Compositions and Arrangements
Bassoon, Cello, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Harp, Horn, Oboe, Harpsichord, Percussion-Keyboard, Multi-Percussion, Piano Solo, Two Pianos, Piano (Chamber), Prepared Piano, Electroacoustic, Electronic Instruments, Saxophone (All), Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax, String Bass (Double Bass), Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba, Viola, Violin, Voice
Show: All Compositions
Tenor Attitudes, (Standard and Expanded Concert Versions), 2014 (Ruggiero Publishing Company)
Instrumentation: T Sax, Pn
Duration: ca. 20 to 90 min.
TENOR ATTITUDES - for Tenor Saxophone and Piano (Standard and Expanded Concert Versions)
The Modular Form of this Work:
TENOR ATTITUDES consists of one fully notated composition in three movements for tenor saxophone and piano, as well as five shorter original jazz compositions (i.e., "head charts" like those found in such publications as The New Real Book) that may be performed by a tenor saxophonist with one or more other musicians who are skilled in the art of jazz improvisation. The five short jazz pieces are all related melodically or harmonically (although rather remotely, in some cases) and they are the basis of the longer three-movement composition. A jazz quintet (for example, trumpet, tenor sax, piano, bass, and drums) is one of many small traditional jazz "combos" that could be used to perform the five jazz "head charts" effectively, but no instrumentation is implied for these charts other than the use of tenor saxophone and piano (or tenor sax and some other keyboard instrument, guitar, etc.).
The "main module" (i.e., TENOR ATTITUDES, standard concert version or, simply, TENOR ATTITUDES) may be performed by itself, or it may be followed by a musical response: a mostly improvised performance of any one of the five jazz pieces.
An "expanded concert" performance of TENOR ATTITUDES would consist of a performance of the "main module" followed by an intermission. In the second half of the program, a jazz group would perform all five of the shorter TENOR ATTITUDES pieces.
Another option would be for a jazz group to play one or more of the shorter jazz "head charts" but not the main TENOR ATTITUDES module.
Movement and Section Titles of TENOR ATTITUDES (standard concert version):
1a. Disciple of Prez and Bird Stan Getz ("The Sound")
1b. Disciple of Bird, the Two Sonny's, and Ornette Joe Henderson
2a. Michael Brecker's Time
2b. Coltrane's Vision
3. Master Storytellers
3a. Blues 'n' Bop Gene Ammons ("Jug")
3b. Wit and Wisdom Dexter Gordon Jumps In
3c. Piano Interlude Get Set for Sonny
3d. Walter "Sonny" Rollins The Young Lion's Tale
3e. Reflections on Rollins with Monk
3f. The Elder Rollins Takes Charge
3g. Rollins Alone (Cadenza)
Titles of the Five Jazz Pieces (the TENOR ATTITUDES "head charts"):
1. It Simply Gets Beautiful
2. Michael's Time
3. Coltrane's Vision
4. Yoddsie Groove
5. The Elder Speaks
TENOR ATTITUDES (standard concert version): ca. 20 min.
TENOR ATTITUDES (expanded concert version): ca. 60-90 min.
Whether you agree with Wynton Marsalis and others who have claimed that "jazz is America's classical music" or with dissenters like Jon Pareles (see New York Times, February 28, 1999) who are "skeptical" of such formulations and think jazz deserves "respect on its own very different terms," either way, you probably know or at least suspect that the language of improvised jazz, with its numerous dialects and offshoots, is richly varied with elements that are bold and forceful and others that are incredibly subtle and complex, many of which are not generally found in traditional European classical music or 21st-century avant-garde "art music" but have great potential for myriad kinds of musical expression.
Certainly not all classically trained musicians are familiar with or particularly interested in jazz, but many do have enough interest to want to perform some compositions that, to put it simply, "sound jazzy." And why not? Why should the emotionally and intellectually powerful jazz musical language be spoken exclusively by jazz specialists?
