Technical Notes on ♥️ Bird, IV

More notes on the compositions that appear on <3 BIRD (see part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here).

10. Sturgis

Sturgis is based on Parker’s recorded improvisations on “Mohawk.” [this and later introductory statements are mine from the liner notes]

Like "Cheroot," I composed the miniature "Sturgis" for The Jazz Gallery's Lockdown Sessions, Vol. 33 that premiered in February 2021. The substrate for this short, through-composed line is "Mohawk," specifically Bird's two solo improvisations (the piece was named after the bassist Ted 'Mohawk' Sturgis, hence the title).

In this case, I first overlaid the two solos, then tried to trace a path through both lines with the least amount of silence (a maximized solo line merging the two); then, the remainder would be a complementary "negative" solo line.
On the original version of "Sturgis" that appeared on the Lockdown Sessions, I took advantage of the remote recording format to ask two drummers, Matt Honor and Aaron Seeber, to perform the merged and negative melody lines. For horns, I used the negative line as the primary pitch melody (played on trumpet by Tree Palmedo), then harmonized a second voice for myself to play on tenor. 
For the studio version, I adapted the original to a chordless quartet setting, omitting the negative drum part and having Matt perform the merged line on the set with the two horns played the harmonized negative line. I also had Walter walk an improvised line on bass to ground the horns and drums, and the end result was a strange, quirky interlude-like piece.

11. Schaaple from the Appel

Schaaple from the Appel explores the rhythmic implications of the introduction to “Scrapple from the Apple” and is a nod to both Phil Schaap and the misspelling on the “Happy Bird” LP.

Continuing in the "Adroidness" vein of making something in 4/4 into "not 4/4," I found the upbeat-heavy introduction to live versions of "Scrapple from the Apple" mysterious and potentially extendable into a longer composition. Early in the pandemic, I made a small supercut of the intros and outros on "Scrapple" from the Royal Roost broadcasts (January and February 1949), and listening to all those back to back convinced me that there was more to be done with that figure (note the futuristic, pre-Steve Lehman sound of Bird weaving a line through the dark harmony on the last version, with a ringing vibraphone sustain by Milt Jackson):


Here's the original figure, written out in 4/4 below:

Here it is re-metered for "Schaaple," with a quarter note rest moved from the end of the phrase to the beginning to create a bar of 10/8 to start:
The A sections of "Schaaple" are organized in three 3-bar phrases of 10/8 (5+5), 7/8 (3+4), and 15/8 (5+5+5), adding up to 32/8, or four bars of 4/4, with the bass playing this rhythmic figure over a simple harmonic progression: Bb/D for phrase 1, Bbm/Db for phrase 2, and F for phrase 3 (basically a IV-iv-I progression). The melody is taken directly from "Scrapple From the Apple" in the original key of F, but with the pitches distributed somewhat between the treble and bass voices (the Db in the bass is taken directly from the last note of the second phrase of "Scrapple," the only Db in the entire original melody) and using a new melodic rhythm to better fit the 10/8, 7/8, 15/8 metrical scheme.

The bridge of "Schaaple" is also just the plain rhythm changes of the bridge, with a simple bass figure outlining flat 5th dominants. For spice, I had the horns play half notes across the odd-meter bar lines as a subtle nod to the underlying 4/4 basis of the piece. The last A section is one phrase shorter and starts on the second phrase (Bbm/Db), to transition more smoothly from the end of the bridge (C7).

There's a brief send-off between the end of the chorus and the solos. The bass more or less plays the pitch sequence from the melody of "Scrapple From the Apple," with a half-step slip upwards on the second phrase (taken from Bird, who does some variation of this on multiple live recordings). The horns play the same melodic rhythm, but with the pitches in reverse order from elements of the "Scrapple" melody.
Bonus: photos from my copy of the Happy Bird  LP of the label and back sleeve with the "Appel" spelling. The late Phil Schaap discusses the LP release on the June 17, 2016 "Bird Flight" show, beginning around 59:00. 




12. Salt Peanuts

Salt Peanuts was not composed by Parker but is nonetheless associated with him; this version mirrors that of the May 11, 1945 Guild recording (± a few beats here and there).

During the pandemic, I also posted a scrolling score video of the original "Salt Peanuts" recording (using Thomas Owens's transcription of the ensemble performance). For my arrangement, I wanted to play with the rhythmic phrasing of the "Salt Peanuts" motif, primarily by subtracting or adding beats. 

The introduction is phrased in 7/8, with the second half unfolding in a series of expanding rests between the hits (2/4, 5/8, 3/4, back to 7/8). On the first two A sections, the "Salt Peanuts" motif is always in 7/8, but the preceding phrase in the horns changes lengths (7/8, then 9/8, then 10/8, then 4 and 7/8):
The bridge is in a faster 4/4, while the last A is in the original 4/4 as well (at the earlier, slower tempo). The solo form follows the metrical format of the head, including the tempo modulation on the bridge and back to the last A. 

In between solos are a series of interludes adapted from the original 1945 recording, with a few similar tricks:
  • The first interlude, a soli horn passage, imitates a tape loop with the repetition of two figures within the phrase, three times each
  • The second interlude, a chromatic figure with horn stings, is phrased with a more irregular series of accents, and the horn stings are phrased in 5/8
  • The final interlude, a repeating horn figure over a bass pedal on beats '2' and '4,' extends the length of the horn figure to 9 beats, so the figure "flips" against the pedal whereas the figure on the original is an even number of beats

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