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West Point Band : AtFirst

Audio Video

At First Light


Program Notes

Personnel/Production Credits

Click on a title below to hear the recording in MP3 format (some titles not available).

SSG Mike Reifenberg, alto sax; SSG Eric Ordway, trombone; SSG Scott Drewes, drums

Lyrics by HOWARD DIETZ Music by ARTHUR SCHWARTZ © 1932 (Renewed) WARNER BROS. INC.All Rights for the Extended Term of Copyright in the U.S. Controlled by WB MUSIC CORP. and ARTHUR SCHWARTZ MUSIC.
All Rights Reserved Including Public Performance

SSG David Loy Song, tenor sax; SFC Rich Johnson, trumpet; SSG Dan Pierce, trombone

SSG Josh Economy, trumpet; SSG David Loy Song, tenor sax; SSG Scott Drewes, drums

SSG David Loy Song, tenor sax

SSG Derrick James, alto sax and SSG Mark Tonelli, guitar

SSG Mike Reifenberg, soprano sax and SSG John Castleman, flugelhorn

All Rights Reserved Including Public Performance

SSG David Loy Song, tenor sax; SSG Vito Speranza, trumpet; SSG Scott Drewes, drums

SSG Mike Reifenberg, soprano sax and SSG Vito Speranza, trumpet

SSG Mike Reifenberg, alto sax; SSG John Castleman, trumpet; SSG Scott Drewes, drums

*Used by permission from the composer



Alone Together is an old standard. This chart was arranged by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Arcangel to feature Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg on alto saxophone and Staff Sgt. Eric Ordway on trombone. Sgt. 1st Class Arcangel notes: The idea for Alone Together was to take a tune that everybody has played and make it sound fresh again. I used the Picardy third ending to the “A” sections of the tune as a basis to re-harmonize the entire melody, essentially placing the major third as the root underneath its own minor chord. This gives the entire song a “harmonic major” flavor. I’ve always felt that some sections of the melody would lend themselves well to a meter change. This adds to the floaty feel of the piece. It’s a tune that everybody loves to blow on, so after a few reharm choruses, it opens up over the standard form. A rascally sax soli evolves into a chorus, pitting the entire ensemble against the drummer.

At First Light is a Latin piece composed for the Jazz Knights by Jeff Holmes, the director of the jazz program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It features soloists Staff Sgt. David Loy Song on tenor saxophone, Sgt. 1st Class Rich Johnson on flugelhorn, Staff Sgt. Dan Pierce on trombone, and drummer Staff Sgt. Scott Drewes. Jeff Holmes offers the following composer’s notes: The overall Latin style of At First Light pits smoother and woodier sounds of the clarinets and flugelhorn against intro and interlude material that gives a nod to Earth Wind &Fire. The counter line the second time through the melody is reminiscent for me of an arranging flourish that Chick Corea utilized with Joe Farrell's flute on the Light as a Feather recording. After more conventional solo spots for flugelhorn and/or tenor, there is a clarinet soli that has exchanges with a solo trombone. The solo trombone timbre ultimately morphs to the entire section being voiced. The melody remains fairly horizontal and repetitive with rhythmic syncopation and shifting chord changes and harmonic twists. It is not necessarily a loud big band outing but a more warmed jazz ensemble/jazz orchestra composition with some hotter ensemble burnishing.

The Monster Brooks No Pretense is a commissioned work by Canadian-born composer and trombonist Mike Fahie, who received his bachelor’s degree from McGill University and his master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, both in jazz performance. This piece is dedicated to the great trombonist and composer Bob Brookmeyer. The soloists are Staff Sgt. Josh Economy on trumpet and harmonizer, and Staff Sgt. David Loy Song on tenor saxophone, as well as Staff Sgt. Scott Drewes on drums. Mike Fahie offers the following composer’s notes: The Monster Brooks No Pretense is a unique piece for me, because most of my pieces begin with a melodic idea, or a mood idea, but this one started with an intervallic idea. The shifting 5ths through the brass and saxes were the starting point of this piece, and it developed from there. The drummer solos through most of the piece, first against ensemble rhythms, then with a trumpet soloist, and later with a saxophone soloist. There is tension between a slow swing groove and an uptempo swing, and both develop the intervallic voicing idea that I started with. Through the heart of the tune it seems that the uptempo swing dominates, but the slow groove comes back at the end, and the monster makes his appearance in the trombone section.

Suo Gan is arranged by lead alto saxophonist Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg. He explains: Suo Gan is originally a Welsh folk song - the lullabye of a mother singing her child to sleep. More well known however is the Steven Spielberg movie that brought this simple tune to the forefront of American popular culture, Empire of the Sun, which I first saw as a middle school child. With its beautiful and amazingly simple AABA melody that has stuck with me throughout the years, this arrangement of Suo Gan for the Jazz Knights features our lead tenor saxophonist, Staff Sgt. David Loy Song, with an emphasis on simplicity and beauty. An extended solo section after the first statement of the melody shows off the ability of the band to take something so placid and peaceful and build it to unimaginable heights, culminating in a beautiful brass chorale. I attempted to keep this arrangement quite simple, while focusing on the use of various colors, including a full reed section, arco bass, muted trombone, drums sans sticks (using mallets instead), flugelhorns, and using piano as more than just a comping instrument.