As composer who has listened to, studied, and performed jazz for much of my life, I've spent decades attempting to make some of the unique elements that are so closely associated with improvised jazz available for classically trained performers (who typically do not have the skills of even a journeyman jazz improviser) to explore in the practice room and make use of in the concert hall. I want to add some new jazz colors to the sound palettes that classically trained performers and composer may use with some degree of confidence and authenticity.
As a composer, I've been fascinated by both the opportunities and challenges of incorporating into my works jazz elements that are hard to pin down with traditional notation, and I feel that I have been successful in bringing some of these elements, particularly many subtle rhythms of improvised jazz, into my fully notated works in meaningful ways. While some of the most rhythmically complex passages in my music don't swing the way much of the jazz that I greatly admire does, these jazz-based rhythms contribute something unique to my compositions that many performers and listeners seem to find interesting and rewarding (even when they're rather challenging for both!).
In TENOR ATTITUDES I've tried to create an original composition that is inspired by and partly based on the improvisational "dialects" of seven jazz master improvisers who also were virtuoso tenor saxophonists: Gene Ammons, Michael Brecker, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, and Sonny Rollins. This wonderful music was chosen as, in a general sense, source material for this composition not only because all of these musicians made important contributions to the development of jazz but also because they had (or have, in the case of Sonny Rollins) distinctly unique sounds, musical styles, and artistic approaches or attitudes that set them apart from other players and enabled them to expand, refine, and make more powerful the language of jazz. Please note, though, that other than a few short borrowings and two more extended quotes from recorded improvised solos, the 11 sections (organized in three movements) consist of music composed not so much in the styles of these artists, but in response to their styles. I respect the contributions of these jazz masters to the development of jazz; more importantly, even after decades of listening, I still find it very rewarding, moving, inspiring, invigorating, and sometimes even startling to listen to their recordings. And the best of this music, although recorded as much as 75 years ago still sounds fresh, up-to-date, hip, sophisticated, and very "relevant" to me. Consequently, I feel justified writing music that in a sense belongs both to the seven jazz masters and to me and is both of and for their time and mine.
Why focus on the tenor saxophone? "Why not?" could be a good enough response to the question, but the saxophone is the instrument that comes closest to what I feel is potentially the most refined and expressive of all instruments, the human voice. Like the human voice, the saxophone, especially the tenor sax in jazz, seems to be infinitely variable, with virtually unlimited modes and manners of expressionat least for me, it is the ultimate composer's palette.
Charles Ruggiero Aug. 15, 2013
Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Large Chamber Ensemble, Boppish Blue Tinged, 2010 (Ruggiero Publishing Company)
Instrumentation: One player per part: Fl, Ob, Bb Cl, T Sax (doubling Sop Sax), Bsn, Hrn, C Tpt, Trb, Tuba, Perc, Pn (doubling Cel), Harp, A Sax, Vln 1, Vln 2, Vla, Vlc, DB, Cond
Duration: ca. 19-20 min.
for Alto Saxophone and Large Chamber Ensemble - Boppish Blue Tinged (2009)
Dedicated to Joseph Lulloff and Raphael Jimenez
Boppish Blue Tinged
The title of this concerto, Boppish Blue Tinged, is meant to be suggestive rather than unambiguously descriptive. Tinged refers, in part, to trace influences from jazz and other twentieth-century American musical genres that may be heard throughout the concerto, but especially in the first movement. One of my goals for the chaconne-like opening movement is to create variable textures and composite rhythms that suggest some of those created by the inspired improvised interplay of the great jazz combos (like the piano-bass-drum trios lead by Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, etc., and the quartets and quintets of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Gary Burton, and so many others.), but its not my intention for much of this composition to sound like traditional jazz or any other familiar style of music.
Although its not based on a blues form or harmonic progression, I hope the second movement, Blue, conveys the kinds of emotional meanings that often are such an important part of blues performances. If the attitude of the first movement morphs from something like confident energy to menacing force, then the blue mood of the second movement might be thought of as sorrowful or soulful or, perhaps more accurately, seeking solace and enlightenmentbut such linguistic translations of musical phenomena, I feel, always must be taken with a grain of salt.
