Through The Eyes of a Child

James Armstrong - Through The Eyes of a Child - cover image

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For this second session at OTR Studios, I focused on a new, extended piece for solo piano and several older originals that evolved in my previous groups. The music reflects an ongoing effort to capture events in real-time, with no edits, inserts, or overdubs. As in the earlier recording, each performance was a first take.

Through the Eyes of a Child was written for my daughter, and approximates a classical sonata form, in four distinct sections. The opening statement — a toccata — consistently flouts conventions associated with the genre; rhythmically loose and improvisatory. Section two is a fantasy on a cadence in E major, and owes something to Manuel de Fallaís Fantasia Baetica in its gestures. Movement three is more jazz-oriented; an ostinato centered in E minor; fragile and melancholy, with superimposed harmonies. The finale, with its dense, chime-like effects, is a departure from the rest of the piece. A folk scale from Béla Bartók expands to harmonies centered in D flat.

Blues for Haybert K evolved in a jam session at the Storyville nightclub in San Francisco. The conventional twelve-bar blues form is assaulted head-on with jagged dissonance, abrupt modulations,and other devices not typical of jazz. At last, this piece for Jazz Now publisher Haybert Houston receives a thorough analysis and deconstruction.

4 a.m. is in 7/4 and is comprised of repeating figures centered in G and G flat. The rhythmic approach, however, is less obvious, and proved utterly vexatious in group readings. If anything, the forms represent significant technical challenges for the performer; the antithesis of a jazz tune.

Harrison Street is named after a busy thoroughfare in San Francisco; the only familiar route home during my days as a union musician. An interval sequence precedes an extended development section based on folk music; the finale is a paraphrase of a cadenza by Ferruccio Busoni. Perpetuum Mobile was inspired by a piece in Bartók's Mikrokosmos — pan-tonal effects over a steady pulse; a favorite practice in my most recent trio. Sarabande is a series of dance movements; a memory of Erik Satie and his scores, published by Salabert.