Resonance Jazz is made up of eight very creative individuals. Our Tempos of Summer concert at Old First Concerts in San Francisco on August 28th will feature compositions by our flute player Laura Austin Wiley, our violinist Michele Walther and our saxophonist Georgianna Krieger, as well as arrangements and compositions by bandleader Steve McQuarry.
It’s unusual for a band to have so many resident composers. We asked each of them a few questions about their process.
Michele Walther: I compose sometimes on the piano, sometimes violin, sometimes in my mind. I usually start with the harmony, or with a riff. Then I often sing the melody. Sometimes I play it, changing it many times, until it feels right.
Laura Austin Wiley: I always begin with a melody first. Usually I hear it in my mind. Then I sing it out loud and pick it out on the flute and record it. From time to time, I listen to the little soundbites I’ve recorded and then write them down and try to pick out chords that go well with them on the piano.
Georgianna Krieger: I improvise on the saxophone and keep a pencil nearby. When I play something I like, I’ll write it down and later I’ll refine it and add chords.
Steve McQuarry: I just write at the computer, on virtual music paper. I stopped using an instrument to compose at many years ago. Sometimes I begin with a melody; it depends on the piece. I really look at the rhythm in everything, melody, harmony, bass, etc.
Laura: Sometimes I’ll start with a thought or feeling I’m wrestling with. Then I’ll try to come up with something that expresses that thought or feeling. At other times a melody will just appear out of nowhere, usually when I am very tired at night. At other times, I’ll think about the jazz composers I love to listen to and play. There’s something about the open, flexible nature of Wayne Shorter’s chords that makes them fun to solo on. Or the nostalgic, simple quality of Pat Metheny’s melodies that evokes a feeling of American folksongs. Or the enigmatic title and feel of a Keith Jarrett piece that sounds like a Zen koan.
Steve: Hearing new music from any artist and hearing undiscovered works. Also just listening to the world! I had great experience walking down the street in Manhattan a month ago. A bunch of people were walking in and out of a 4/4 beat and for a few blocks there was a cool rhythm sounding out from our shoes with click-clack! I wish I had a recording!
Michele: Often I get inspired to write a new piece by a concert that I just heard. I might remember a short phrase, a harmony, or a rhythm, and out of that I create something new. Sometimes I just improvise on the piano or violin, and I might start repeating something that I like, and then write it down.
Georgianna: I think the place where musical ideas come from is very primal. They come most easily when I let go of conscious thoughts and just feel. The emotive qualities of music are always what I listen for.
Georgianna: I am working towards getting them recorded. You can hear them live when I perform with my quartet Playtime. Hire us Here
Laura: A CD of my original compositions is available on CD Baby. It’s called Contingency Plans.
Steve: – At www.mcquarry.org