Suite Dilation - melodic language and resonance for the solo improviser.

Introduction

In this project, I created and developed compositional and improvisational material in a repertoire for solo trumpet and cornet. My goal was to create an intimate frame for my playing, and rooted in my personal expression, my vision was to develop a deep dialogue between my instrument, the composed material and my improvisational instincts and properties.

In this work, it was my wish to map the connections and resistors that appears in my work as a solo instrumentalist, and in the naked solo-trumpet format I portrait the essence of my sound and melodic explorations in four original compositions that are the foundation of this work.

The work also very much circulates around locating and refining the most important essence of resonance and intentionality in the sound and vibrations of my body and instruments.

The placement of this work in my ongoing artistic practise finds itself as the closing part of a larger-scale album trilogy project, with two other ensembles, performances and recordings, also named SUITE DILATION.

The Suite Dilation solo-work is therefore a development and condensation of somewhat already existing material with emphasis on my approaches to melodic interval structures, tone-color, resonance and phrasing.

Film maker Mike Højgaard followed me in this work leading to performances in Tokyo and research in the tranquility of Japanese spirituality and in my birthplace in the rural countryside of Lolland, Denmark and to the finalization and recording of the work in Copenhagen.

It was my goal that a 30 minutes vibrant music art-documentary should illuminate my work and research, my preparations and reflections and the final result.

It turned out also to be a film about how I face myself after an already long creative process and a need to boil down my philosophy of being a creative improviser; my notes and sparse poetry, compositions, tempo and structures. My beliefs, perception, hopes and dreams.

WATCH THE FILM HERE:

Sound, Breath and Form - reflections on creating Suite Dilation

Creating together. Music has always been finding its way through creative communities and constellations. Together we become complete. Being inside the music you are identified with what is at stake right now, personal agendas are put aside while you at the same time carry the responsibility for the whole. From that “whole”, we discover who we are – something is more important than ourselves. Not only looking for measurable structures and combinations seeking answers for understanding the world we live in, but stepping up and manifesting another existence.

To listen for the inexplicable that you can only hear with your heart becomes the foundation.

Most of my work has “Jazz” as its foundation, and already here there is a lot to consider and discuss. I believe that in jazz’ many expressions, forms and characters, that’s where I find my identity, something that I relate to, feel connected to, I love and where I feel I have something to say.

It is important for me that the sound and feeling of my compositions and improvisations is not only based on “raw emotions” and spontaneous interactions. I experience many of my peers and the contemporary field of improvisation is often drowning in a freak-out music with a limited and one-dimensional expression.

I am not working in opposition to something or anything, but instead I am looking for levels of mutuality in my work and expression. I have the same ambition as improviser and composer; to arrive somewhere and not appear without a (hi)story.

I want my solo work, and my music to sound very liberated, but at the same time portray more precise ideas on Sound, Breath (motion, pulse, rhythm) and Form.

It is important for me to find my own wisdom in my teacher’s advice;

“Every note has a birth, life and death.” -Dr. Yusef Lateef

I try to create my own personal vocabulary in my voice as a composer and improviser. And I try to infuse all my feelings and intentions in my work and playing.

On my Suite Dilation solo recording every improvisation is based on the composed material in each of the composed sections. By constantly considering, arranging and changing the music I have tried to develop a sound with special focus on contrast and balance between Sound, Breath and Form.

Harmony, melody, rhythm, timbre and form – is of course accepted as the 5 components of music, so my Sound, Breath and Form idea tries to combine and connect these main components in my music.

My goal was to bring direction and form to my creativity, to develop my instinct and it’s use in the different process’; composition, rehearsal, performance and documentation.

It was my idea and hope that “Sound, Breath and Form” would help me go to the center of my music - to strengthen and clarify my process, performance and artistic fingerprint:

Sound

Listen – Imagine – Share (Adam Rudolph)

Aural imagination is the starting point for me in creating a sound on my instrument.

By using my imagination and fantasy I aim to create a strong brain signal so my lips, lungs and hands will do all they can to give birth to that sound. It is my goal that the sound is vivid and alive. I listen for the dialogue and feedback between myself and my instrument. This is main reason why I practice my instrument - aural imagination will blossom in combination with the study of musical information and content.

Every individual has a core sound related to their organism, and playing and practicing is mostly about finding, developing and refining that sound. I try to incorporate my whole breath and body into my horns. With my feet planted solidly on mother earth I try to make our connection vibrate and resonate through my horn. My experience playing my instruments is a feeling of a permanent opening to the internal organs. The whole system wide open - my breathing pumping away becoming the utmost consequence of being, and that’s the connection to the musical nervous and immune system.

