I studied jazz guitar in Toronto in the late 1970's, and for a brief period I had aspirations of becoming a jazz guitarist. Someone suggested I take a theory course at the Royal Conservatory of Music, so I did, with no thought of continuing with classical music once the course was finished. However, life holds many surprises, one of which was that I ended up studying at the RCM for seven years, followed by an additional eight years at the University of Toronto leading to a doctorate in music composition (1992). I never studied jazz in any formal sense beyond the relatively brief period of my guitar lessons, and the only jazz I played was in private, for fun, accompanied by my trusty "Band-in-a-Box" software on the computer. In 2003, at the age of 46, I inexplicably decided to give my first-ever guitar recital (on Memorial University's Faculty Artists series), a portion of which was devoted to jazz standards, performed with a small group of current and former students (sax, drums, and bass) that I had assembled. I continue to jam with others on occasion, but not as often as I'd like.
Many composers in the classical music tradition have borrowed from the world of jazz, and vice-versa, so I wasn't exactly blazing a new trail when I decided to give it a try in 1990. In my mind, "Late-Night Music" was basically a jazz composition, as opposed to a classical piece that borrowed from the world of jazz. What makes it atypical from a jazz perspective is that it doesn't use standard chords notated on a lead sheet, and only the drum part is improvised. The other parts (trumpet, bass, piano) were fully notated, in part because I wanted specific chord voicings in the piano, but also because I'm not sure that many of the chords I used could have been represented by jazz chord symbols.
I have written five other overtly jazz-based pieces since then (listed above and described below), but varying degrees of jazz influences can be heard in many of my other compositions as well (also discussed below). I'm always curious to know what people think of any of my music, so if you have any thoughts you'd like to share, I'd be happy to hear from you.
Besides the above, I have composed a number of works that show varying degrees of jazz influences, such as:
Three Pieces for Violin and Piano (1997, ®2004). The main theme in the first piece has a subtle reference (at least for me) to a blues-based pitch collection, even though this is a 12-tone composition, and the theme returns towards the end accompanied by a walking bass-line in the piano, which makes the bluesy feel more obvious. The third of these pieces, however, more properly belongs in the "overt-jazz" category discussed above; it really goes to town with the walking-bass idea, maintaining it for almost the entire piece. My apologies to all for this.
The 4th variation to McGillicuddy's Rant (1980-2003; this particular variation was written around 1983) for solo guitar is titled "Bluesy," and the outer sections are indeed filled with bluesy chords and riffs. The middle section isn't particularly bluesy, though; for some reason, it has always reminded me of "The Allan Parsons Project" type stuff, even though I was never a particularly big fan of the theirs. It is my feeling that, generally speaking, one should avoid using the word "project" in the naming of a band, especially if following one's own name; it conveys a sense of contrivance that has no place in the devil-may-care, stick-it-to-the-man world or Rock and (or 'n) Roll. Preceding all this with the definite article only exacerbates the problem. Harumph. (Yes, this is tongue-in-cheek, and no, please do not worry that I am about to start an advice column. I might, but please do not worry about it.)
Duck Soup (1994), for bass trombone and piano, makes use of some jazz-like material, but it is less overt than in most of the other compositions mentioned.
Passage 3 for Orchestra (1992), which was one of the finalists in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Young Composers' Competition in 1993, also borrows from the jazz world in sections. For a while in the late 1980's and early 1990's it seemed that almost everything I was writing had a walking bass-line at some point, and when I realized this I was able to attend a 12-step, walking-bass recovery group that gave me the courage to put a stop to this insidious practice, at least for a few years. Walking bass-lines are fine and all, but this was out of control! Alas, several relapses have occurred since then, but I'm working on this, taking it a day at a time.
©Clark Winslow Ross