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  • Score Analysis: "12:48"

    In advance of the next Paul Dietrich Quintet album, due in 2017, I'll be going through and doing a compositional analysis of all the tunes on the first album. Third is "12:48." Audio is available by clicking play above. You may download the PDF to follow along by clicking on this link:

    12:48 PDF

    “12:48” is a time on a clock. If I were being more thorough, the tune would have been called “12:48 AM,” and then there wouldn't have been questions. But I get it, since 12:48 is a ratio that actually makes sense, from a clean math standpoint. So the questions persist. Now that that's cleared up, let's talk about the song!

    12:48 is different from every other tune on We Always Get There in that I didn't write it at the piano. I almost entirely write my tunes at the piano, but this one is different. The opening trumpet line (which ends up being played by the other members of the band) was something I came up with while playing long tones one day while practicing. That line is the common thread through the entire piece.

    (On a personal note, as a performer: this opening line has always scared the crap out of me. It's not exactly difficult, but there are a lot of big leaps in there, and it's obviously very exposed. The less I thought about it, the easier it was to play – but it's really easy to think too much about it when you're the only one playing at the start of the tune! It's been awhile since I've played it live, and I think I've gotten a lot better at trumpet in the meantime, so I'd like to think I'd be less scared, now.)

    Anyway, back to the common thread. Trumpet plays the line the first two times, and tenor comes in at m. 9 with the “melody,” if you'd like to think of it that way. I imagine it's not the easiest thing in the world to come in, soft, on an altissimo F on a tenor saxophone, but Dustin has always nailed it. Thanks Dustin! At m. 17, the line continues, but in piano now, and trumpet and tenor have pieces of the line, but in harmony with it. At m. 25, trumpet and tenor play the “melody” together, which ends what you could refer to, I guess, as the “head in.”

    So, a quick word on how the head is constructed: this was still in the time where, much like with House on Willard, I was kind of exploring different, slightly more unusual ways of orchestrating a jazz quintet. Bass and drums function very regularly in this tune, but I was kind of looking for different things in the way that the parts intertwined – this led to the melodies and the line getting passed off between instruments like they were.

    The piano solo, starting in m. 33, is simply a free solo section in Ab. The recorded version is fairly tame, but by the end of our run of playing this song regularly live, Paul, Tim and Andrew would sometimes get very adventurous. The re-entry of Dustin and I with our 'background' line served not only to get the band to move on, but to re-establish the time and tonal center.

    The line, then, continues at m. 49, but in a squashed form – all the rests and long notes have been purged. This necessitates a time change to 6/4. Also, you probably noticed that there is harmony here, other than the pedal Ab that has been present (depending on where the piano solo went) for the entire tune. I'm not sure where I got this chord progression from, it was just sort of a fun thing – Dustin used to refer to the D/F# leading to Eb/G in m. 51 as the “gospel chord.”

    And now here's a quick shout to another song that definitely inspired this one, whether I knew it at the time or not: “Over There,” written by Derrick Hodge, from Terence Blanchard's album Flow. (It was also recorded on A Tale of God's Will but I've always preferred the other version.) I have to admit, if there was one song on this album that I wish I could had Terence's chops for, this is the one! (Terence, if you're reading this and ever want to play my tune, I'd be honored.)

    After the trumpet solo hits a fever pitch and then ebbs, we're back to the Ab pedal. One little change from the score – the Ab chord that lasts, as written, from 58-61 was actually just open Ab until Dustin started playing again in m. 62. At this point in the recording, Paul does some really amazing stuff in the piano, some of my favorite music from the entire record. Dustin's line feels like it's in space. Everyone locks back in at m. 70 to play the melody one last time out.

    I think, of all the songs on the album, this may have been my favorite.