Dangerous Ground is an original composition by alto saxophonist Staff Sgt. Derrick James, arranged by guitarist Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli. It is set in a modern style, both harmonically and melodically. The arrangement takes unexpected weaves and turns as the melody is passed around the ensemble. The composer and arranger are both featured, Staff Sgt. James over the form, and Staff Sgt. Tonelli over an open vamp that allows the freedom of multi-directional possibilities. Staff Sgt. Tonelli remarks: Two very strong personalities [or themes] emerged from the original small group arrangement of Dangerous Ground to act as thematic development and compositional unification. First was the seven-note hook that opens the head. A real trooper, it proved itself a supple and tireless main theme, willing to endure my endless stretching, contracting, transposing, and setting it over different meters and tempos, even accepting use as a rhythm for the bass line heard at the beginning and end of the arrangement. The second theme includes a half note, dotted quarter note, eighth note figure. By contrast, this theme is more stubborn. It inserts itself insistently throughout the work and is sometimes heard together with the main theme. Ultimately, not content to remain a secondary theme, it temporarily pushes the main theme off the score and dominates in the guitar solo with a series of shifting triads over an Eb pedal tone.

Secret Love is an old standard played by many jazz musicians. Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli slowed the tempo from its “standard tempo” and added an interesting harmonic twist that gives a nod to the classic John Coltrane Quartet. It features solos by Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg on soprano saxophone and Staff Sgt. John Castleman on flugelhorn. Staff Sgt. Tonelli says of this arrangement:

I stumbled upon an intriguing chord progression, Eb-Bmaj7-E7, while practicing one day. I was warming up with Secret Love in the same key, and decided to pursue the three chords, marrying them to a slower version of that jam session chestnut. The arrangement evolved into something of a Coltranean vibe, complete with a 12/8 Afro-Cuban groove, soprano sax playing the melody, and the band responding with Trane turnarounds. There is also a good deal of the spirit of Thad Jones (almost impossible for me to avoid), particularly in the saxophone soli. To shake things up further, I added a 7/4 vamp, which simultaneously extends the last bar of the head and provides a sendoff for the soprano sax solo while conveniently remaining available for an ending.

The Stakeout was composed and arranged by pianist Sgt. 1st Class Scott Arcangel with Staff Sgt.’s David Loy Song and Vito Speranza in mind. It is hardboppish in nature, featuring the classic trumpet/tenor sound, and very aggressive. The first two notes of the melody, the background comping figures, the ill-tempered trombone section, and the powerful segment of ensemble and drums are all intense from start to finish. Sgt 1st Class Arcangel says, “I often tell Dave and Vito that they ‘destroy’ the tune…and I mean it in a good way.”

Samba for Megan is another original tune of Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg. The composer explains: Samba for Megan was originally composed for saxophone quintet for my Master of Music-Jazz Studies recital at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2005. After three years sitting in a desk drawer (the chart, not me), it was time to resurrect it for this CD project. Adapting it for jazz ensemble proved somewhat challenging, as I naturally had to expound on many features of the original arrangement. Meant to be a light-hearted, playful tribute to my wife of over three years, this original utilizes a unique (but hopefully organic) ABA form, consisting of sections of 19, 8, and 18 measures. The “A” sections of the piece are loosely based on the standard There Will Never Be Another You (even though I didn't really consciously make that decision - it just turned out that way).

The Basilisk is this project’s third composition written and arranged by Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg. It was also composed while he completed his graduate work at Indiana University. Originally for his saxophone quintet, Staff Sgt. Reifenberg recently expanded the work for jazz ensemble. The structure of the tune is a not-so-standard thirteen-bar minor blues in 7/4. “At the time, I was working on various things, including altered pentatonics, fourths, and just generally messing with forms, and this is the wacky result,” said Staff Sgt. Reifenberg.

After a statement of the melody, this track features a solo from lead trumpet player Staff Sgt. John Castleman. Between Ensemble sections, the composer stretches out on alto saxophone and then features an explosive drum solo by the Jazz Knights’ newest member, Staff Sgt. Scott Drewes.




Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Morse

Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli - guitar
Sgt. 1st Class Scott Arcangel - piano
Staff Sgt. Brandon Nelson - bass
Staff Sgt. Scott Drewes - drums

Staff Sgt. John Castleman - lead trumpet
Staff Sgt. Vito Speranza - trumpet II
Sgt. 1st Class Rich Johnson - trumpet III
Staff Sgt. Josh Economy - trumpet IV

Staff Sgt. Dan Pierce - lead trombone
Staff Sgt. Eric Ordway - trombone II
Master Sgt. Ron Fleischman - trombone III
Master Sgt. Teddy Arnold - bass trombone

Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg - lead alto, soprano, flute, clarinet
Staff Sgt. Derrick James - alto II, clarinet
Staff Sgt. David Loy Song - tenor I, clarinet
Sgt. 1st Class Jay Malone - tenor II, clarinet
Master Sgt. Gary McCourry - baritone saxophone, bass clarinet


Recorded at Bennett Studios in Englewood, NJ
September 9-12, 2008
Engineer: Dae Bennett
Mixed by Dae Bennett, Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Morse, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Arcangel,
Staff Sgt. John Castleman, Staff Sgt. Dan Pierce, Staff Sgt. Mike Reifenberg,
and Staff Sgt. Mark Tonelli
Mastered by Dae Bennett
Design: Staff Sgt. Josh Phillips, Staff Sgt. David Loy Song
Cover Photo: “First Light” by Tom Doyle
Additional Photos and Liner Notes: Staff Sgt. David Loy Song, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Miller

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