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Production Information “Andy Suzuki -double CD”
Disc 1 (blue)
Disc 2 (red)
Mixed by Michael Lord at Michael Lord Productions, Seattle, WA
All compositions and arrangements by Andy Suzuki (Onymous Music/ASCAP),
1. Take The Fifth (4:01)
2. Oranges (6:02)
3. Asp Of Ire (6:40)
4. Stanky On The Hangdown (6:11)
5. Tico Tico (for Isi) (5:34)
6. Shooting Star (7:13)
7. Minor Rorschach (3:27)
8. Dialogue Avec Mon Ami (3:09)
9. Primordial Slime (8:53)
10. Prolix (6:35)
11. Romance Of Thorns (6:39)
1. Slaughterhouse Hot Pepper (4:09)
2. Triple Threat (6:57)
3. Benzoki (7:24)
4. Angel (6:10)
5. Aeolian Abduction (3:38)
6. Pascal’s Triangle (4:36)
7. Character Assassins (5:24)
8. Deliver Me From My Mind (4:53)
9. Babylon (6:32)
10. My Old Home (5:27)
11. Whisper (4:48)
This was my debut project and to this day I am very proud of this double CD. I wanted each disc to have a distinctive sound. I’ve heard people categorize the blue/red discs as jazz/fusion, but I really see it as acoustic/electric. While the instrumentation helped differentiate the two. I also wanted to connect the two through compositional devices, borrowing a melody from disc-1 and using it as a background line on disc-2, etc.
1. Take The Fifth: I wanted to write a tune that used primarily perfect 5th intervals (hence the title). There are no chord changes per se, but we created a harmonic-structure based off-of the melody. The solos were free but still we used the perfect-5th motif a lot. I really enjoy the trio format too. When it’s just drums, bass, and soprano sax, the frequency spectrum is very open, improving clarity.
2. Oranges: This is a strange little tune. It’s a 12-bar melody that gets stated over and over. I wanted to start with just the alto sax then slowly build it up, as different instruments join in for this melody. This is definitely a nod to Ornette Coleman. When the solos begin we finally hear the chord changes for the first time. It isn’t until the head-out that we hear the combined melody and changes. The chord progression is essentially a 12-bar blues backwards! Although it is difficult to recognize a backward blues progression, it still retains its ‘bluesy”-ness. I suspect the fact that ‘I-IV-I’ sounds the same in either direction, has a lot to do with it. The title comes from the color-wheel, blue and orange are complementary colors, so ‘blues’ became ‘oranges’.
3. Asp Of Ire: I really like messing with conventional notions about music, this song is a good example of that. We start off with Kendall playing a solo in 6/8 (tapping his South African roots) with conga accompaniment by Paul Tchounga (a Cameroonian). The main head is a bass ostinato that outlines a sus7th chord, but the actual changes run through many colors- dominant, minor, lydian, etc. This section alternates with djembe fills in 7/8 (Mark Ivester from Seattle). The bridge gets a bit intense; the meter is a bar of 6/8, 7/8, 8/8, 9/8, and 10/8, with a sax/guitar melody that connects over the barlines.
4. Stanky On The Hangdown: O.K. I heard a comedian say this once, and that’s all I’m going to say about it 😉 I wanted a tune with the traditional jazz quintet flavor. This is basically a swinger with a 12/8 feel B-section. The first time you hear the main melody motif it outlines a typical dominant-7th chord, but the second time it happens the chords shift down a whole-step and the melody remains the same, giving you more of the color tones (9th and #11th).
5. Tico Tico: This is the only cover tune I did on this record. It is a Latin classic (by Zequinha Abreu) I first learned on the piano as a kid, my father constantly telling me it’s got to be faster, he was used to listening to Oscar Peterson’s blistering version. I didn’t want to do an arrangement that was fast, for the sake of fast, so I opted for a medium-up tempo, but with lots of re-harmonizations. I added the solo alto-sax at the end to acknowledge the celerity (Bird Lives!) of the original. It was fun to use different woodwinds too. In the intro, Bass Clarinet and Brad Rabuchin’s nylon-guitar, later adding clarinets and flutes.
6. Shooting Star: An ECM style ballad. Here again, like many of my tunes, I used a basic motif as my starting point and then developed it. It was a nice place to feature the talents of Dean Taba with a nice intro.
