frank stemper

KG's Supper Club (2008)
for Jazz Piano Trio: piano, c.bass, drumset — 12.5 mins.

Dedicated to the Sig Millonzi Trio (Sig, Lee Burrows, Jack Carr)
— Who's artistry inspired my life


The Jazz Piano Trio —piano, bass, and drums— is to Jazz as the string quartet is to "Classical" Music: the perfect sonic platform to express anything musical that is worth expressing. By itself, this combination is undoubtedly the most recognizable definition of the Jazz sound.  The rest, the upper partials of sound, i.e. horns, winds, guitars, vibes, multiple doublings, excess color, greater amplitude, noisy excitement, rhythm w/out nuance, etc., is fine but unnecessary. It all just clutters up the clarity that the Jazz Piano Trio can fulfill all by itself.  In jazz settings, combining the piano trio with other instruments, from small ensembles through big band, those three instruments are always the backbone, underpinning the entire texture upon which all those other instruments feed and are thus dependent.  This is comparable to what the string quartet is to an orchestra – in a way an orchestra is just a blown up version of a string quartet.  And to any jazz ensemble the piano, bass, and drums are the same.  In fact and unfortunately, the other instruments refer to the Piano Trio as THE RHYTHM SECTION, dismissing the three as their slaves, an accompaniment, or click-track of progressing harmonies, that keep them from losing their place as they testosteronically do their wailing up in the stratosphere.  In fact, it is really the other way around: Those other instruments are just decorations, embellishments, ornaments, streamers and garlands, the pretty gangster’s moll playing up to one note at a time. 

As a jazz pianist I feel privileged to be part of this perfect sonic platform, the legacy of which I am unworthy yet in awe of: The Bill Evans Trio, the Keith Jarrett Trio, Red Garland, McCoy Tyner, Brad Mehldau, to name a few — So Dave Brubeck seemed to need/want one horn or perhaps owed Smith then Desmond a favor, and Art Tatum of course did it all himself.  But I am also a “Classical” composer, er a Modern Composer, which means I make a federal case out of my version of music, taking it as far as it will go, forever searching.  So I must follow my muse.  I have no choice, especially now that I am part of the “Closer to the End than the Beginning Tour.”

As Jazz continues to follow me around, annoying me like a kid brother or haunting me in a good way like my late parents, I am more and more committed to not only composing, but following this handful of Jazz genes that jive under my skin.  KG’s Supper Club is one of my attempts to bring my two worlds together. i.e. Modern Composition & Jazz Piano.  There have been others, ROPE, REMEMBERING FIRE, PANIC 2000, etc.  But it has been my plan to create an entire series of pieces for Jazz Piano Trio, utilizing this perfect combination, much the way composers from Haydn/Mozart/Beethoven through to the present have done with the perfect string quartet. I have had little luck convincing certain foundations that this is project worthy of their support and that I am the composer to do it.  But — END BE DAMNED! — the night is young!





Last Updated: Jan 16, 2018

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