Composition and arranging techniques from Grand Union Orchestra composer/director Tony Haynes
Well, what a result – again! Liberation and Remembrance, Grand Union’s contribution to the London Jazz Festival, was one of our most successful shows yet at the Hackney Empire Theatre, and deeply moving for performers and audience alike.
The centre-piece of the first half was a sequence drawn from the Grand Union Orchestra’s most recent CD If Paradise, which describes starkly the horror of war and its aftermath. While clearly based on events since the beginning of this century in different parts of the world – New York, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel and Palestine… — it’s not specifically about any of them, but portrays the universal experience of those caught up in them.
The narrative structure is simple and episodic:
– a chorus lamenting the destruction of a city
– a reporter describing the plight of refugees and the dispossessed
– a woman praying for the safe return of her husband, a rebel soldier
– the soldier’s account of his ambush and capture (Chaeridike Aj)
– an instrumental development of these themes (Collateral Damage)
– a song of consolation and an epilogue from the reporter
Collateral Damage, the subject of my previous article, forms the climax of the sequence, featuring four contrasted jazz soloists (two trumpets, two alto saxophones). It is entirely instrumental, but the musical material it’s based on is drawn from the lyric passages that precede it. I would suggest first listening to Collateral Damage in conjunction with the analysis in Post 16, and then return here to see how it’s constructed!
The sequence opens with this chorus:
followed by the first of two narrations by a reporter from the war zone:
The music associated with the reporter (Ex 2) forms the basis for all the saxophone material in Collateral Damage, Sections I, III and V. It provides the key centre (basically B flat minor); the bass line, from which harmonies are also derived (Post 16 Exx 1, 2 & 7), forming the basis for the later improvisation sections; and the melodic contours on which the opening ballad melody is based. The actual melody played by the alto sax is réprised at the end of the whole sequence, with words added, but with the bass and chord changes stripped out (see Ex 5 below).
The opening chorus (Ex 1) similarly generates the tonal basis for the trumpet solos in Collateral Damage (basically E minor with a shift to C minor and then A minor half-way through), and even more importantly the brass and saxophone figures that back the soloists in Sections II (see Post 16 Exx 4 & 5), IV (Ex 6), VI (Ex 9) and VII (Ex 9). The chordal shifts follow the pattern of the opening chorus
but they also determine part of the harmonic structure of the song in Bengali that follows. First sung by Lucy Rahman alone, when it is repeated after the reporter’s second verse, the chorus is added with a second verse of its own (letter A):
At the end of this passage you can hear the dijeridu and tabla shift the tonality (C major over a C# bass – rag Gujri Todi!) which leads to Chaeridike Aj, the soldier’s story; I shall return to this in a later article. This is linked by a third chorus (“we saw the flickering pictures…”) to Collateral Damage itself (Post 16).
The whole sequence ends with a version of the sax ballad melody sung by Richard Scott against a sustained B flat minor chord:
If you return now to Post 16, you can see and hear how all this musical logic seamlessly unfolds!
The original version of If Paradise concludes at this point with The Perfumes of Paradise Blues, described in detail in Post 4 . The best way to listen to the sequence as a whole is to buy a copy of the CD If Paradise !