Boppish, the last movement, like much of the music of the tragically self-destructive Charlie Parker and other troubled bebop masters, is intended to be infectiously animated and life affirming. Although little melodic or rhythmic material is shared among the different movements of Boppish Blue Tinged, and each movement is more-or-less complete in itself, the third movement is, nevertheless, intimately connected with the music and emotions of the previous two movements of the concerto. All three movements, in fact, are based on the same fundamental musical foundations and form a three-movement emotional arch.
To suggest some of the emotional meanings (a vague choice of words, to be sure) of this concerto, I have fashioned several questions for each movement.
Tinged: Tinged with what? Why does desire often lead to pain? Why do vitality and power sometimes overwhelm our better selves? Is the purpose of certain truth too often intolerance?
Blue: When and why do weeping for joy and weeping to wash away our pain meet?
Boppish: Why boppish? Why not the march or the hip-hop beat? Where (to what spiritual dimension or level of enlightenment) does the Parker train lead us? (March 3, 2010)
Dig: JSB-1, for saxophone quartet (sop., alt., ten., bar.), 2003
Instrumentation: Sax Quartet (SATBari)
Duration: ca. 7:00 min.
Dig: JSB-1, A Transmogrification of the 4th Movement
of J. S. Bach's Sonata in G Minor for Violin Solo - for Saxophone Quartet (2003)
Commissioned by the
David Lewis, Baritone Saxophone
Joe Lulloff, Soprano Saxophone
Anjan Shah, Alto Saxophone
David Stambler, Tenor Saxophone
Dig: JSB-1 for
saxophone quartet, is about confluence and transmogrification (defined
in one dictionary as: a changing "into a different shape or form, especially
one that is fantastic or bizarre"). Dig plausibly could be called
an arrangement of the last movement of Bach's solo violin sonata in G minor.
However, instead of arrangement or transcription,
I use the word transmogrification to categorize this work, because
in the second half of Dig the degree to which I've
changed Bach's music, and the aesthetic criteria
I have employed in making those changes, transform the work, in my view. What
starts as an arrangement ends as a composition. Consequently,
this work explores relationships between tradition and innovation, translation
and creation, presentation and origination.
Capitol Quartet's ability to play different styles
of music extremely well, their capacity for making rapid yet coherent stylistic
transformations during their performances, and their dedication to bringing
a wide variety of rich and challenging music to their audiences, is inspiring.
Shortly after the quartet's delightful performance
at Michigan State University in February of 2003, Anjan Shaw, the Capitol Quartet's
alto saxophonist, invited me to write a piece for the group's
upcoming CD. After attending their MSU performance and discussing the commission
with Anjan, it became clear to me that a serious goal of the Capitol Quartet
is to enrich the repertoire of the saxophone quartet in innovative ways. Furthermore,
they are committed to fashioning recital programs and recording projects that
will infuse the performance of music from the baroque and classical periods
of European art music with a vitality that is, in part, borrowed from jazz.
In the Capitol Quartet's performances and recordings
one finds an appealing convergence of classical music, popular American music,
and jazz, a convergence that resonates with me.
the fall of 2002, before hearing the Capitol Quartet's
MSU performance and before Anjan raised the possibility of me writing something
for the quartet, I had thought about writing a saxophone quartet based on the
last movement of Bach's Sonata in G Minor for Violin
Solo, a piece that I had played on marimba when I was Vic Firth's
student at the New England Conservatory in the 1960s. I had enjoyed playing
the piece, and neither I nor my teacher had any qualms about playing it on marimba-after
all, Bach himself had arranged a number of his works, including some for solo
violin, for performance on other instruments!
November or December morning, while listening to the local PBS FM radio station,
I heard a recording of the Bach G-minor sonata and decided that I would enjoy
turning it into a piece for saxophone quartet. I can't
explain exactly why, but as I was listening to the broadcast, the piece seemed
to beg to be "translated"
into a saxophone quartet piece. However, being busy with other projects, I didn't
begin writing the piece until after learning from Anjan that the Capitol Quartet
was interested in doing a CD focusing on classical music, particularly the music
of J. S. Bach, and that they wanted me to write something for the group. What
a nice confluence of interests and opportunities!
first part of the title of this composition, Dig, is a play on words.
