Composing Original Works For Jazz Orchestra

Composing new music for 17-piece jazz orchestras has been one of Earl’s primary artistic focuses for the past decade. His music has been performed by professional and university jazz ensembles across the United States and Canada, including such notables as Maynard Ferguson and the U.S.A.F. Airmen of Note. Earl has studied big band composition and arranging with Maria Schneider, Michael Abene, Jim McNeely and Michael Philip Mossman. In 2007, he was selected to participate in the B.M.I. Jazz Composers Workshop in New York City; an environment that encourages and inspires composers to experiment with form, harmony, and orchestration in search of new creative processes and directions. At the conclusion of the workshop, Earl was selected as a finalist for the 2007 Charlie Parker / B.M.I. Jazz Composition award.

Artistically, Earl’s intent and desire is to make a significant and lasting contribution to the large jazz ensemble repertoire. He aims to produce innovative, forward-thinking, passionate music that will endure. Earl has thoroughly studied the music of the leading contemporary big band composers; especially Thad Jones, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely and Bill Holman. Although his compositional voice is a natural extension and offshoot of their vocabularies, Earl aims to write music that is current and relevant today, rather than merely trying to recreate the sounds and rhythms of my predecessors.

In his recent work, Earl has sought to challenge genre boundaries by fusing jazz with other musical styles. His piece, “Measuring Up” incorporates the fast tempo broken beat drum style of the contemporary, underground, electronic dance music known as “drum and bass”. Conversely, Earl has drawn upon contemporary classical music by incorporating unconventional notation practices into passages of my music so as to create atypical sonic environments. These techniques are exemplified in the development section of his “Bad Dream” composition.

A recurrence within Earl’s music is the exploration of the varying relationship between the soloist (and groups of soloists) and the ensemble. He tries not to write in the following tried-and-true formulaic manner: introduction, melody presentation, solo section with eventual ensemble backgrounds, climactic “shout” chorus, melodic recapitulation, ending. In “Jana’s Song” for instance, Earl consciously wrote through the seams which link definable passages. In some cases, the ensemble continues to play well into a solo so as to guide the soloist’s improvisational approach and gradually relinquish his control as composer to the soloist. Thoughtfully interwoven contrapuntal lines play a significant role in this song, and most of Earl’s recent work.

So much of the existing repertoire for jazz ensemble is formulaic, and utterly predictable. Earl is very conscious of not creating yet another stock “Blues in Bb”. Careful thought and planning goes into each of his pieces, with close attention given to formal development and colorful orchestration. Although Earl loves and often incorporate the joyous rhythms of swing, no one could ever mistakenly assume that his music was taken from the repertoires of Count Basie, Benny Goodman or even Woody Herman. His vision is to create and present an original body of work for jazz orchestra which is devoid of the traditional and habitual clichés so prevalent in the published repertoire for this instrumentation. Earl aims for his work to serve as a continuance and logical extension from the lineage of jazz big band writing. He hopes to offer the jazz world something new, unique and compelling – beyond the conceptual boundaries of jazz – which in turn captures the imaginations of others.

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