Monday, 23 March 2020


I have always had a fascination with how music can be transformed, through arrangement, orchestration, and influence from other genres/cultures, yet still, keep its original identity. How a composition, with a known essence that is recognized by people, can benefit and become exciting again when put through the spectrum of another’s ideas and experiences. 
Usually, I’m writing my own compositions that are influenced by other music such as my ‘Reinventions’ piano concerto (based on Bach) or my ‘Rite Through an Eclectic Spectrum’ for my band Sound Liberation (based on Stravinsky) or many other pieces where I take parts of older music and deconstruct them, or am heavily influenced by a piece and reference it in some way in the music. But I have had the opportunity of taking a piece of music I love, and arrange/orchestrate it for a very different ensemble and put my own personal stamp on it. One of my first experiences was with my group Absolute Ensemble when I decided to arrange Black Sabbath’s classic metal song ‘Paranoid’ for a string orchestra. I loved the different type of energy the string orchestra brought to the piece and the piece brought to the string orchestra, it was really a big contrast of how they played this arrangement and the other music on the program, and in fact, it might have had an effect on their playing of the other music. I later was asked to arrange this piece for a full orchestra and the Brooklyn philharmonic premiered that among other orchestras. 


Later I had a chance to do bigger projects as an arranger. The two that come to mind that was the most interesting was my work on the music of Franz Zappa and working with on a full album of my arrangements of the music of Joe Zawinul. 

With the Zappa project, we were preparing a tour with Absolute Ensemble, which included luminaries from the Zappa band (Napoleon Murphy Brock and Mike Keneally).
I am a big Zappa fan so it was extremely fun for me to take this music that I grew up on and do something different with it. Here are three examples.

Cosmik Debris  
Here is the original 

Dirty Love 
Here is the original 

Inca roads 
Here is the original 

In all of the above arrangements, I use the original recording as the source material, not just the song itself. So I transcribed a lot of what happens on the recording since this is what people have in their heads as the piece. Solos, bass grooves, drum fills, etc. are transcribed and arranged. I add lots of color on top of the original and use the orchestral instruments in the group to get the chamber sound that is a new layer on top of some of this music. 

With the Zawinul project, I did a similar thing where I transcribed lots of things that are happening on the recording, getting Joe to famously say that he came to the first rehearsal and did not know what to play since Gene arranged everything on the record. :)
In the below clip, I took the very famous Wether Report piece ‘A remake You Made’ and asked what it would sound like as played by a string quartet. 
‘A remake You Made’   
Here is the original 

‘Peace’ was originally a synth composition - you can hear the original here:

This is my orch. of it: 

It was fun to transform it into a chamber piece - and mimic the colors of the various synthesizers Joe was using 

You can check out the whole album here: 

I am about to embark on a new project that will be a similar exploration of music like the above projects, this one focusing on Deep Purple. I am interested in transforming this music through arrangement and orchestration with r&b, various African cultures, chamber music, reggae and wherever else my imagination takes me. 

To leave you I would like to share with you a Spiritual called ‘Walk With Me’ that I arranged for singer great Chanda Rule and the Outreach Orchestra. I took this beautiful melody and added lots of harmonies and color on top of it to make it something very different from the original, yet still retain its spiritual essence
‘Walk With Me’