Concerto for Chamber Jazz and Improvised Trumpet

 Issie Barratt, 2006; re-orchestrated for wind ensemble, 2008

Concerto for Chamber Jazz and Improvised Trumpet (dedicated to Ursula Jones in memory of her husband Philip) was commissioned by the Treffpunkt Ensemble and premiered at St Mary’s Church in Ealing on 13th October 2006, featuring Steve Waterman on improvised trumpet. Originally scored for solo improvised trumpet, rhythm section, percussion and chamber orchestra (comprising string section and seven wind: flute doubling piccolo, clarinet doubling bass clarinet, oboe doubling cor anglais, bassoon, French horn, trombone and tuba), this evening’s version has been re-orchestrated to suit the regular wind orchestra’s line up as found in the North Cheshire Wind Orchestra.

Written in three movements, the piece intends to encourage the improviser to explore and interact with the written ensemble within three different musical contexts, drawing on the thematic ideas across all three movements (hence the term “concerto”), but using them to generate three different “vibes” (akin to the thinking of romantic composers such as Beethoven!)

The first movement relies on orthodox tonal harmonies within an optimistic African six groove and expects the soloist to “blow over the changes” and work in conjunction with the lines and groove of the orchestration to collectively generate a sense of wellbeing and joy. The harmony of the second movement however, while still using the brighter Lydian style chord of the first movement, generates a colder more melancholic sound that encourages the trumpet player to “cry out from the wilderness” and share a more wistful and angst ridden mood. The last movement unleashes the playful mood of the soloist, who breaks out of the previous relationship with the ensemble. The soloist draws the ensemble to order, and the ensemble responds to the soloist’s ideas and lead rather than the soloist generating ideas in response to the intricately orchestrated movements of the ensemble. Consequently the third movement opens with a number of short fragments that generate a sense of the orchestra trying to start ideas that the trumpet player repeatedly hi-jacks and concludes with solo ideas of their own (rather like someone that butts into a conversation and finishes off other people’s sentences rather than integrating their stream of conversation with that of the others). Humour and prankishness prevail though!

Eventually though, as the to-ing and fro-ing progresses through the cues, the orchestrated passages become more predominant, the conflict between soloist and ensemble is resolved with slightly more frisky reprise of the first movement’s African ideas. This leads to a conclusion akin to that of the classical concerto and symphony, but modified to include a brighter slightly more angular countermelody from the wind. Coming home may appear to generate a sense of the same, but things are always going to take on a slightly different appearance due to the impact of the experiences that came between.

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