Posted by: Andrew | July 6, 2009

Finished Products

So it’s nearly time for the summer Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble concert, this coming Friday.  Co-directing this band is one of my favorite projects to date, though it’s quite time consuming and often frustrating to get fourteen musicians together to rehearse and perform four times a year, in addition to convincing various fantastic composers to write for us.  However, to my great pleasure, I barely even have to solicit compositions anymore, as various people in town and out of town continue to contact me asking if they can write for the band.  This is very encouraging and definitely makes me feel that starting this project up was the right decision.

I have learned a great deal about large-group composition not only by composing for this group myself, but also from checking out my peers’ (and teachers’) charts, some of the best of which you can enjoy at the “Music” page of our site.  My original effort was a 3 part Afro-Suite for big band, featuring various West African drum rhythms.  This was pretty successful.  After this I arranged some of my own and others’ small group tunes, which was a fun exercise.  For the most recent concert in February, I continued on my lengthy multi-part composition kick which had been instigated by listening to a lot of Claudia Quintet and Franco (the great Congolese guitarist and bandleader from the 50’s-90’s).  However, that piece, “Right Lane Turns Right Ahead” (sound familiar?) was actually not compelling at all, and didn’t accomplish my goal of taking the listener on an interesting journey through various musical styles and ideas, instead just sounding disjointed and incomplete.

Therefore, this time I have taken the total opposite approach, one partially inspired by my interaction with Adam Benjamin at Banff.  I have written 3 (and am working on a fourth) very short pieces entitled “Finished Products 1-4”, each of which deals with only one idea and is under two minutes.  I hope that this will be an instructive compositional exercise in addition to being an enjoyable listening experience.  So far, so good – I think I may have finally set enough restrictions for myself to compose something which isn’t trying to be “everything at once” – the young musicians’ worst enemy, it seems!

I’ll post the recordings up here after the concert and you can judge for yourselves whether I’ve been successful or not!  Meanwhile, encourage your friends in Portland to come check out the show, we have many new and exciting works by composers from here and from Seattle!

Friday, July 10, 2009
7:30-9:30 PM

The Old Church

1422 SW 11th Ave
Portland, OR 97201

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble
Directors: Andrew Oliver and Gus Slayton
Trumpets: Joel Griffith, Levis Dragulin, Tree Palmedo
Trombones: Dave Bryan, Dan Evans, Douglas Peebles
Saxophones: Mary Sue Tobin, Willie Matheis, Gus Slayton, Lee Elderton
Rhythm: Andrew Oliver; piano, Kyle Williams; guitar, Bill Athens; bass, Kevin Van Geem; drums

$10, $8 students



  1. Wish I could be there. Have to work. Ugh, work. Anyway, good luck. Looking forward to hearing your stuff online. I put a link to this blog on my blog. Hope you don’t mind.

    Joe C.

  2. Joe,

    Of course not! I will link back to you as well. We should play sometime when we find a bit of time…

  3. […] Finished Products – as promised, a follow up on my previous post about my new mini-tunes.  They were really quite successful and basically accomplished my goals of […]

  4. […] Finished Products – as promised, a follow up on my previous post about my new mini-tunes.  They were really quite successful and basically accomplished my goals of […]

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