Since the release of “Peace on Earth” in 2010 we’ve been presenting an annual Peace on Earth concert for the Bloomington Jazz Fables series. I have to say that this year was probably my favorite so far and we got it on videotape. So for this Blog I’d like to feature some of the musical selections that we performed and provide some background info about each piece/ arrangement and the musicians. Come join us!Let’s start with a holiday original “Ballad For A Snowman” – no, this is not a slow song, it’s an upbeat Bebop Tune with Monkish influences telling the story of a Snowman that melts, a common snowman story… This was the first tune that I ever wrote with words, and the wonderful Janiece Jaffe takes on the challenge. I doubt it will become a favorite sung under the Christmas Tree, but maybe it’ll become a favorite for jazz musicians as it’s a great vehicle to showcase jazz vocabulary – note the fearless approach by Carolyn on the violin and Janiece’s intricate interactions with the band! My favorite part is the meltdown at the end.
When I put the repertoire for the Peace on Earth album together I looked at music from many different holiday traditions. I grew up in Germany and when we moved to the US the differences in celebrating holidays were quite interesting to us. For example, the legend of Santa Claus originates from the celebration of the Turkish saint St. Nikolaus who did many good deeds, which we celebrated throughout my childhood with gifts and visits from Santa Claus on December 6. Also, we sing and exchange presents on Christmas Eve in Germany – which is something we continued when our children were born. On the other hand, we embraced the celebration of Thanksgiving as an opportunity for family gatherings. Here is a traditional German Christmas song that’s also fairly well known in the US, but with a modern reharmonization and an amazing drum solo in 5/4 by Josh Roberts – enjoy!
One of the masters of songwriting is Joni Mitchell – her expressions are deep and intense. A great example is her song “River” mourning the loss of a lover and regrets about bad decisions – something everyone can identify with. In order to keep the sadness and reflective nature of the song intact, I made an arrangement that features river-like piano arpeggios and the minor flavor – here is our treatment, it’s ok to shed some tears!
And finally – a gospel song with a Boogie Woogie treatment, Go Tell It On the Mountain, let’s celebrate. Thanks for coming along on the journey and best wishes for a peaceful, healthy, happy 2018!