Silver: Silvers Serenade
Franks score, to be heard on the Pete Cater Big Band CD UPSWING
is a study in simplicity. He has achieved stunning results with
the band on this tune with little apparent effort. This is partly due
to the melody itself: a rather sweet, plaintive call from the wild.
Frank makes it even more plaintive by using only trumpet and tenor at
first, with a two-beat feel from the rhythm.
The fact that the tenor is used here is worth studying. It is playing
the harmony right up on the top of its register, while the trumpet,
playing the melody, is in a more comfortable range. This would perhaps
be frowned upon by the less ambitious, but there is a solid reason behind
Franks choice of instrument. The tenor, on its high E and F, gets
the very plaintive sound this melody needs to set it off. Using an alto
sax, another trumpet, or, indeed, any other instrument in its more logical
range, would have missed the point entirely.
Part of the haunting loneliness of the melody comes from Silvers
choice of notes. Vertically the notes of the melody form a succession
of added ninths over minor seventh chords. Horizontally they move in
classic fashion between the two anchors of a tritone, the first four
bars from F# to C; the next four from B to F. The intervals covered
in each case, are: semitone, major third and whole tone. Stravinsky
would have been proud of him. (Example
2 the melody continues from bar 9 with the trombones and saxes bringing
the passage to a close in bar 16. Observe the background closely. You
will hear it again in this score, three times in all. Gerry Mulligan
once included an entire sequence in a composition called Swinghouse
that he had used earlier on in an arrangement of El Rancho Grande.
He would have probably gotten away with it, too, if both Kenton
recordings hadnt been issued almost simultaneously. When I asked
him about that he uttered these words of wisdom: If its
good, repeat it. If its very good, repeat it twice. And if its
very, very good, stick it in another score as well and hope no
shows how it appears later in the score, voiced for the brass. The second
chord in bar 2 demonstrates the use of close harmony in the trumpets,
with an open harmony of chords in fourths in the trombones. This spreads
the trombones out nicely. To double the trumpets exactly there, an octave
lower, would have created a more top-heavy sound. Note that, with one
exception, no instrument plays the tonic of any chord in this passage.
The exception is in the Eb maj7 chord, where the 3rd trumpet plays an
Eb to create the dissonance with the major seventh of the 4th trumpet.
The section of score shown in Example
4 is where things start to progress towards the big brass shout-up.
The melody begins again here with a vengeance, building up the tension.
Note the contrary motion of the trumpets and trombones in bar 7. In
bar 8, while the brass hold the chord, the saxophones do a little run
up the Eb minor 11th scale.
5 is a little background played behind the trumpet solo. Contrary
motion between saxes and trombones leads to the entry of the trumpets
in the final two bars. The chord in the last bar is a D7 with sharp
11th, both 9th and flattened 9th and not a trace of a 13th anywhere!
Note once more the absence of a tonic in the harmonies.
I've included Example
6 just to show you how neatly this score ends. Trumpet and tenor
play a G major 7th scale with a flattened 5th, ending on a low C#. There
are insertions from the brass here, not shown, but the main joy comes
from the last chord from the saxophones. It is a cluster on the G maj
7th. The notes one hears are, descending, C#, B, A, G, F#. Bet you wouldn't
dare write that in one of your own scores. Frank wrote it mezzo piano,
and it sounds absolutely superb.
- You can hear this score, and much more, on the Pete Cater CD UPSWING
discussed at length in the Reviews section. This is
another sensational recording from Pete's great band and another showcase
for Frank Griffith's superb scores.