Everything in this piece is based, more or less, on Bach's
violin sonata movement. Parts of the composition are little more than arrangements
of chunks of Bach's solo violin music for saxophone
quartet; however, in much of the quartet, Bach's
melodic lines, rhythms, and implied harmonies are rearranged, deranged, displaced,
elaborated upon, etc. I've transformed Bach's
music in ways, some of which I hope are pleasantly unexpected, that reflect
my interests in and experiences with jazz and twentieth-century European and
kind of "borrowing"
and metamorphosing has been done by many composers (Bach himself, Ives, Stravinsky,
Berio, and many others), but some distinguished musicians have frowned upon
the practice. Pierre Boulez, for example, in his essay "Bach's
Moment," has characterized composers who have
borrowed material from other composers as "grave
robbers." I prefer to think of such borrowings
as musical archaeology; hence my title Dig (as in archaeological dig).
But since in this piece I'm attempting to transform
Bach's violin piece, using, in part, jazz harmonies,
instrumental techniques, and rhythmic concepts, the title also is intended to
suggest that I "dig"
(i.e., admire, like, respect, etc., in jazz parlance) Bach's
music and would like, through the Capitol Quartet, to bring it to the attention
of many performers and listeners who otherwise might not encounter it.
JSB-1 is dedicated to the memory of Theodore O. Johnson, who was my friend
and colleague at Michigan State University for more than 30 years and who wrote
two books on the music of J. S. Bach. (November 2003)
SizzleSax II, for tenor saxophone and percussion, 2001
Excerpt - Ruggiero's SIZZLESAX II From - Faculty Recital
Joseph Lulloff, tenor saxophone, Jon Weber, percussion
(Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication is not permitted.)
Instrumentation: T Sax, Perc
Duration: ca. 14:45 min.
II - for Tenor Saxophone and Percussion (2001)
original version of this composition, was given its premiere by Joseph Lulloff
at the 12th World Saxophone Congress in Montreal on July 8, 2000, at the University
of Quebec's Salle Pierre-Mercure. In the original SizzleSax, the tenor
saxophonist was called upon to play five cymbals by hand and at times to alternate
rapidly between playing the saxophone and the cymbals-both of which requirements,
especially the former, proved to be problematic.
While Lulloff's brilliant
performance of SizzleSax was received with some enthusiasm at the Congress,
several of the saxophonists who heard (and saw) the premiere commented that
they wouldn't even consider trying to learn the piece because of the possible
stress and even serious injury to their hands that playing the cymbals might
cause. Their concerns, unfortunately, were justified.
After playing SizzleSax
at the Brevard Music Center later in the summer of 2000, Joseph Lulloff (who
is both a Michigan State University colleague and close friend of mine) told
me that as much as he had enjoyed playing the cymbals in his two performances
of SizzleSax, the toll that these performances had taken on his hands
was too great for him to continue playing the composition. Joe decided to cancel
the Michigan premiere of SizzleSax, and I regretfully concurred. I
certainly didn't want Joe's hands to be damaged playing my music. But having
invested too much time and creative energy in SizzleSax to let it die
such a quick death, I was determined to come up with a benign (at least non-injurious!)
transformation of the composition that retained and further developed much of
its original musical content-even if some of SizzleSax's theatrics
had to be sacrificed.
In July and August of
2001 SizzleSax II, the phoenix of SizzleSax, was reborn, still
a work inspired by Joseph Lulloff, but now a duo for tenor saxophone and percussion.
The original cymbals of SizzleSax have been augmented in SizzleSax
II with other metallic instruments (triangles, sizzle-gong, and tam-tam)
and various "skins" percussion instruments (bongos, tom-tom, congas,
and bass drum). It is hoped that this new version may be performed without injury
to either player. (August 12, 2001)
SizzleSax, for tenor saxophone and five cymbals played by the saxophonist, 2000
- for Tenor Saxophone and Five Cymbals (2000)
During my long musical association
with Joseph Lulloff, I've been fascinated with and inspired by many aspects
of his performer's talents, his musical personality, and his on-stage mannerisms.
