THE SPIRITUALITY SUITE
Dan Jonas - Trumpet, Trumpet with effects (track 7), Composer/Arranger (all tracks)
Levi Saelua - Tenor Saxophone, Bass Clarinet (tracks 2, 3, 8)
Ben Markley - Piano
Denson Angulo - Bass
Steve Lyman - Drums
Detailed Liner Notes…
As the liner notes on the CD jacket state, the inspiration from this music came from the interval of a perfect 4th. In music, this interval is both consonant and dissonant, depending on the context, and on either side lay the major 3rd or the tritone – beauty and peace or the “Devil in music.” While writing this album, this interval and its variations came to symbolize the choices and struggles we all face between right and wrong, between hope and despair.
Daniel, In The Lion’s Den – I’ve always been fascinated by the story behind my namesake – a prophet who was thrown to the lions for his belief in God. In some ways that story, that idea of blind faith but also of blind persecution has stuck with me throughout my life. The moral of the story is supposed to be that Daniel was a true believer, and indeed in the story he was saved by an angel of God. As a child and young man, I was raised to believe in God and my family went to church. Later in life I felt almost like I was thrust into a world of nonbelievers, like Daniel before me – left to my own devices with nothing but the faith I was given. This piece is essentially about this experience – when we are born, faith is not necessarily a part of us, but it is a mantle placed on us by family, by society, by expectation. Whether we embrace this faith is of course a matter of personal choice. Musically, the melody contains both the perfect 4th and major 3rd together, creating a dissonant half step, while the improvisation occurs over the Phrygian mode – which contains the perfect 4th and the tritone.
Salvation – This piece is based on the intervals of the tritone, the major 3rd, and the perfect fourth. The opening chord, one of my favorite sonorities, includes all three – a BbMaj7(b5), with a major 3rd (Bb-D), a 4th (E-A), and a tritone (Bb-E). The melody floats above the shifting chords, perhaps indicating that Salvation itself is unattainable, while the bridge shifts between major and minor 3rds, indicating that the answer is mercurial at best.
The Altar of Intellect – This piece was inspired by a conflict that arises in many who study music – that in our seeking of understanding, of intellectualizing a thing we love, we end up undermining our love of it. This piece contains two things that are often perceived as intellectual in music – a twelve tone row and free improvisation. The row is stated and freely improvised and is the basis for the piece before a free jazz section begins in which the improvisers have no direction other than the musical conversation they create.
The March to War – This was easily the most difficult piece to write. Conceptually, the idea is that as a people, as a nation, we always seem eager to fight others for what we believe. In so many ways, war and violence have become objects of worship in our society, which people blindly follow regardless of principle or logic. In practice, the piece plays off the interval of the perfect 4th, the major 3rd, and the minor 3rd. It is perhaps the most upbeat of all the pieces, reflecting a blind optimism that seems to pervade the beginning of all conflicts.
The Politics of Power – This album was conceived during a particularly polarizing time in American politics, but more importantly during a time where politics and social media seem to coincide. It begins with a single voice, but the clarity of that voice is soon muddied by other voices, although they end the introduction in recognizable harmony. Tempo begins and asserts order, and although the melody is dissonant, harmony and tempo hold everything together. Once the improvisation beings, however, the instruments freely devolve into individual statements and the music disintegrates – before being reunited by the single voice, and the other voices, dissonant at first, respond in harmony.
Charon, the Ferryman – In myth, Charon was responsible for carrying the souls of the deceased on a boat across a river in to the afterlife. The opening chords of the pieces alternate between major 3rds, perfect 4ths, and tritones, and the quarter note rhythm mimics the beating of the oars as Charon urges you on. The incessant pulse opens to a free section with a predominantly major tonality – the hope of all the passengers on the ferry that peace awaits them. The piece ends with the rhythm of the oars, the ferry leaving shore and disappearing in the distance. I dedicate this piece to Sara Lacopo, a dear family friend.
The Fermi Paradox – The essence of the Fermi Paradox deals with our future as a species. Is there other life in the universe? If so, why haven’t we found it yet, or why hasn’t it found us? If there isn’t other life in the universe, why? The Fermi Paradox says that there are millions of galaxies, with billions of stars, and countless planets – we should’ve found something by now. If we haven’t, then the logical explanation is that either we’re alone - because either other species haven’t lasted this long or because most species (including us) don’at last long enough to discover each other. Either is a terrifying thought. The background audio for this improvisation comes from NASA – the “sound” of Saturn’s rings.
Requiem for the Soul – One of my favorite jazz songs of all time is “Love’s Lullaby” off the Tim Hagan’s album Animation/Imagination. The melody of the song begins with a perfect 4th, but the chord isn’t the one your ear expects. This dichotomy between expectation and reality is the basis for this piece, where the melody takes the perfect 4th through a serious of harmonies before resolving. In an album that wonders about the meaning of life, from religion, to the afterlife, to war, to our relationship with each other and our future as a species, this piece asks if the answer might just be love.