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The Purdue Jazz Band
Jigsaw is a composition from my undergraduate years at the University of Miami. It struck me that learning this piece resembles strategizing on how to construct a jigsaw puzzle -- Metrically, a majority of the work has 13 beat patterns (4+2+4+11/2+11/2), while another section is in 5, and yet another superimposes 4 attacks over 3 beats.
I resurrected this piece to be performed by a group of stellar jazz musicians for a concert in Brevard, NC. The ensemble included Purdue jazz ensemble director Mo Trout.
When Mo asked me to convert this musical brainteaser into a big band version for Purdue University, I thought he was crazy (Actually, this notion had crossed my mind before, but the request confirmed it...). If our seasoned sextet had struggled to negotiate the many twists and turns of Jigsaw, how could a full jazz ensemble of students possibly master it?
Mo then explained to me that Purdue had no music majors (Now I knew he had lost it). But I arranged the piece nonetheless, constructing it exactly as I wanted, even adding a host of new postmodern complexities, referencing everything from Middle Eastern chants to CNN news trailers. And despite, my fears, hearing the band perform it was, well, astounding. Just take a listen for yourself. These so-called “non-music majors” were hot, hip, and a pleasure to work with. They not only solved the puzzle, but made it their own. It is a composer’s dream to work with such an enthusiastic group of young musicians.
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