Inspiration and Composition:
Go way, way, WAY back… it must have been 2003 or 2004 when “Dreamland” got started. It was a whole new century. In 2003 I attended the Banff Jazz Workshop, which totally changed my relationship with music. One thing was a Dave Douglas composition workshop ideas made me think hard about varying degrees of tonal music. My thought, what if I keep the funky vamp as an anchor and fly all these twelve tone concepts on top?
The anchor, this A7 groove, was the starting point. For a few years New Orleans drummers were in my head (check out the book “New Orleans Jazz and Second Line Drumming”) along with a few Scofield records. This was the kind of groove I am always fooling with, although over time they grew into less predictable creatures. The A section is in two parts: the first is a triplet dance around “blues shit”, getting fancy points with some added chromatics on either side of target notes. The second section breaks into harmony and works kind of like an answer. The harmony line moves into nice 6ths thru some chromatic movement.
The B section is a totally different critter, although over the same A7 backbone. For the first phrase I heard some sort of angular line, not sure what, so I made the rhythms first. Then I generated a twelve tone row (or at least what seemed like one to me) and plugged the notes into the rhythm. The second phrase I heard as four chord stabs… math again: I took the 12 tone sequence three notes at a time as chords on the stabs. With some adjustment it worked great… hip angular stuff out of intellectualization. This was all part of a concept Dave Douglas laid on me. It’s usually never this successful!
The tag ending became the last two chords, and combined with the vamp line was an awesome vehicle for the drummer to work over.
The arrangement and title of “Dreamland” originates from its use in my score for Chaplin’s “The Kid”. It worked great with the scene… first half heaven, second half “sin crept in”. Nothing says sin like a twelve tone row. Later on I also began to associate the song with a famous BBQ restaurant, which has it’s own flavor of greasy sin.
What a great vehicle to showcase these players! I was excited to write more on this one. I kept everyone on the first phrase of A, and then I exploded the second phrase of A into three voices that capitalized on the chromatic motion in the harmony line. After my solo, I use the twelve tone line as comping for Greg’s sick, sick, sick solo. Once B happens, I continued the same concept: everyone on the first phrase and then break into harmony for the second part. For the tag ending, of course… turn loose the drummer! Marlon takes the tag, folds it inside out and drops it on it’s head.