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Jason Gay | Dynasty

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Jazz: World Fusion World: Chinese traditional Moods: Type: Improvisational
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by Jason Gay

A musically scenic, Imaginative and Elegant view of the traditional music of China interpreted through the Jazz Idiom.
Genre: Jazz: World Fusion
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Jasmine Flower
6:38 $0.99
2. The Present and the Past
6:48 $0.99
3. Butterfly Lovers
4:33 $0.99
4. Horserace
4:53 $0.99
5. Moon Reflection in the Er Quan
6:03 $0.99
6. Blooming Flowers and the Full Moon
6:35 $0.99
7. Jackdaws Playing in the Water
4:45 $0.99
8. Tune of Nightingales
7:15 $0.99
9. Twice
7:23 $0.99
10. Ngakso
2:09 $0.99
11. Dynasty
6:05 $0.99
12. Dance of the Yi People
7:24 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Thirteen years ago, I was formally introduced to the world of Chinese music. One morning, the instructor of my college’s "Intro to World Music" course turned off the lights in our classroom. He instructed us to take several deep breaths, then he put on a piece of music. It was Ani Choying Drolma. The elusive, prayerful, and exotic tones of the Tibetan-Chinese singer struck within me with the force of a revelation. As the melody line embraced additional instrumentation, I felt an adjustment in my musical sensibilities; my heart reached out to the newly revealed aesthetic dimensions that my mind sought to comprehend. The short five minute piece had unfathomably gorgeous textures, timbres, and tonal expressions. When the lights were turned back on, I noticed that my face was flooded with tears. Later, I found out that the origin of what we had listened to was a Buddhist mantra that had been adapted and harmonized by the jazz guitarist, Steve Tibbetts. The piece was called “Ngasko.” That experience marked the beginning of my exploration into the musical art forms of China and Tibet.

As Bill Evans was asked the question, “What is jazz?”, he replied “Jazz isn’t a ‘what,’ its a ‘how’.” Jazz music is in essence an art form that would not exist if not for the combining of cultures. John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, John McLaughlin, Kenny Garrett, among many others were drawn to a more Eastern approach to music, partly due to its spiritual content and storytelling aspects, as well as its prodigious fluctuations in timbre, pitch, and dynamics. The use of pentatonic scales in Chinese folk music are also similar to the blues scale that’s prevalent in the jazz idiom, which many would argue is indispensable to jazz.

One of my goals for this album is to create, within the jazz idiom, a sound on the saxophone that incorporates several instruments from the Chinese musical tradition such as the Erhu, the Dizi, and the Zither. In his famous article "Asian Concepts and Twentieth Century Composers," the world renowned Chinese-American composer Chou Wen-Chung observes that, "The Asian concept of improvisation, which could doubtless enrich contemporary music, is yet to be fully understood and seriously studied by Western composers." Within Chinese music lies a key to expanding the sonic and timbral potential of the saxophone as well as the improvisational possibilities of jazz music.

When I reflect on my fascination with the Chinese Erhu (a two-stringed bowed instrument) I am reminded of the spell that the violin cast on early jazz musicians such a Johnny Hodges and Coleman Hawkins who actively listened to and transcribed violin pieces. Our interests align as I, too, am seeking a more graceful and elegant sound on the saxophone.

In an interview with Philip Gordon, Wayne Shorter stated that what he finds lacking in jazz is a more thorough use of timbre or alteration in tones. What Chinese folk music may lack in harmonic explorations, it more than makes up for in sonic or timbral nuances.

1. "Jasmine Flower" was written in the 1700’s during the Qing Dynasty. I wanted to connect the dots between cultures with a more traditional Chinese introduction leading into a more straight-8th jazz feel. The soprano sax is imitating (paying homage to) the Dizi (the Chinese flute).

2. "Past in Present" was originally performed on the Dizi (the Chinese flute). I arranged this for two horns to depict a conversation. I sought to show the similarities between Chinese folk and modern jazz through our various manipulations of the pentatonic scale in blues form.

3. On "Butterfly Lovers" Tsun-Hui joins us on the Erhu. This piece is an excerpt from the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. The story told through music is similar to Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet” in that two lovers are not allowed to be together on account of socially rigid customs. In “The Butterfly Lovers,” the boy dies of a broken heart and the girl leaps into his grave. They are reunited are reincarnated as Butterflies and reunited.

4. "Horserace" - Tsun-Hui rejoins us on this very popular Chinese standard that imitates the sounds of a horse race. The rushed atmosphere is our way of recreating the push to the finish line.

5. "Erquan Spring Reflecting the Moon" pays homage to one of the fathers of modern Erhu, Hua Yanjun also known as Abing. Much of his fame is for incorporating topical issues into his music. He often walked city streets and shared his music with the townsfolk.

6. "Blooming Flowers and the Full Moon" is one of my favorite melodies and is simply about a martial couple enjoying the bliss of their union.

7. "Ducks Playing in the Pond" is a popular piece often performed on the Guzheng, (a Chinese plucked instrument whose history reaches back more than 2,500 years) that depicts the tranquility of animals in nature.

8. "Tune of the Nightingales" was written in the 1930’s when jazz was gaining popularity in China. Buck Clayton, from Count Basie’s band, lived in Shanghai for about a year and worked closely with the father of Chinese popular music, Li Jinhui whose contributions altered the musical history of China.

9. "Twice" is a pop cover from the Swedish electronic group Little Dragon. I feel its addition fits the vibe of the album since its melody is also obviously influenced by the music of China. The true meaning of this remorseful melancholic love song is about being with people who love you when you don't feel the same.

10. "Ngakso" is an actual transcription note-for-note of the Tibetan Buddhist adaptation of a very ancient chant. The singer Choying Drolma is the Tibetan nun whose family emigrated from China. This is the song that first peaked my interest in the Chinese folk tradition.

11. "Dynasty," written by the Heart of the Dragon Ensemble, is a celebration of our appreciation of the Traditional music of China and how this music is still very relevant.

12. "Dance of the Yi" is one of the most popular melodies written for the Pipa (the Chinese lute) which the tenor sax is attempting to embody. This piece is about appreciating the strength of the Yi people.



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