for tuba (bass trombone) and piano
Commissioned by L.T. Townshend
Duration: 9 minutes
When asked to write a piece for bass trombone and piano, I was a bit hesitant. For one thing, I have always been uncomfortable with the traditional ensemble of “instrument plus piano accompaniment”. Secondly, the idea of using a primarily bass-oriented instrument seemed to be an immediate obstacle in writing a soloistic piece. However, as I began to think about the connotations that the bass trombone brings, an idea began to emerge. I immediately thought of Paul Hindemith’s Sonatas for various instruments, including one for trombone, and his democratic approach to chamber music all instruments.
Then I began to think about what I associated with the bass trombone. My immediate impression was the low brass in a New Orleans brass band, and then, strangely, to the film scores of gritty 1970’s crime and exploitation films, such as Herbie Hancock’s score for Death Wish, Mikis Theodorakis’for Serpico, and Don Ellis’ for The French Connection. Thus, I decided to synthesize Hindemith’s idea of the instrumental ensemble with the gritty and rhythmic jazz-inflected music of the film scores, creating a strange hybrid of neo-classical formal and contrapuntal structures with the raw, relentless rhythms of early 1970’s jazz-fusion and funk. What resulted was Brassploitation, a title referring both to the films upon which it is based and the use of the bass trombone as soloist, accompanist, and rhythm section, thus exploiting it to its fullest potential.