Matt White and the Super Villain Jazz Band – Worlds Wide (2017)
01) Departure (3:45)
02) Godafass/Lunar Landscape (6:09)
03) The Black Valley (for Kathy Myers) (10:11)
04) The Copenhagen Garment Bag Incident (7:03)
05) Adam in the Garden (featuring Roy Agee) (5:53)
06) Ride on Jesus (featuring Steve Bailey) (5:01)
07) Wade in the Water (featuring Victor Wooten) (5:17)
08) Spectra (8:51)
09) Area X (8:01)
10) aMUSEing (6:56)
All songs composed or arranged by Matt White (BMI)
Evan Cobb – tenor saxophone
Don Aliquo – alto saxophone
Roy Agee – trombone
Joe Davidian – piano
Jonathan Wires – bass
Jim White – drums
Steve Bailey – electric bass
Victor Wooten – electric bass
This album is about places.
Since releasing The Super Villain Jazz Band in 2013, I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively and experience some wonderful places and meet incredible people. Although most are places you can visit via a flight or car ride, some are places I’ve imagined from reading a book, watching a movie, or daydreaming.
Each composition is an attempt to capture that experience or the impression it left on me.
I hope you enjoy the journey.
Every journey begins with equal measures of excitement and anxiety at the unknown. Departure is an opening overture for the album, exploring those emotions and setting the tone for exploration.
The opening rubato section grew from one voicing, when a student asked me what would be a true voicing for Aeolian natural 7 (Harmonic Minor). The flute carries the melody with moving counter-melodies in the muted trumpet and clarinet.
The second section opens with rounded, repeated bass line that gradually divides rhythmically as the trumpet solo develops. Although there are many composers that use this device, I remember being inspired by performing the second movement of Mendhelssohn’s fifth symphony (the Italian) a few years ago.
Godafass is the “Waterfall of the Gods” in Iceland. My wife and I visited in 2014. Iceland is a beautiful country (with amazing music) and the interior is made up of black volcanic rock, giving an otherworldly feeling. The waterfall itself is a study in contrast – beautiful rushing water sprouting little areas of life in a stark environment.
This composition contains many contrasting elements: a simple horn motive vs. a complex bass line, different rhythmic feels, and a closing hymn that reminded me of the beautiful folk music I heard there.
The Black Valley:
My wife and I hiked the Kerry Way in Ireland one summer. Although everyone told us to expect rain and fog, as luck would have it, it was one of the hottest stretches on record.
I remember limping over a ridge after a brutal ascent and descending into the Black Valley, the terrain and scenery morphing, and a welcome breeze developing as the sun began to set and our stop was within view. I hope this composition captures the beauty of that place.
This song is dedicated to my mom, Kathy Myers. Without her unending support, I’d probably be doing something a lot less fun and rewarding than music.
The Copenhagen Garment Bag Incident:
We had planned a long trip to Europe for years and it would begin with a short stay in Copenhagen. My wife packed a new garment bag full or all her nicest clothes and shoes. We had planned to eat well and have a good time.
We arrived in Copenhagen and the bag was lost. We called all the airlines, checked every few hours at the international baggage claim with no luck. On day three we had one final chance to find the bag before embarking on a cruise and saying farewell to the bag’s contents forever. We rushed to the airport – why not look one more time? I had to wait in a tiny hallway, be escorted by security. Bags were strewn everywhere, stacked on carts and piled in corners.
There it was – crushed under a mountain of suitcases. We grabbed it and ran out.
This song is about that experience.
I was also reading the entire DUNE series during that trip. The repeated four-note theme is from the 1980’s movie directed by David Fincher and starring Sting, with music by Toto. The rest is my take on counterpoint.
The St. Helena Island Suite:
In 2012 I was approached by Eric Crawford to assist in a recording project documenting the songs and oral histories of four elder Gullah soloists living on St. Helena Island, SC. There is a rich oral and musical tradition on the Sea Islands and I can’t emphasize enough how this experience touched me.
The Suite is made up of three songs associated with the island and those singers, each featuring a different guest soloist. This collection, and in part the production of this album, was commissioned by the Provost’s Office (Ralph Byington) of Coastal Carolina University through a professional development grant.
Adam in the Garden:
“Adam in the Garden picking up leaves.”
I first heard this song performed by Minnie “Gracie” Gadson, one of the elder soloists on St. Helena Island. Adam is a traditional shouting song, derived from the Ring Shout, and like most of these songs, has layered meaning. “Oh Eve, Where is Adam?” “Adam in the garden picking up leaves” is an obvious biblical reference, but also was sung to signify slaves picking tobacco or cotton in the plantation fields.
The people of St. Helena still clap or stomp the 3+3+2, or ground rhythm, while singing shouting songs. It’s a unique look at history as the rhythm originated in Africa and made a significant stop in the Caribbean to become part of the clave.
Roy Agee has long been one of my favorite trombonists, with a deep, soulful, and honest approach to music. This arrangement seemed like the perfect device to feature his exciting playing.
Ride on King Jesus:
“I want to get to heaven in the morning”
Ride on King Jesus is an old hymn that is sung on St. Helena by Deacon Garfleld Smalls. When we were working on Gullah: The Voice of an Island, Garfield was 93 years old and still tending to his farm and leading prayer services.
I love this beautiful melody and it seemed like the perfect vehicle to feature my good friend Steve Bailey on six-string fretless electric bass. Steve has such a great sense of melody and can create some incredible textures on the instrument. He is also my long-lost pedagogical brother and it’s an absolute pleasure to work with him as part of my day gig at Coastal Carolina University.
Wade in the Water:
“God is gonna trouble the water.”
Much of the music on St. Helena is functional, marking an element of history, ceremony, or everyday life. Wade in the Water is perhaps the most widely-known song in the suite and is still sung to celebrate baptisms.
I met Victor Wooten through Steve Bailey, although our paths crossed a handful of times when I was living in Nashville. I transcribed a few of the Bass Extremes songs and premiered Bass Extremes + trumpet with Vic, Steve, and Derico Watson. Vic is such an amazing human and musician and I was thrilled when he agreed to appear on the album.
I had a few songs in mind to feature Victor, including Wade, and Steve mentioned that he had a great live version of Vic playing Wade live in Budapest. This arrangement is a combination of Vic’s version and my new material. The 5-part soli before Vic’s solo is a transcription of his solo from the live performance arranged for the ensemble.
Spectra is a prism of color or the layered composition of an item. I imagined floating through space and looking around to see floating asteroids or the light of the sun bending around objects, altering them as we moved.
This is the first time I wrote a song by completing the melody in its entirety first, with no bar lines, formal structure, or accompanying harmony.
I wrote this tune while reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy. The series focuses on a place called “Area X” – a mysterious area that has engulfed part of the East Coast. People go in and if they come out, they are not the same.
I love science fiction and this series was so refreshingly unconventional. The composition alternates between two sections depicting adventurous confidence and spacey unease. We had a little trouble capturing the right feel for the second section until Joe murmured “I’m just going to get really weird there.” That was the take.
Not a place per se, but aMUSEng is one of two “shorter” pieces (the other being Departure) signifying the greatest adventure of all… Parenthood. Much of the harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic material closely resembles a song from my first album “The Muse,” which was written for my wife Georgia.
Like “The Muse,” aMUSEing uses alternating modes in related key centers and through-composed techniques before giving way to an amazing free solo by Don Aliquo. I had planned for this solo to be a “studio fade out,” but Don and the rhythm section created some beautiful moments, so here it is in its entirety.
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