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West Point Band : turningpoints

Audio Video

Turning Points

Jazz Knights "Turning Points"

1 | Speak Low (7:44)

Ogden/Weill, arr. SSG Mark Tonelli

Soloists: SSG Derrick James, alto
SSG John Castleman, trumpet

2 | Joy Spring (5:17)

Clifford Brown/Lyrics by Jezra Kaye
Arr. MSG Scott Arcangel

Soloists: SSG Alexis Cole, vocal
SSG Vito Speranza, trumpet
3 | Turning Points (8:16)

SSG Mike Reifenberg

Soloists: SSG David Loy Song, tenor
SSG Mark Tonelli, guitar

4 | I Should Care (6:53)

Cahn/Weston, arr. MSG Scott Arcangel

Soloist: SSG Vito Speranza

5 | How I Wish (6:50)

Monk/Hendricks, arr. SSG Mike Reifenberg

Soloist: SSG Alexis Cole, vocal
MSG Scott Arcangel, piano

6 | Infant Eyes (8:42)

Wayne Shorter, arr. MSG Scott Arcangel

Soloists: SSG Xavier Perez, bari
SSG Mike Reifenberg, soprano

7 | The Awakening (9:26)

SSG Mike Reifenberg

Soloists: MSG Scott Arcangel, piano
SSG Derrick James, alto

8 | The Dark Moon (10:10)

MSG Scott Arcangel

Soloists: SSG Josh Economy, trumpet
SSG Mike Reifenberg, soprano
SSG Mark Tonelli, guitar

9 | So Many Stars (9:00)

Sergio Mendes, arr. SSG Mark Tonelli

Soloist: SSG Dan Pierce, trombone

Liner Notes

Speak Low

As it often does in a Jazz Knights concert, Speak Low opens the set of music before you. This version grew out of an arrangement I play with my trio, particularly in the pedal A sections. You might even think at first that you're listening to a small group, with the trumpet-tenor-alto-melody, a kind of Jazz Messengers feel. Slowly the ensemble filters in, but the sendoff features a return to the trio, this time with a twist: trumpet adds cup mute, tenor switches to clarinet, and alto switches to flute. The shout that follows the solos draws its inspiration from two of my favorite writers, Thad Jones and Bill Holman. Things gradually go awry during the bridge with quotes of other tunes (three, to be exact. Can you name them?). By the final A, the remaining germ of Speak Low's melody gets bulldozed by progressively atonal ensemble figures, culminating in a final, dissonant blow. Ultimately, the arrangement gets back to the real Speak Low and the trombones leave us with a reminder of their supreme power. –SSG Mark Tonelli

Joy Spring

Joy Spring is one of the most well-known songs written and performed by bebop legend Clifford Brown. Brown wrote the song for a young USC psychology student named LaRue Anderson, who was writing a master's thesis attempting to disprove Jazz as an art form. The two were married in 1954. Later that year Brown recorded Joy Spring while co-leading a hard bop
quintet with master drummer Max Roach.

The Jazz Knights' arrangement comes from the pen of pianist and Musical Director Master Sergeant Scott Arcangel and features the improvisational talents of Vocalist, Staff Sergeant Alexis Cole and Trumpeter, Staff Sergeant Vito Speranza. Lyrics come from NY-based lyricist Jezra Kaye. Hints of Brown's melody can be found throughout the piece in introductory and background figures, as can hints of Richie Powell's piano introduction from the original recording.

Turning Points

The tune Turning Points represents a marked shift in Staff Sergeant Mike Reifenberg’s development as a composer, when he began studying privately with pianist Mike Holober. “Mike (Holober) was instrumental in opening my eyes and ears to various compositional techniques, and getting me to think outside the box to my overall approach to constructing a chart for jazz orchestra. Prior to working with Mike, my music was quite traditional in structure, following the stereotypical framework of countless other big band pieces (head in, solos, shout chorus, head out, etc.). The piece Turning Points is one of my first efforts to break from that mold and incorporate some of the sounds used by today's most current jazz writers. The piece began as a simple 32 bar AABA' melody. However, the final result bears little resemblance to that simple structure, essentially becoming a through-composed work which uses segments of the melody as material to serve as a launching pad for newly composed sections appearing later in the piece. After the spinning out of these various sections, the original melody returns only at the very end of the piece, serving as a means to hopefully tie the whole work together.”

