The first time I ever saw Kevin Day playing piano was during an impromptu session one night at a local bar in Chicago. As much as I had known at that point how phenomenal of a composer he is, I quickly learned just how brilliantly gifted he also is as a jazz artist. It was in that fleeting moment that I knew I needed to write a new piece of music for him - something that could exemplify, demonstrate, and bring to life this amazing side of his artistry.
In Four Ethereal Planes, the pianist largely improvises throughout the course of this work and is only given written material when absolutely necessary. The four tunes that comprise this suite all stem from a similar approach in that they each take something grounded in some sense of reality and transform them into an over-the-top, almost parody-like setting:
I. Oranges and Apples - based on my experiences riding the New York City subways. At the time, the most direct route from my Brooklyn residence to Lower Manhattan was to take the orange line. However, as with any of the subway lines in the city, they can be unpredictable, thrilling, somewhat dangerous, and wild. This movement takes all of this with a grain of salt - light-hearted and fun, but still unpredictable.
II. The Dance That Never Was - the slow ballad of this suite for the moments in life that never happened; the risks not taken, the opportunities missed, and so on. A mixture of both longing and sadness, its emotional core is what ultimately drives the momentum of this music forward.
III. Flights of Fearless Fancy - an extremely quick-paced and unpredictable movement whose melodic content is entirely guided by improvisation between the soloist and members of the big band. Uncertain and wild, but charging forward nonetheless, this movement never ceases to stop.
IV. A Solitary Nightcap - There's a scene in the Mark Frost/David Lynch show Twin Peaks where, at a welcoming party, one of the main characters suddenly finds themselves sobbing and dancing the moment big band music unexpectedly plays over speakers. It's confusingly chaotic and strangely comedic on the surface, but with an underlying darker tragedy behind all of it. This final movement is inspired by that moment and transforms from a heavy swing number into a fast-paced dance that becomes wilder and wilder the further it goes, leading into a ridiculously over-the-top yet fulfilling conclusion.
I am incredibly thankful to Kevin for being open to this project and for the opportunity to write this work for him. I am also thankful to Jordan VanHemert and the Holland Concert Jazz Orchestra for their incredible collaboration with us and bringing this piece to life.