The Music of Bert Joris - Innocent Blues
Innocent Blues occupies a special place in my heart. Of all my attempts to discover new colours in existing forms, this is my most successful one yet. After a long quest, I finally came up with a form and harmony to fit a theme which, unbeknown to me, was little more than blues petering out. Eighteen bars instead of the usual twelve. Half way through the piece, however, in another metre (6/4), the eighteen bars turn out to be twelve after all.
I adore the warm timbre that emanates from a big band playing at its most subdued. Walkin' Tiptoe, for example, really comes into its own right when the wind section plays so softly that the muted trumpet rises above it without extra amplification.
For the Time Being is a spin-off of a jazz combo waltz which the BRT commissioned me to write 15 years ago. I vaguely remember struggling to finish it, and being anything but satisfied with the result. Hence the title: For the Time Being. Funnily enough, it has been one of my most successful compositions to date.
Jeux de reflets et de la vitesse
This music was composed for the Twenties film by the same title. Ample thematic material was borrowed from Satie's first gymnopédie. Initially a second percussionist had been foreseen for the solo moments. Thanks to Christoph, opting for the piano as solo instrument was an easy choice to make.
In Magic Box I have tried to create a deceptive perspective, like the ones in Escher's fabulous lithographs. At the beginning of each chorus, listeners should get the impression that the piece goes up half a tone, while in fact the tonality at the end of the chorus is already half a tone lower than the original.
Benoit takes its inspiration from Peter Benoit's carillon song. I grew up with his music, and it was no sinecure to place the melody in a new context. It is also one of my first attempts at composing descriptive music. Imagine yourself standing atop the Antwerp cathedral early one morning, overlooking the waking city. The wind softly stirs the carillon, and while a nighthawk loudly makes his way home, life slowly gets into gear…
Kong's Garden was commissioned by the 'Concertgebouw jazz orchestra' and is largely based on King's Garden, another work I wrote in the same period for brass band.
Mr Dodo is dedicated to my friend and colleague Dado Moroni.
Atonal is an anagram of anatol, a synonym of rhythm changes.
A few years ago Frank asked me to compose a piece with oomph for his orchestra, an opener (or closer) for their gig at Jazz Middelheim. They spent a whole week rehearsing it and in the process it sort of became their pet piece - which I'm extremely flattered by. The title is borrowed from
Star Trek, my favourite SF series.
Nuées d'orage is antipodal to Django Reinhardt's Nuages.
The pattern behind the accompaniment to the first 8 bars of the theme lingered in my head for months. I had huge expectations for it and imagined that this might be the start of a highly original composition. I eventually landed back on my own two feet and moulded it into the time-honoured blues form. Next time perhaps…
Alone at Last
My very first compositions all met one basic demand: they must not be too hard, since I wanted to perform them myself. My technique gradually improved and with it my writing.
This piece owes its very existence to my limited skills as a pianist. The left hand is so simple that I was able to fully concentrate on the right-hand melody: at last I could play a piece of piano music all by myself.
By the same token, it is another way of playing the blues…
(Original liner notes by Bert Joris, 2002)