Completing a trilogy of homages to American composers, Rhapsodies features a new version of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” with electric guitar, Chinese hammered dulcimers and steel drums replacing the piano. Also featured are Charles Mingus’ “Self Portrait In Three Colors” and Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday,” showcasing David Murray on bass clarinet.
Dirctor's Notes: American Rhapsodies: Wellspring of the Fifth Stream
Anthony Brown: conductor, drumset, percussion, waterphone; Will Bernard: electric guitar; Danny Bittker: bass clarinet, steel drums; Georgia Brown: Western, Asian, African percussion; Louis Fasman: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Henry Hung: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Mark Izu: bass, Chinese mouth organ (sheng); Masaru Koga: tenor saxophone, Japanese flute (shakuhachi) ; Melecio Magdaluyo: baritone and alto saxophones, flute, cajón (Cuban box drum); Dave Martell: trombone, tuba; Marcia Miget: flute, soprano and tenor saxophones; Jim Norton: clarinet, soprano sax (12), bassoon, contra alto clarinet, contra bassoon; Wayne Wallace: trombone; Hong Wang: Chinese mouth organ, flute (dizi), violin (erhu), reed trumpet (suona); Yangqin Zhao: Chinese hammered dulcimer (yangqin).
Special Guests: *David Murray: tenor saxophone (2), bass clarinet (12); Gangqin Zhao: Chinese harp zither (gu-zheng) (1), Chinese hammered dulcimer (4-6, 8, 9); Frank Martin: piano (12); Kash Killion: cello (1).
Anthony Brown’s Liner Notes to “Rhapsodies”
Prelude to The Legacy Codes (Anthony Brown) (1:18)
The musical score for The Legacy Codes was commissioned in 2003 by TheatreWorks for a fictionalized dramatization of the 1999 framing of Tawainese-American nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee by the FBI. Playwright Cherylene Lee asked if I could compose an introductory piece combining Chinese and American musical elements that would later be choreographed for three couples. I replied, “No problem.” Producer Amy Gonzales stated that Wen Ho Lee loved classical music, especially Bach, and could I include something “baroque-ish.” I thought I could thread the piece together with fugal counterpoint and said, “I’d love to.” Then she stated, “Oh, the piece should be about a minute long.” “Ooooo,” I said — they cut the wonderful saxophone cadenza by Marcia Miget for the show.
Bread & Bowie [For Lester]* (A. Brown, trad. arr. Brown) (6:21)
This tripartite composition was commissioned by Jazz In Flight for their Celebrating the Spirit of Lester Bowie program of the 12th Annual Eddie Moore Jazz Festival at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA. Percussionist Don Moye and Bob Stewart on tuba joined the Asian American Orchestra in an unforgettable night of joyful noise, song and drums, broadcast live on KPFA-FM, on August 13, 2001. Lester Bowie personified the fundamental characteristics of the collective motto, “Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future” — heart and soul, humor and intelligence. In his mercurial majesty, with his trumpet and in his research lab coat onstage with the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Brass Fantasy, he reigned as the heir to the legacy of the Trickster, the Eshu-Elegba-Eleggua figure of post-modern jazz. This recording features the indomitable David Murray’s signature tenor madness.
[Trombone solo: Wayne Wallace]
Self Portrait in Three Colors (Charles Mingus) (3:17)
The original 1959 recording by Charles Mingus served as the inspiration for this rendition: the composition is through-composed with no solo features. The melody is repeated three times, each repetition adds instruments and a new accompanying theme. This is dedicated to James Newton and Red Callendar, who provided me the direct link back to the Baron and the legacy of Central Avenue, Los Angeles, wellspring of 1950’s jazz innovators including, Dexter Gordon, Teddy Edwards, Sonny Criss, Chico Hamilton, Hampton Hawes, Buddy Collette, Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Billy Higgins, Howard McGee, Red Mitchell, Horace Tapscott, and many others.
Rhapsody In Blue/American Rhapsodies (Gershwin-Brown) (19:02)
In his “American Rhapsody,” George Gershwin intended to mirror the tenor of his times and a progressive attitude toward race relations in a musical vision blending the styles he knew best: European and African American. Gershwin wrote Rhapsody In Blue, the final name for his new work, to be premiered by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra on Abraham Lincoln’s 115th birthday, February 12, 1924 in New York City. In 2005, Gershwin’s classic portrait is recast in American Rhapsodies as a 21st century mural of our world’s demographic mosaic, particularly as reflected in the San Francisco Bay Area, “Golden Gateway to the East.”
[Clarinet: Jim Norton; guitar: Will Bernard; flute: Marcia Miget; Japanese flute (shakuhachi): Mas Koga; trumpet: Henry Hung]
— Read the Director’s Notes about “American Rhapsodies”...
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Norworth, Tilzer, arr. Mark Izu) (0:42)
The all-American song is performed by Mark Izu on the Chinese mouth organ, the sheng, the 2000 year old great, great, great... grandparent of the harmonica.
Tang (Duke Ellington) (8:05)
Duke Ellington’s extended suite, Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, was inspired by Marshall McLuhan’s claim in his seminal book, The Medium is the Massage, that “the whole world is going oriental.” During China’s 8th century Tang Dynasty, the Silk Road flourished, linking East and West as the “ancient information super highway.”
[Tenor sax solo: Mas Koga; baritone sax: Mel Magdaluyo]
Come Sunday* (Duke Ellington) (5:25)
Of the over two thousand compositions written by Duke Ellington, Come Sunday is my favorite. The 1958 recording of Mahalia Jackson performing this spiritual served as the model. Hong Wang’s plaintive 2-string Chinese violin (erhu), coupled with David Murray’s inspirited bass clarinet performance creates a duet in contrast like no other. The horn backgrounds, voiced in simulation of a choir, are adapted from Billy Strayhorn’s transcendent arrangement for the Ellington Orchestra.
Anthem/Baile de la Orisha (A. Brown) (9:17)
Anthem is the finale of M™, Shimasen! (Never Again!), an extended work commissioned in 1995 by the Asian Heritage Council to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The first bars of the melody were inspired by the folk theme in the fourth movement of the Concerto For Orchestra by Béla Bartók. The contrasting middle section, Baile de la Orisha, is from another extended composition, Incantation Suite, originally commissioned by the San Francisco Chamber Music Society in 1983.
[Flute solo: Mel Magdaluyo; soprano sax: Jim Norton]
Rhymes (For Children) (A. Brown) (1:09)
This arrangement was recorded to serve as the theme music for Pacific Time, a weekly newsmagazine produced by KQED Public Radio and heard coast to coast on Public Radio International. Rhymes is originally from an extended work, E.O. 9066, about the Japanese American internment experience of WWII, commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1996, in collaboration with San Jose Taiko Group.