I Should Care

I Should Care, originally published in 1944, has become a popular standard recorded by many artists. Master Sergeant Scott Arcangel’s arrangement begins with a light and floating through-composed introduction that takes its time arriving at the melody. Modal interludes bookend the standard changes throughout the song, which eventually opens up into a straight-ahead medium swing groove. Equally a feature for Staff Sergeant Vito Speranza, playing the melody and improvising on flugelhorn, and the band, with multiple choruses of ensemble writing, the arrangement shows influences from arrangers Michael Abene and Thad Jones.

“The challenge is to take a standard that every Jazz musician has played, and find something that makes the player and the listener hear it in a new way. In a sense – arrange the song in a compositional manner that stays true to the composer’s original intent, but say something new with the material.”

How I Wish

The original title of this piece is Ask Me Now, by the great pianist Thelonious Monk. It became How I Wish after vocalist Jon Hendricks added these great lyrics, which so many young adults can relate to. Following a short introduction, Staff Sergeant Alexis Cole sings this enchanting melody to perfection, after which the band embarks on a journey of double-time goodness. Master Sergeant Scott Arcangel plays a terrific piano solo, after which a small ensemble is featured on an intricate soli, accented by rhythmic hits in the rest of the band. The piece culminates in the return of the vocal in the original time feel, followed by a short and placid coda which serves as a fitting compliment to the similar introduction.

Infant Eyes

The album Speak No Evil was released by Blue Note in 1965. Regarded as some of post-bop saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s finest work, the album is considered a highlight of the Blue Note catalogue. Shorter was thinking of his daughter when composing the piece Infant Eyes, one of his most popular contributions to the modern Jazz songbook.

Another arrangement from Master Sergeant Scott Arcangel, Infant Eyes quickly strays from its original form, a ballad constructed of three nine-measure phrases. The song opens with a rubato saxophone chorale reminiscent of Herbie Hancock’s original piano introduction. It then launches into an up-tempo, straight-eighth feel in which a trio of trumpet, baritone saxophone, and voice (used as an instrument) share the melody around ensemble interludes and counter lines. The song features solos from the newest member of the Jazz Knights, Staff Sergeant Xavier Perez, on baritone saxophone, as well as Staff Sergeant Mike Reifenberg on soprano saxophone.

The Awakening

The Awakening is another through-composed piece by Staff Sergeant Mike Reifenberg who states: “I made no effort to plan ahead as to where the piece was going to ultimately end up. The only conscious decision I made was in regards to the opening section, in which I wanted to take a single line, and upon that line add contrapuntal layers, increasing the density and complexity until all three lines converge in a very thick block voicing section, which serves as the first climax of the piece. Following this unique opening is a piano solo on a form which has nothing in common with anything the listener has heard to this point. Next, Staff Sergeant Derrick James plays a very fiery solo over an aggressive, pointed rhythm section. This solo is allowed to build to great heights, and its culmination along with backgrounds is probably the climax of the entire piece. The harmonic structures of both of these solos serves as the foundation for the subsequent sections, in which new material is presented along with chunks of melody the listener has already heard. A short recap of the contrapuntal opening brings the listener back to the original themes before the piece concludes with a rather unsettling and haunting combination of triads between various sections of the band.

The Dark Moon

The Dark Moon is Master Sergeant Scott Arcangel’s latest composition. “As I was composing the piece, I was thinking it had a cold, dark, and lunar quality to it. A couple of weeks after I had finished, on a crisp winter night, I noticed a gigantic full moon in the sky and I realized I had actually composed the piece during the period of a dark moon – hence the title.”
It was composed as a work for large ensemble, with solos from Staff Sergeant Mike Reifenberg on soprano saxophone, and Staff Sergeant Mark Tonelli on guitar that serve the composition as much as they feature the soloists. The piece itself waxes and wanes very similarly to an actual lunar cycle; cyclic figures wash in and out over melodic material throughout the piece.

So Many Stars

Our vocalist, Staff Sergeant Alexis Cole, brought So Many Stars to a rehearsal from her small group book. I'd never heard it before, but I fell in love with it instantly and jumped at the chance to arrange it as a feature for her. I tried to channel some of the essence of classic 60's bossa nova -- flute-piano pairings, Claus Ogermann-like pads, and a Brazilian scat syllable soli. The coda features one of my "go to" moves, a 7/4 vamp, which I adapted from the arrangement's opening vamp that recurs and connects sections of the chart together. I hear the swirling horn layers like so many stars in the night sky. They seem to say "so many, so many..." as Alexis and rhythm section take us out with a surprise Middle Eastern flavor, complete with finger cymbals.

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