Moose the Mooch (2010)

Originally arranged for the Kansas City based contemporary ensemble Blackhouse Collective, the most recent version is for big band. My goal was the unexpected. Infusing a jazz standard with the unexpected was where the fun began for me as I set out to put my own stamp on the contrafact of “I Got Rhythm”.

The extended introduction consist of a drum solo with fragmented improvised manipulations of motivic cells drawn from the melody stated by the horns. These phrases are further fragmented at times when they are divided across different sections of the band creating a Klangfarbenmelodie (pointallistic effect). No harmony is stated though a few clusters surrounding the motives are added for spice.

Click on score for larger version

Once the melody is stated at letter K, a syncopated groove established with parallel fifths attempt to keep the listener off balance and harmonically vague. The pointallistic approach continues in the horns as the melody is stated providing shifting colors from various members diving in and out of the phrases. The bridge provides a momentary release as the bass references the chord changes in a chromatic and syncopated way.

The first solo following the statement of the theme starts off with traditional Rhythm changes. Unexpectedly for the next two chrouses minor major seventh chords are substituted for the original changes. The relationship of these new chords also change over time leading to unpredictable harmonic direction. Over the first two A sections and the bridge where a minor chord is heard, a minor major seventh is substituted. The first bar Bb7 to Gmi7 becomes GmM7. The second bar Cmi7 F7 becomes simply CmM7. This pattern continues until the last A section starting in bar 201. The minor major sevenths are added a half step above the expected minor chords. Bb7 to Gmi7 being treated as an altered G7 becomes a bar of AbmM7. In the next bar the Cmi7 to F7 becomes F#mM7 a half step above the dominant. As the third chorus begins further exploration of substitutions continue. The overall sound is of passing diminished whole-tone scales that push us away from the standard progression.

Coming out of the Melodic Minor harmonic background, the syncopated fifths in the low register return with a short eight bar interlude by the horns pushes into a one chorus soli section with more traditional harmonic progression. Compare the different chourses as the soli section enters with the following choruses for the tenor sax solo. The unexpected returns as the progression continues to explore reharmonized variations on the progression for further chromatic exploration.


A = Bb7 G7 Cmi7 F7 Dmi7 G7 Cmi7 F7 Fmi7 Bb7 Eb7 Eo7 F7 (1 bar) Cmi7 F7

A = Bb Bo7 Cmi7 C#07 Dmi7 C#o7 Cmi7 Bo7 Bb7 Bb7/D Eb7 Eo7 F7 (2 bars)

B = D7alt./Eb (2 bars) G7alt./Ab (2 bars) C7alt./Db (2 bars) F7alt./Gb F7(#11)

A = Bb7 G7 Cmi7 F7 Dmi7 G7 Cmi7 F7 Fmi7 Bb7

Tenor Solo:

A = Bb7 Db7 Gb7 F7 Ab7 G7 Gb7 F7 Bb7 E7 Eb7 A7 Bb7 G7 Gb7 B7

A = E7 G7 C7 F7 D7 Db7 C7 B7 Bb7 Bb7/D Eb7 Eo7 Ao7/Bb (1 bar) Bbo7 (1 bar)

B = AmM7 EbmM7 DmM7 AbmM7 GmM7 DbmM7 CmM7 F#mM7

The last A section of the first chorus took one player by surprise during a reading because the changes for the rhythm section are different than those for the tenor soloist. Here is the progression for each part.

Tenor Sax:

A = AbmM7 GbmM7 AbmM7 GbmM7 BmM7 EmM7 AbmM7 FmM7

Rhythm Section:

A = Bb7alt G7alt Cmi7 F7alt Dmi7 G7alt Cmi7 F7alt Fmi7 Bb7alt Eb7alt (1 bar) Bb7alt G7alt Cmi7 F7alt

Similar harmonic patterns from the beginning of the tenor solo return at the top of the second chorus. The last A of the second chorus lands on an F pedal. In the last four bars we get a foreshadow of what is to come as the texture in the horns thickens as they slowly enter coming in on the and of beat four in each bar playing any low note they wish. The effect is percussive and potentially very dissonant.

Improvised low note of choice for percussive effect

The third chorus of tenor solo finds the band once again in standard chord territory. In the bridge I have a dissonant chord rescored as each new rhythm enters. The chord is constantly reorchestrationed and plays against the tenor part in minor major seventh harmony, a bassist creating his own atonal bass line and the guitarist and pianist playing what is only marked as dissonant chord with the rhythms of the previous choruses and of beat four rhythm. The reorchestrated chord was an attempt to have a static chord change in color over time.

Another interlude of sorts develops for 25 bars staring at letter DD involving the whole band ensues with continued exploration of klangfarben melodic snaky lines passing from one horn to another as the drummer fills between the phrases. Floating fifths return leading into a shout chorus of sorts that is similar in texture to the preceeding interlude. Dissonace builds during the bridge leading into an inverted version of the contours of the melody broken up in a pointallistic style amongst the various members of the band. The pitches of the inverted melody are choosen by the band members themselves. The pull of tonal progressions leading to chromatic altered style harmony find its way to atonality.

At letter JJ the return of the main theme arrives. Unlike the early version, this one quickly breaks down as slowly more players are asked to only follow the contour and rhythms while choosing their own notes.

Atonality increases slowly to blur the melody

The bridge at KK brings the band to half time and slowly more and more players are asked to improvise a short solo, thickening up the texture as the last four bars accelerate into LL where the band returns to the original tempo. At this point the themes original contours, are stated and the band improvises note choices once again as more and more horns enter leading into the tag. The tag also has improvised note choices and accelerates to the end where a one bar drum fills leads into a Bb stinger.

Entire band improvises on the contour of the theme.

Shifts in color was achieved with not only passing the melody amongst the different sections, but also from changing mutes in the brass and with Alto 1 doubling on flute and tenor 1 on clarinet. It was the contour and the rhythmic nature of the theme “Moose the Mooch” that led me to choosing this piece for the Blackhouse Collective. I felt it was possible to still recognize the basic elements of the tune despite pitch choices by the musicians. Early on in the work, cluster voicings and the stretching of the harmonic territory were utilized for increasing moments of surprises for the listener and to prepare the way for the ending. Atonality slowly creeps its way into the fabric of the work allowing for a major climax in the closing bars of the piece. Due to its length and limited rehearsal, it did not make it on the Blackhouse Collective concert. The score examples here reflect the reorchestrated version for big band.  The chart now sits in the folders of Clint Ashlock’s New Jazz Order Big Band here in Kansas City.