Composer’s Notes on Divergent Path Tracks
1. First Impressions - Free form at the beginning and end, the piece coalesces into an atmospheric, somewhat jazz fusiony piece in 7/4 time. Impression is the way perception will wrap around an object or stimulus to create an image. Here the music rises up out of disorganization to create an image that makes sense to us, then it dissolves back into its amorphous base line. The title very much derived from John Coltrane’s Impressions, which follows the same harmonic progression with theme stated in the tonic, then raised up a half step, then back down again. This was probably the last piece Bruce Bowers worked on beginning to end before his illness made it difficult for him to play.
2. Eleventh Hour - This piece evolved out of the ostinato electric piano line heard at the very opening of the piece. I found a pattern that I liked, counted it out and realized that this would be in 11/8 time. The melodic theme, which is pretty and fairly romantic, is something that happened to fit over the top of this pattern. Eleventh hour, just needed a title that would reflect the 11thness of this piece, nothing to do with an evening news show that was later pointed out to me. Eleventh Hour is meant to have us reflect, as in Matthew 20, that it really is late in the day, later than we think. Violinist Matt Szemela and drummer Rayhner Lasserrie tear the 11’s up, making it sound like a carefree walk through a 4/4 park.
3. Walls Fall – I wrote this piece many years ago, sort of a riff off the opening line of Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” For me it might have even been a reflection on the Berlin wall, way back in the day when Republicans saw walls as an affront to freedom. In any case I wasn’t attracted to walls then and still am not today. Was not intended as a political piece, but the listener is free to associate however he or she chooses.
4. Hummingbird – Well there were hummingbirds in my backyard in Oakland and I loved to watch them. The streets outside were sometimes a little crazy, and occasionally gunshots could be heard, but the hummingbirds and butterflies would keep doing their thing. Made me realize peace was a frame of mind that could take place anywhere, and that the natural world is always there reaching out to us. Riffat’s ad lib vocals and Matt’s flute somewhat represent the peaceful spirits making their way through that sometimes dangerous world.
5. Georges’ Rhumba – We reach that point in the cd, if anyone is listening to this sequentially, where songs that have been sitting on the shelf for a while have the opportunity to make their appearance. I actually wrote this piece for the Lebanese violinist Georges Lammam, who had recorded a couple of my compositions on an album of his, Dreaming the Diaspora, and he asked me if I could write another for him. Well Georges never recorded this but I got Mads Tolling to give it a go and well did he do it. Just a fun little rhumba with a Middle Eastern twist.
6. Amira – I guess we’re in the Georges Lammam section of the cd as Georges did record this piece on his album Dreaming the Diaspora, with the title Borne by the Mediterranean (I told him he could title it anything he wanted.) I found I really didn’t much like that title, though,… always thought it should be feminine, that it represented unrequited love for a woman of great beauty and charm. Amira, Arabic for princess, that was more the name I was looking for, and Matt Szemela takes it here to its romantic essence. My friend and mentor Fred Catero listened to this and described it as pure schmaltz. I’ll accept that. I’d like to think that we can keep a place for schmaltz in the repertoire, maybe just not all the time.
7. Running on MT - I know Jackson Browne has a song Running on Empty but that is not this song. I had more McCoy Tyner in mind, not that it really sounds anything like him, but it may be something of an homage as he is one of my favorite pianists. Then I meet up with Mads Tolling, who is also an MT, and he sort of made this his. One of the more straight up jazz pieces in this collection, placed here to maybe mix things up a bit.
8. Little Brother - Forget the last track, very different territory here. I had a younger brother who very sadly died at the age of 17. He was a troubled spirit and had a difficult time in this world, but I always remembered the innocence and exuberance of his early years. This piece, although short, attempts to show an arc from simple and harmonic to complex and conflicted. A difficult piece to write and pull off, much credit due my mixing engineer Bruce Kaphan for helping me work through this one. Processed instrumental fragments from some of my brother’s favorite songs are woven in as the piece moves toward the end; this was Bruce’s idea. My friend Jim Hurley helped me flesh out the orchestral parts after Bruce Bowers was no longer able to play effectively.
9. Blessed Are The Peacemakers - I originally wrote this some years back as an instrumental. Maybe should have left it that way to allow listeners to create their own impression, as finding the right words for this was a difficult process. I believe there are many paths to truth, that we are each on a journey to find our own way, and that this composer is in no position to weigh in on what might be the right way. It did seem to me, however, that the title of this song, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, is one of the more neglected tenets of Christianity. We each of us need to find our way to the path of peace. We need to start walking.
10. Divergent Path – This piece was recorded I believe in 1986 when Air Craft was putting together tracks for a follow-up to our first album on Catero Records, So Near, So Far. That album was never released but I’ve always liked this track and I feel, in my humble opinion, that it has aged pretty well. Once again a reference to a Robert Frost poem, this time, The Road Not Taken. It feels like a walking song to me, let’s take this path and see where it goes. Its definitely one less travelled by.
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