Flying Circus



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From the artist:

For a brass player, there is nothing more exciting and productive than playing chamber music!

Several of the quintets on this CD were composed for and premiered by my USC quintets. They challenged me (and themselves) to do new music. Recently I added up how much quintet music I had composed over the years and was astounded to find that it was nearly one hour- enough to make a CD. So I decided to record my “stuff”. For most of this CD I asked the two most prominent Los Angeles brass quintets to record- the Crown City Brass Quintet and the Modern Brass Quintet. The opening piece, Polarities, is an antiphonal double quintet recorded by my brass colleagues in the Pacific Symphony. The final piece, Three 4 Five, was my first quintet and was recorded by the top studio brass players at the time and is on my The Big Stretch CD.

Listening to a whole CD of brass quintet music by one composer is a challenge- but one (I hope) that is interesting to the listener. My music is generally tonal/modal/bi-tonal with brief Minimalism and strategic dissonances. As in all of my music the rhythmic elements are the driving force. Jazz and jazz harmonies often show up in my music (as do many dance forms).

– Jim Self

Polarities (2005) is a four-minute fanfare-like piece for two Antiphonal Brass Quintets- al la Gabrieli. The sections are titled A la Fanfare, A la Scherzo and A la Waltz. (1999) was written for the Artist’s Night Concert. It is a short, lively and fun piece which I describe as “Frankie Yankovic meets Donna Summer meets Scott Joplin.”

Bottoms Up (2016) began as a piece for alto, tenor, bass, contra-bass trombones and tuba and morphed into a version for five tubas and finlly this brass quintet version. It begins with an exciting first section with technical challenges for all. It then turns into a pretty 6/8 waltz featuring trumpeter Marissa Benedict. The final section is “Latinesque” with some Mariachi elements.

HoopLA (2014) was written for and premiered by my USC students at the “Live at Basset Hall” concert that year. 6/4 meter is used as the main rhythmic structure. A unison intro leads to a Latin set-up in the trumpets and a tricky groove in the trombone and tuba. The horn has a haunting melody over that. A middle waltz section follows with imitative solos in the trumpets and a series of duets between all of the players-giving the impression of odd meters. The main theme returns with a rousing ending.

Peacockery (2015) is unique in the use of piccolo trumpet and drum set. It was written for and premiered by my USC student quintet “Le Cinc”. As the title suggests, it is a kind of strutting piece with the piccolo trumpet as the peacock. The drums are the glue throughout. It is a one-movement piece opening with a fanfare and settling into a bouncy march with “wah wahs” and lots of interplay between the parts. The ending is a fade out in the drums.

Mo’Ments (2001) was commissioned by the Ventura Chamber Music Festival and was premiered by the Crown City Brass Quintet. It is a three-movement work (fast-slow-fast). Movement 1, ‘N Trap Ments begins with a fanfare and settles into a lighthearted and (at times) mildly dissonant march with much interplay between the brass and marimba. 2, ‘N Tice Ments is a slow ballad that opens and closes with a haunting low brass trio. 3, ‘N Tangle Ments is a fast, odd-meter romp with a Latin middle section. Rhythmic complexities show throughout.

Flying Circus (2012) was commissioned by the Pacific Brass Ensemble and was premiered by them in January 2002. It is a three-movement work (fast-slow-fast). Movement 1, Barnstorming (like the title) is energetic and extroverted. A fanfare intro is followed by solo statements in each of the brass. 2, Casltes in the Sky is a slow ballad with many contrapuntal solo lines leading into a 12/8 waltz. The middle section features a chorale quartet. This movement was completed shorly after September 11, 2001 and is dedicated to the memory of the victims and heroes of that day. The finale, Wing Ding, is a rapid 7/8 (and shifting meter) ending to the piece that features (written-out) jazz solos for trombone and trumpet. The title, Flying Circus, comes from my other passion- flying.

Three 4 Five (1996) was my first attempt at composing a brass quintet. Capriccio begins with a rather dissonant fanfare followed by the acrobatic main theme in the horn. The form is a modified rondo with many rhythmic permutations. Cantilena was written for my wife, Jamie, and is a ballad featuring the solo tuba. Modal and jazz harmonies are prevalent. The final Caccia (chase) begins with a fast 6/8 intro that leads into a lop-sided “Viennese” waltz in 5/8. The piece ends in a flurry of lines and final octave low G’s.

This CD is dedicated to the memory of Dr. William Becker who was my first brass teacher at IUP, dear friend and avid supporter of my career and music.

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Weight 4.8 oz

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