One of Joe's signatures as a saxophone soloist is his proclivity to move around
while playing. Nearly at the very inception of this compositional project, I
decided to write SizzleSax for tenor saxophone and cymbals, with the
cymbals to be played by the saxophonist. The image of Joe playing the tenor
saxophone, surrounded by, tapping, dodging, and sometimes colliding with cymbals
of various sizes and timbres (some of which would be "sizzle" cymbals)
was one of the first generating ideas of the composition.
Having a wind player play percussion
instruments certainly is not a new idea, but as I began to think about writing
this piece, I was excited by the possibilities of mixing the sounds of the tenor
saxophone with those of cymbals. Particularly the diverse articulations, volumes,
and washes of sound of a set of cymbals, combined with the many exotic timbral,
articulative, and dynamic shadings of saxophone multiphonics, seemed to have
much potential for the creation of quite distinctive (and even new) sax-cymbal
textures, colors, rhythms, and gestures. It's my hope that the attentive listener
will judge I've succeeded in realizing that potential.
SizzleSax is written in memory
of John Coltrane, who, during his short but brilliant career, played many a
sizzling solo. (March 2000; rev. June 2000)
Three Blues for Saxophone Quartet, (sop., alt., ten., bar.), 1981 (Dorn Publications, Inc.)
Excerpt - Ruggiero's THREE BLUES FOR SAXOPHONE QUARTET, Mvt. 2, 'Delicately...'From - AMERICAN'S MILLENNIUM TRIBUTE TO ADOLPHE SAX, Vol. V
AUR CD 3111
The Great Lakes Saxophone Quartet: James Forger, Donell Snyder, Joseph Lulloff, Eric Lau
(Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication is not permitted.)
Instrumentation: S Sax, A Sax, T Sax, Bari Sax
Duration: ca. 12:20 min.
Blues for Saxophone Quartet (1981)
Three Blues for Saxophone Quartet
was composed in 1981 for James Forger and the Michigan State University Saxophone
Quartet. Stylistic and formal elements from traditional jazz are pervasive in
this work, but Three Blues is virtually devoid of improvisation except
that the performers are expected, in much of the work, to play the given notes,
rhythms, and dynamics in a style that sounds improvisational. A fine performance
of Three Blues will capture the spirit of good jazz improvisation.
The structure of Three Blues
is an arch form in three movements. The central movement is the longest and
most complex of the three. After a brief introduction, the second movement begins
with a "neo-bop" section featuring the alto and tenor saxophones.
After the first statement of a short ritornello that punctuates the second movement,
an extended contrapuntal passage leads to the apex of the arch for the entire
composition, after which a variant of the "neo-bop" section ends the
Both of the framing movements are
shorter and lighter in style than the second. The first movement, marked "Charliechaplinesque,"
evokes the enthusiastic and lighthearted mood of some '20s and '30s jazz (although
it uses the harmonic and rhythmic style of more modern jazz). Movement I is
based on a repeated harmonic progression that is systematically shortened and
then restored to its original length as the movement evolves. This progression
is derived in part from the first two measures of the third movement (incidentally,
these measures of the third movement contain the first ideas to be composed
for the entire composition).
The last movement ("relaxed
but not sloppy"!) caricatures, in a friendly way, some blues idioms that
jazz enthusiasts will recognize easily. Two functions of this movement are to
provide an architectonic balance to the first movement, and to develop some
of the rhythmic ideas of the previous two movements. In this last movement,
although the prevailing meter is 4/4, beats frequently get displaced, lengthened,
or shortened by unexpected durations creating, it is hoped, a controlled elasticity
of meter and tempo. The wellsprings of these rhythmic ideas are jazz and, to
a lesser extent, the music of Igor Stravinsky. (1981; rev. in 2000)
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