The inspiration for ‘Universality’ came in a little ‘left of center’ for a Jazz Funk tune. The title and music is inspired by the concept of the ‘universal scale’ as presented by Leonard Bernstein in his well known ‘The Unanswered Question (Six talks at Harvard)’ lecture series. Sitting on the piano Leonard Bernstein explains that most cultures around the globe use a similar set of notes to create their folk melodies.
Fascinated by this idea and concept I started to play around with the ‘universal scale’ pattern on my piano. To my surprise, some of the ideas that formed into tiny melodies started to sound like some of the lines that Joe Zawinul employed in compositions and improvisations with Weather Report – of course, I was most delighted about my mini discovery, being a lifelong Zawinul and Weather Report fan.
Playing this tune live I always enjoyed the ‘open’ sax & drums intro – originally the plan was for the saxophonist to play freely with the ‘universal scale’ and converse with the drums – as time went on it has become a truly free improvisation over a kicking groove. Once the saxophone plays the first phrase of the melody the tune starts for good and slowly builds as all the instruments are coming in.
Chris Hunter, a British native, who lives in New York, has a CV as long as my arm and was introduced to me by producer Richard Niles (who recently released a new ‘Bandzilla’ Big Band album). Richard Niles produced a very interesting ‘Inside improvisation’ series for BBC radio (2004) and interviewed Chris in one of the shows. Chris was showcasing some ideas on the alto and I was blown away – when it came to recording ‘Universality’ I thought he would be the perfect guy (he also has a very cool voice).
Chris has played in the world’s leading jazz orchestras like The Manhattan Jazz Orchestra, the Gil Evans Orchestra, the Michael Camilo NY Band, WDR Big Band and has been a featured player for artists such as Michel Camilo, Michael Franks, Robben Ford, Hiram Bullock, Jonathan Butler, the Manhattan Transfer, Sting, Tania Maria and many more. Read more about him here.
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