7. Minor Rorschach: An adventure in minor-blues psychotherapy. Are you ready? Here we go. At the top we cycle around modally from Gmi-Bmi-D#mi, and then the main melody is a G-minor blues. At the piano solo we shift to F#-minor, consequently putting the melody-out a half-step down. The end has a tenor-solo over a minor-blues-form that keeps modulating a major-third to its new tonal center.
8. Dialogue Avec Mon Ami: In this case, the friend I’m having a conversation with is Marcel Adjibi (from Benin); luckily we are talking music and not French! This is a very improvised piece. Only a little melody is stated near the end, the rest is all interaction between the soprano-sax and talking-drum. Marcel layered all the percussion too.
9. Primordial Slime: This piece gave me the opportunity to mess with a four-horn section and prime numbers. The actual melody is very short with a majority of the solo sections derived from it. I split the four horns into two sections, alto-sax (me) with the trumpet (Steve Huffsteter), and the tenor-sax (Chuck Manning) with the bari-sax (Phil Moore). I’ll call them group-one and group-two respectively. The head starts with group-one playing an 11-note phrase, then group-two answers with 2-notes, next group-one plays a 7-note line with group-two playing 3-notes, etc. So in a cross-fading sort of way group-one goes from 11-7-5-3-2, while group-two runs from 2-3-5-7-11.
10. Prolix: The title means ‘long and wordy’. I wanted to capture this flavor with one of my favorite colors, sax and drum duet. Kendall Kay kept the conversation lively. It was also a nice opportunity to do a solo-cadenza out-front. The piano-part says it all, the right-hand doing a descending line in a fourth-voicing, the left-hand in perfect-fifths in an ascending pattern.
11. Romance Of Thorns: I like moody tangos, in this case the mournful sound of a bass clarinet seemed appropriate. This tune harmonically winds around with a bass line counterpoint to the melody. Rhythmically hypnotic.
1. Slaughterhouse Hot Pepper: An absurd title based on a conversation I once had over dinner with someone, don’t ask. This is kinda funky with an angular diminished melody. I used two bass players on this cut, Dean Taba’s fretless on the bass-line and Steve Billman on fretted playing the melody with me and soloing at the end.
2. Triple Threat: Funk in 3, with the occasional 2/4 bar tossed in. The solo section was written with circularity in mind. I’ve always liked chord progressions where the point that it repeats itself is a bit difficult to tell. In this case, using fragments of the progression and occasionally changing the chord quality (from say C7#9 to Cmaj9) to throw the ear off.
3. Benzoki: I enjoyed many years of playing in my friend Paul Tchounga’s band ‘Sugu Mugu’. During that time I received an education in African rhythms. One such rhythm in 12/8 has the kick drum playing on the four down beats (in triplet-eighth-notes it would be beats 1-4-7-10) while the cross-stick is playing on beats 1-5-9. Also the ride cymbal is hitting on 2-3-6-7-10-11. This is a complicated way of saying ‘3 over 4’. This tune was written around this beat, Paul called it a Bikutsi. I always think of this tune as an all-night party with friends. Marcel Adjibi played percussion and sort of sang/chanted in French. Andy Abad added great counterpoint with his guitar-parts.
4. Angel: I have loved the group ‘Weather Report’ since I first heard ‘Heavy Weather’ in 7th grade (Wayne Shorter is my hero!). In many ways they have shaped my compositional style over the years. On this tune I ‘borrowed’ the sound from many of Joe Zawinul’s ballads, namely the major-to-sus sound. Also the use of percussion and even Nick Manson’s Mini-moog solo (remember those?). In the intro, Brad Rabuchin used a very beautiful technique involving harmonics that reminded me of a harp. I used real woodwinds to do background-parts behind the synth-solo. Clarinets and Alto flute and flute (a section sound I first heard on old Tom Scott records from the 70’s) are arranged using the melody from ‘Shooting Star’, another way I tried to connect the two CD’s. I thought it might be interesting to introduce the drums at the very end of the tune, so at the Coda, Randy Drake comes thundering in at the climax. I used three flutes as a section and three clarinets as another section and had them panning around in the mix, while the flutes move back and forth from one voicing to another, the clarinets do the same in reverse order, creating a nice balance between stasis and change.
