I. Wise Guys - score preview
II. Ivory Tower Tango - score preview
III. Cold Sweat Blues - score preview
Double Concerto for clarinet, electric guitar and symphonic band.
The original conception for Luckie Street Grooves was a dance suite for wind ensemble intended for performance by the Georgia State University Symphonic Winds. As I began work on the piece, I quickly discovered that archaic dance types were of no interest to me. Therefore, I chose to set three relatively contemporary dance styles. Having made this decision, it made sense to include, in the instrumentation, an electric guitar. Fortunately for me, my colleague Robert Ambrose, Director of the GSU Symphonic Winds is a very skilled electric guitarist. I soon transformed the guitar part into a solo and, for good measure, added an additional solo clarinet part, written for my colleague, Leslie Nicholas.
The three popular dance types I chose for this suite are swing music, a tango and “old school” funk. In each of these movements, very little effort has been made to make the essential nature of the dance rhythms abstract. Rather, I have sought to overlay the unadulterated rhythms of each type over more non-traditional melodic and harmonic notions. A clear example of this is found in the first movement, “Wiseguys” which is clearly in the “straight ahead” swing idiom. While rhythms and style are clearly presented, the harmonic structure is freely chromatic both on melodic and harmonic levels. The second movement, “Ivory Tower Tango” describes the plight of the creative artist in higher education. The Academy is represented by a somewhat over-stated and quirkily romantic tango that borders often upon self-importance. When the music seems to grow too self indulgent, tension is relieved by glissandi first stated in a slide whistle and later including the trombones and string bass. This musical gesture “pops the bubble” and brings the tango back down to earth. The clarinet frames the movement with cadenzas in duo with the castanet at the beginning and end. The electric guitar is heard only once at the climax of the movement when the tango is revealed most clearly. The relative lack of activity by the soloists in this movement represents the difficulty a creative artist has in finding time to pursue purely artistic endeavors in the face of obligations within the teaching environment. The final movement, “Cold Sweat Blues” is a very affectionate homage to the music of James Brown whose work I have long admired, chiefly for its driving rhythms and tight structure. The entire composition takes it name, in part, for the dance rhythms presented (“Grooves”) as well as the physical location of the GSU School of Music on Luckie Street in downtown Atlanta.
Luckie Street Grooves is dedicated, with much appreciation and admiration, to my wonderful colleagues, Robert Ambrose and Leslie Nicholas. I am extremely grateful for their willingness to so generously give of their time and talents.