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10 Seconds: Matt Roberts

1. Miles Davis - My Ship (Arr. Gil Evans) (0'33" - 0'43")

From Miles Davis - Miles Ahead (1957)

"The 1957 album ‘Miles Ahead’ is my favourite of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations, and easily one of my favourite records of all time. Here, Gil turns the Kurt Weill song ‘My Ship’ into a lush chorale led by the French Horn. The harmony is so dense, rich and dissonant, yet it doesn’t detract from the simplicity and beauty of Weill’s source material. Gil was a true genius."

2. Duke Ellington - Sonnet to Hank Cinq (0'06" - 0'16")

From Duke Ellington - Such Sweet Thunder (1957)

"Sonnet to Hank Cinq is from Ellington’s 1957 album ‘Such Sweet Thunder’ - a collection of pieces inspired by various works of Shakespeare. This particular composition is inspired by Sonnet Number 0. The composition is primarily constructed from these 10-note phrases, to reflect Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter, which typically contain ten syllables. Ellington was the master of writing for specific musical personalities in his orchestra. This trombone feature was written for the great Britt Woodman, one of the many musicians that devoted their careers to playing with the band."

3. Shirley Horn - Here's To Life (Arr. Johnny Mandel) (4'26" - 4'36")

From Shirley Horn - Here's To Life (1992)

"Johnny Mandel is one of the most influential arrangers to ever live - the craft and beauty of his orchestrations are unmatched. In this moment, from Shirley Horn’s ‘Here’s To Life’, Mandel orchestrates a gut-wrenching melody for the French Horn that stretches three octaves, climaxing with a written high D (G on the piano). This is nightmare-fuel for French horn players, but high risk, high reward!"

4. Dianne Reeves - Fascinating Rhythm (Arr. Billy Childs) (1'34" - 1'44")

From Dianne Reeves - The Calling (2001)

Gershwin’s Fascinating Rhythm has always provided fertile ground for arrangers to exhibit their rhythmic inventiveness. For my money, this Billy Childs arrangement takes the gold medal with its groovy 5 over 4 polymeters throughout. I particularly love this moment, after the lyric ’Stop picking on me’, where the groove opens out into this sustain wash after so much pointillistic percussive writing."

5. Joni Mitchell - Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Arr. Vince Mendoza) (0'58" - 1'08")

From Joni Mitchell - Travelogue (2002)

"Vince Mendoza’s arrangements on Joni’s orchestral albums ‘Both Sides Now’ and ‘Travelogue’ are a constant source of inspiration to me. This track is a virtuosic display of ‘word painting’, where the composer/arranger reflects the song’s lyrics in the music. The depth of Joni’s lyrics means that Vince has so much to play with. I love this moment after she sings ‘Things fall apart’…"

6. Kenny Wheeler - Part 3: For Jan (4'55" - 5'05")

From Kenny Wheeler - Music for Large & Small Ensembles’ (1990)

"Kenny’s melancholic melodies and pastoral washes of harmonic colour have always really spoken to me. His ‘Music for Large & Small Ensembles’ (1990) is one of the most important albums in the history of British Jazz - not least because it features so many luminaries of the scene at that time.

This moment is so beautiful - Kenny (on flugelhorn) is playing one of his beautiful melodies with the lead trombonist (I think David Horler) in octaves. The lines then diverge, from octaves, into 3rds and 6ths. It’s so simple, but so effective and it characteristically sorrowful."

7. Claude Debussy - La Mer (8'34" - 8'44")

"Debussy’s ‘La Mer’ is one of my favourite works of orchestral music. I’ve chosen to focus on the last 3 chords of the 1st movement. Debussy, like his French contemporary Ravel, was a master orchestrator. There’s so much going on here. I particularly love how the brass notes ring on in the final chord, long after the strings and woodwind have finished. It’s like an orchestrated reverb."

8. Krzysztof Penderecki - Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (9'41" - 9'51")

From Krzysztof Penderecki (composed in 1961)

"This is one of Penderecki’s best known and most powerful works. The piece climaxes with his division of the 52-piece string orchestra into a 52-note quarter-tone cluster. It is well documented that this piece was originally called 8’37”, but after Penderecki heard the first performance he said… “I was struck by the emotional charge of the work... I searched for associations and, in the end, I decided to dedicate it to the Hiroshima Victims”."


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