5. Aeolian Abduction: In grade school, before I was bitten by the music bug, long before the X-files aired, I really wanted to someday become a paranormal researcher (sounds kinda funny now). Ufology and ghosts and just about anything that was a mystery, I found fascinating. This is my nod to that world. With only 7 notes in the melody it is also probably the shortest tune I’ve ever written. I used the A-aeolian mode and broke it up into fourths, so the melody is just A-D-G-C-F-B-E shooting up towards the heavens. The rest is all group improvisations in A-aeolian. Thanks Michael Lord (my mixing engineer at the time) for the groovy UFO sound at the end. This features Tim McIntyre’s ferocious free drumming.
6. Pascal’s Triangle: First some preliminary algebra. Say you had to square the number 21 (21×21). You could multiply it out step-by-step and get the answer 441. Another way is to use ‘binomials’, remember (a+b) squared? Use the fact that (a+b)x(a+b) multiplied out symbolically always equals (axa)+(axb)+(bxa)+(bxb). We’ve taken a multiplication problem and turned it into an addition problem (possibly easier to solve). Back to (21×21), if we break up the number 21, letting ‘a’ equal 20 and ‘b’ equal 1, we get (20+1)x(20+1) instead. Now by our equivalent formula it would be (20×20)+(20×1)+(1×20)+(1×1), or 400+20+20+1, which also equals 441. In this simple case of squaring there is 1 instance of ‘a’ squared, 2 instances of ‘axb’ (since it doesn’t matter what order you multiply, ‘axb’ and ‘bxa’ are equivalent), and finally 1 instance of ‘b’ squared, these numbers in front of the variables ‘a & b’ are called coefficients. This process can be continued to any power, squaring (power of 2), cubing (power of 3), 4th-power, 5th-power, etc. Each time depending on the power, you get specific coefficients. For squaring it’s (1-2-1), for cubing (1-3-3-1), for fourth-powers (1-4-6-4-1), for fifth-powers (1-5-10-10-5-1), and so forth. Pascal’s Triangle facilitates an alternate way to figure out what the coefficients of a given power are, from the tedious process of multiplying it out long-hand. It looks like a triangle of numbers, starting on top with (1), then (1-1) below that, (1-2-1) below that, (1-3-3-1) below that. Continuing with the rule that each number is formed by adding the two numbers on either side above it. Each line always begins and ends with a ‘1’. These numbers and the binomial formula are intimately connected to permutations and combinations.
7. Character Assassins: A high energy 12/8 beat. I wanted this to be exciting, like an action-scene from a movie. Between the unrelenting bass-line and the alien-squabbling lead-synth sound I tried to create tension. The release happens at the breakdown, where a lighter version of the drum groove (kick in 4, hi-hat in 3) builds a crescendo with six stacked woodwinds plus soprano sax. Although it can be a tedious process, I like tracking three clarinets and three flutes, sometimes mixing in the alto flute and bass clarinet.
8. Deliver Me From My Mind: I heard a pastor once say this in church. A lot of lydian constant-structure in the tonality. The root movement is a little like a puzzle, by the time I was through I really wanted to be ‘delivered’ from thinking about it. Each time the melody is stated it varies just a little.
9. Babylon: A mix of middle-eastern sounds (harmonic-minor tonalities, Chris Bleth on the Duduk) and modern technology (Lennie Moore’s drum loops, Kenny Lasaine and Jimmy Mahlis playing on very electronically altered guitars. A groove with funk bass in various minor modes. Azil Aril (Chris Garcia) played tablas and various tamale-pots. This featured Dean Taba on all those bass-fills.
10. My Old Home: Remembering my childhood growing up in rural Washington State, I thought about swimming in the lakes and rivers, riding bikes all summer, and camping under the stars. Time seemed slower back in 70’s. I tried to find a novel way to change the key, so it happens in the midpoint of the bridge.
11. Whisper: I wanted to end the CD with something intimate, so Nick and I did an alto flute – electric piano duet. I really like tunes with a cyclical feeling to them. That’s why I construct so many tunes with different points that sound somewhat like the beginning of the form. In this case after the first Bmaj9 chord there is a sharp harmonic departure to Gmi9, the second chord. Then the rest of the tune slowly works its way back to Bmaj9. It reminds me of the M.C. Escher picture of the waterfall that slowly winds it’s way back ‘up’ to the top of the falls. Finally it seemed a nice bookend to fade-out so the music disappears to the right side (in contrast to the first tune which fades in from the left).