My aural imagination I use in navigating in my musical information, but especially when I give character to the sound I am producing. In my work, I am inspired be the earliest trumpet players in jazz, Bubber Miley, Charlie Shavers, Cootie Williams etc. and also more recent and contemporary brass-masters like Paul Smoker and Herb Robertson. It can be with an open horn, or with the use of mutes to alter the sound of the cornet or trumpet. I am listening for extremes; distortion and whisper i.e.

For Suite Dilation solo work, I have been concentrating on 5 different mutes; plunger, harmon, solo-tone, straight and Japanese bamboo-mute.

Working with mutes allows me to explore the imitation of sounds that rings in me i.e.; the sound of the alto flute (harmon mute) the sound of glass (straight mute) a bamboo sound (solo-tone mute) a voice-like sound (bamboo mute)

When I listen for, and try to develop the open singing sound on my trumpet, I find a foundation in my love for the sound and presence of Russian, classical trumpeter Timofey Dokshitzer:

When I listen back to the solo recording I also hear and observe many traces of inspirations from many different instrumentalists in my playing; Miles Davis, Lester Bowie, Kenny Dorham, Don Cherry and Yusef Lateef to name just some.

At this time, I am not interested in the sound of vertical chord progressions, but in how the sound of the composed material and improvisations moves in other ways…and not in a typical “free-jazz” way. I tend to focus on monophonic sound and simple polyphonic tonal organization as a linear/horizontal approach.

For this recording, intervals and melodies and their structures creates a foundation for my intervallic and motivic imagination.

Imitation and imagination is a big part of this work, and I have been concentrating on these for inspiration:

The Horagai is a conch shell instrument using 3-5 notes. It is especially associated with the Yamabushi, ascetic warrior monks of the Shugendō tradition in Japan The yamabushi used the trumpet to signal their presence or movements to one another across mountains and to accompany the chanting of sutras.

I visited the Yamabushi at the Takao-San Mountain in Japan to internalize as much sound and intentionality that I could in the mountains. Especially the phrasing and placement of these has been important to me; you hear it best in the piece Shadow.

The Wazza Trumpet can be heard in ensembles in Sudan and West Africa. The penetrating, distorted sound can be heard in best in the piece Dilation and is a big part of the investigation of extremes and unconventional playing with open horn as well as using rubber-plunger-mute.

In New Orleans, U.S.A. I heard trumpet- and brass players with a timbre and tone color similar to the wazza trumpet. Here is a short clip with HOT 8 BRASSBAND:

Also, during my stay in New Orleans I had fruitful dialogues with trombonist and improviser, Jeff Albert, who is professor at Loyola University New Orleans and has a PhD in Experimental Music and Digital Media. I was trying to discover possibilities in taking my solo work in a digital and technological direction. That path did not occur for me at this time.

In my research of trumpet sound and phrasing in early jazz at The Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, I finally found the recording of trumpet player Bunk Johnson (December 27, 1879 – July 7, 1949) imitating the phrasing of Buddy Bolden.

Charles Joseph “Buddy” Bolden (September 6, 1877 – November 4, 1931) is recognized as originator and the greatest player of New Orleans music. No one ever described his musical style, until Bunk Johnson in 1942 demonstrated it by whistling and reflecting on one of Bolden’s old “make up” tunes describing the phrasing as “making’ runs”.

In looking into other repertoires for my instruments the Echo Cornet immediately caught my ears. The echo cornet is a duplex instrument, which means that it embodies the characteristics of two different instruments, and the player can choose freely between them. In this case, the cornet is supplied with a fourth piston and a second bell that tappers inversely, as compared with the main bell, thus producing a muted tone. The player can then choose between an “open” or a muted tone almost instantaneously, without having to recur to a separate mute. This inspiration can be heard best in the introduction to the piece Dilation; the rapid change of sounds and colors balances between solid phrasing and more abstract splashes of sound.

Here is an example of its original use played by Crispian Steele-Perkins.

I have to find my sound, or a sound, every day on the instrument. Every morning I am navigating in the instrumental realities vs. sonic fantasies relating to the changing conditions and new starting points in the vibrations of my organism and instruments.

Breath

When I look at how my music breathes and moves, I listen for motion, pulse and rhythm in the performance, in the written material, and how I phrase my melodic lines and sounds.

