Sharp Nine (2020)
for condensed, adaptable instrumentation
duration: 3'30" (or longer, depending on solos)
Complete Set $75 (includes score - parts - link and password to performance video for directors and students - improvisation guide - additional background riffs sheet - piano/drum tracks (with and without click track) - piano/drum/tuba tracks (with and without click tracks))
The only known photograph of Charles "Buddy" Bolden (1877-1931), a Black American cornetist who was quintessential in the development of New Orleans-style ragtime, which later developed into jazz. He is standing next to the string bass.
Courtesy of the William Ransom Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University.
Sharp Nine is a grooving, stomping 12-bar blues in Bb, written in a straight-eighths New Orleans ragtime-style march, which pays homage to jazz cornetist and early jazz pioneer Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden. It is a first and significant step in my writing towards bridging the gap between the worlds of traditional wind ensemble and improvisation in a jazz context. Sharp Nine serves a vehicle to introduce young musicians to the rich sounds of natural and altered tensions on dominant chords, and to give them the opportunity to take choruses of improvisation using the blues scale. I’ve included a blues improvisation beginner’s guide so that anyone and everyone can give it a shot!
This piece is written for five parts to accommodate various instrumentations and can be played with as few as six players and at a relatively wide range of tempi. Sharp Nine also provides opportunities for the musicians to compose their own blues-based riffs to support whoever is soloing in the moment. Solos can be full choruses (a chorus is 12 measures), multiple choruses, “trade 4s” (where two or more musicians trade 4 bars of soloing), or concurrent (where soloists solo at the same time). [NOTE: the progression of the aforementioned soloing density is a great way to build momentum through the solo section and to build confidence in the musicians, as it creates opportunities for the musicians to interact with and combine each other’s ideas!] There are bass line cues in both Part IV and the piano part so that the onus doesn’t fall on Part V to play nonstop throughout the entire piece.
Parts I and II are also provided in 8va transposition to accommodate the upper woodwinds. Part V in Bb is provided in 8vb transposition with appropriate octave displacement to accommodate the tenor sax, should they be on the bass line. Due to French horn range considerations, parts in F only exist for Parts III and IV. Parts IV and V in E b are meant for the bari sax to play one part or the other. Though the piano part is optional, it is not a reduction; it can also be used to provide bass line support, and in addition to concrete right hand chords and passages, there are suggested voicings provided with space for the player to experiment with and experience comping under the music and supporting soloists. During these moments, the left hand bass line becomes optional. As this piece is essentially written for a jazz combo of any instrumentation, the snare/bass drum part can be consolidated to one drum set player, and there is a Part V (8va) part for a bass player!
The solo section can be constructed as you and your musicians decide! You may choose which riffs to play and behind whose solo to play them! See the “IMPROVISATION GUIDE” for more on background riffs.
I sincerely hope that this piece becomes a vehicle for your musicians to become acquainted with their instruments, their musicality, and their relationship to ensemble playing in a new and exciting way! May it open the door for them to explore and experience jazz and the blues, and may it expand what they thought possible both on their instruments and in this ensemble configuration!