from the city, from loved ones, and from my adolescence). At least, that’s the story I hear. 

So, Scenes from America Vol.1 is done. CD coming soon. Hopefully the next piece I write will come a little easier and be a little less heavy- perhaps some Romanza variations :-).- Thomas