In my Phrasing, I am often relating to a pulse; consistent and inconsistent rhythms. Saxophonist, improviser extraordinaire Joe Lovano describes it beautifully;

“In my phrasing relating to metrical fix points, I try to phrase from the different perspectives of the beat: quarter note, half note or whole note, which will make me accent in different ways. I listen for my “driving force” and I aim to “arrive” in solid way in my phrases. Playing 16th notes of the half note and 8th notes from the quarter note are metrical identical but the feel of them change”

You hear my work with this most clearly in the piece Cobra in which I also work with “snake time” phrasing, coined by saxophonist and composer Joe Manieri (February 9, 1927 – August 24, 2009). It describes the motion in reacting and relating to an inconsistent pulse. It focuses on discovering and developing the character of the movement in the phrasing which often can be multidirectional.

This type of phrasing is closely related rubato phrasing. I listen for the silence before and after a sound, or a phrase, and experience really to have the opportunity to “sculpture” a movement, a melodic line.

I am also experimenting with longer and longer “let go phrases” - I am listening for longer pauses in my playing, very often combined with “splashes” of semi-uncontrolled phrases, and after their impact, I listen for the pulse and movement to prepare my next phrase. This very much inspired by Duke Ellington’s piano playing which pianist Teddy Wilson described as; “taking a handful of colored sand and throwing it up in the air".

The more controlled runs and explosive lines I visualize as “arrows” through the sound landscape.

In my phrasing, I am also inspired by composer and arrangers work with bi-tonal counterpoint, where a clear melody is colored in an abstract way. I often hear these phrases as surrounding colors to the main melodic statement in a specific improvised melodic passage.

I also use repition in my compositions to find, as my teacher John Tchicai stated it; “the blood and guts of the music" It also creates a strong contrast to the looser metric explorations in my music. Cobra and Dilation is the closest I get to a traditional fixed groove, but is also an example of variation of phrases in a pulse and bassline.

A general method and approach I have been using in all pieces, you can hear it throughout the work, is my interpretation of “Dakpa Improvisation” in a solo setting. “Dakpa Improvisation” was introduced to me by my teacher Yusef Lateef. It can describe it as improvisational conversation with focus on verbal like dialogue-interplay. It was named and inspired by East Bodish language spoken in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh in India and in Tibet. There is no data currently available for this language and different dialects spoken by millions - very similar to the actual dialogue-interplay and language development between improvisers. I find that, just by naming this and addressing it together, it creates a fundament and center for the improvisation. To me it also underlines the history of sharing knowledge in jazz orally.

Form

I set out to refine the difference between Form and Structure in my music.

Form relates to the segmentation of a piece of music, and structure deals with how I delineate those segments. The structures in the music refers to the actual compositional material, it’s musical information and/or experiments as elements and their combinations.

I look at how the different sections and structures relates, also in duration, and I asked myself: over time, how do I present the material I am portraying and interpreting?

The Form in the music refers to the shape and the figure throughout the whole piece.

I am navigating in the two basic types of form: 1: A form: consists of one section and focus on repition. 2: A/B form: consists of more sections and focus on contrast. I look at the form as the map of the travel you want to bring the listener on, and there are three basic routes in the music, three “destinies”, on how the music can tell its story: 1: strong return; an identical return the musical material presented in the composition or solo. 2: weak return; with a partly identical or variation on the material presented in the composition or solo. 3: no return; a one-way progression where you end in a completely different place than where you left off.
By addressing this I could create an overview and clarify if the form is strong and as intended: Antenna: strong return Cobra: weak return Dilation: no return Shadow: no return

Also, to construct my ideas regarding form-expression, I use variation, exposing melodic statements which underline the character of the specific section and used improvisational transition sections and zones.

In the entire work and especially in the piece “Dilation" I used a delayed and postponed character of improvisation to distill and approach the form in a different way.

The repertoire and melodic material / examples

My starting point in creating the repertoire and melodic material I found in my studies and collaborations with Dr. Yusef Lateef. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yusef_Lateef)

It is hard for me to express how much my relation to Brother Yusef means to me. His teachings, thoughts and methods proved to be an indispensable ignition to my creative process and my aural imagination. At the center of this are a deep spiritual, soulful and philosophical way to live a life in music, but also a very hands-on methods and approaches on how to develop a personal voice in music and in improvisation; working with scales, tone rows, motivic development, melodic sequences etc.

Many of these are introduced here:

As a solo-instrumentalist and performer of this material, it was very important for me to memorize all musical information in the works. But in the development and crucial condensation of the compositions and improvisational framework I also made use of traditional notation.

Here are a few examples:

Work sheet

Lead-sheet

Longer melodic development

Motive system

Final score

In addition to creating my solo repertoire I have also been working with poetry and a poetic side of my performances. I experience that the spoken word, the human voice and the change of expression, besides contrast, creates another way of sharing the performative room and moment with the audience. For me, it also establishes a more precise expression in what I am trying to say with my music - I relate that strongly to this Bill Dixon (link) quote that is of great inspiration to me;

“Before one can abstract, one has to know what one is abstracting from. Abstract art –anything that is abstracted from something is the essence of that something. You are going to the center”

These poems and my approach to them cannot be found in the recorded works (album) but in live-performances and in the film “Suite Dilation”

Outroduction

My solo-work ambitions forced me to, seriously, to reflect on my life with all its transformative events, and to go deeper in all my studies. I am still looking for the beautiful and surprising in the tensions I find in the music and in the moment.

In this work, my compositions create the framework around what I am discovering, and I seldom leave the material when I improvise. I play with jazz in my heart - that’s the essence, life and breath of my music. An important anchor for me in this work finds its foundation in this Evan Parker quote on improvisation;

” The last thing you need to do, is to rely on material that’s fixed in your mind. But if you don’t have anything fixed in your mind, you have no starting point. That’s the central paradox: the more you know, the freer you are”

This quote and my ongoing process again and again led to considerations on what to practice and develop.

I try to practice with PASSION - PERSISTENCE and PATIENCE.

In all my physiological preparations, on and off the instrument, I try to practice playing and not to practice practicing.

With close attention to my breathing, I listen for any clues in time spent on my instruments; sound, resonance, vibrations, color, connections, flow essence and feelings. Like all the “information” we get from that first kiss from a special person in your life.

It was a goal for me to condense the information in my compositions, sound and expression to a minimum. My charts and parts are about expression and interpretation - not “xeroxology".

I was always fascinated by this story told by master improviser Dewey Redman;

"When Louis Armstrong left New Orleans, and went to Chicago to joins King Oliver’s band, several envious musicians questioned Louis’ ability to read music.

" You’re great, but can you read music" they asked and Louis answered:

“Yes, I can read music…as long as it doesn’t come in the way of my playing”!

In this work, it was also my goal to change the way I hear music. I wanted to set my performance free, and in creating a piece of work with strong intentions and emotional content, develop how I address communicating ideas and feelings in a solo-performance:

References

The following instrumentalist has been especially important for me in this work:

Trumpet/Cornet (The strongest thing these trumpeters have in common is a “talking and singing” quality in their playing with both a strong timbre and tone color, and a personal melodic language and phrasing)

Timofey Dokschitzer

Miles Davis

Kenny Dorham

Lester Bowie

Cootie Williams

Harry Edison,

Louis Armstrong

Lee Morgan

Henry Red Allen

Tomasz Stanko

Wadada Leo Smith

Baikida Carroll

Dizzy Gillespie

Kenny Wheeler

Bill Dixon

Woody Shaw

Don Cherry

Paul Smoker

Herb Robertson

Jens Winther - Lars Togeby - Karl Husum - Flemming Agerskov and Palle Mikkelborg

Other

Yusef Lateef

Vladimir Horowitz

Thelonious Monk

Tim Berne

Masabumi Kikuchi

Elisabeth Cotton

Steve Lacy

Gil Evans

John Tchicai

Jesper Zeuthen

Cedell Davis

João Gilberto

Mal Waldron

Evan Parker

James Brown

John Coltrane

Sonny Rollins

Jim Hall

Ornette Coleman

Coleman Hawkins

Billie Holliday

Art Blakey

Joe Lovano

**Selected Listening **

Baby Dodds Talking and Drum Solos + Early Brass bands (UMS241CD)

Tomasz Stanko (solo)- Music From Taj Mahal And Karla Caves (Leo Records)

Cecil Taylor Solo (any album/performance)

Geri Allen Solo (any album/performance)

Joe Maneri – Tales of Rohnlief (ECM)

Marilyn Crispell Solo (Youtube, etc)

Wadada Leo Smith - Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM Records)

Baikida Carroll - Shadows and Reflections (YouTube)

Cedell Davis - Feel Like Doin’ Something Wrong (Fat Possum Records)

DJ Marcelle - Boiler Room x Nyege Nyege Festival - Live DJ set (Youtube)

Steve Lacy - Torments: Solo In Kyoto (Morgue01)

John Tchicai Solo Paris 2010 (Youtube)

Matt Mitchell plays Tim Berne/Førage (ScrewGun)

Wladimir Horowitz (all solo performances from 1987)

** Selected Reading**

Yusef Lateef - Spheres (Fana Music)

Haiku and Journals of Santoka Teneda (White Pine Press)

Ajay Heble - Landing On The Wrong Note (Routledge)

Yusef Lateef - Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns (Fana Music)

Ben Young - Dixonia, a bio-discography of Bill Dixon (Greenwood Press)

Evan Parker - Coltrane, a talk at Jazz Em Agosto, transcribed by Bill Tenney 2006

Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard - Anthology Of Sound (ToPos05)