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John

Colonna

Artist Goals


My Goals as an artist are to combine all of the musical genres and periods of
music that have influenced me into a tasty souffl that sounds new and old at the same
time. My favorite movie is Brazil, which is an adaptation by Terry Gilliam of 1984 by
George Orwell. The movies design is both futuristic and retro, with the costumes
evoking the film noir of the 1940s while the set design is a nightmarish version of a
bureaucracy gone mad, with ducts intersecting every construction in the movie. I would
like my music to reflect Romantic classical music, 1930s-1960s jazz, and modern
musical genres like funk, punk, and hip-hop. Hopefully this will give the feeling of
something both new and old.

I studied classical piano as a child and teenager and my favorite composer was

Chopin. His compositional and playing style was a big influence in how I hear harmony
and melody. The first jazz that caught my ear was the playing and compositions of
Django Reinhardt. His playfulness and virtuosity while improvising were amazing. Until
that point, I thought jazz was an impenetrable morass of complex harmonies and
angular melodies that didnt make me feel anything. With Django, though, the
dissonance of a #11 or #9 are placed in the perfect places in his phrases.

From Django, I moved on to the music of Duke Ellington and especially the songs
of Billy Strayhorn. Billy Strayhorns compositions reminded me of Chopin, but even
better. His chord progressions always made tonal sense, but each change was somehow
unpredictable. UMMG, Blood Count, and Lotus Blossom are my favorites.

The next artist who influenced me was Bill Evans. In his playing, I could hear

Chopin and Django. His chord voicings use dissonance in the most pleasing way. He has
a sense of how tension notes want to resolve that comes from a very deep
understanding of classical music and jazz. Also, he will create chromatic harmony lines
moving from 1 to b9 to 9 to #9 or #11 to 5 to b13 to 13 that give incredible motion to his
playing.
During my time at NYU, I transcribed two Bill Evans performances (Come Rain or
Come Shine and Autumn Leaves) from the album Portrait in Jazz. I am using the
example of these recordings as models for how I arrange my own tunes. Bill Evans
knows how to build a great narrative arc in his performances. More so than the be-
boppers, Bills solos start with an idea that is then developed. The development of that
idea gives rise to a new idea, which can then be developed. Its a style of improvisation
that requires mastery of harmony and melody, but when Bill Evans uses it, it sounds
organic and unforced. To get the hang of this style of improvisations, I have been

writing solos for my tunes that start as a motive and then develop. Ive also used the
model of these performances to arrange the heads for my tunes. Many of Bill Evans
chord voicings use major 7th intervals to provide spice. He has introduced me to a lot of
major 7th intervals that I had not considered before, like between the 5th and flat 13th or
natural 9 and sharp 9.
As well as using Bill Evans as a model for how to voice chords and improvise, I
want to make jazz appealing to a younger generation whose perception of jazz is the
same as mine used to be. This was tried before, when L. Ron Hubbard told Chick Corea
that he should make music that appealed to the masses. The result of Return to Forever
is similar to what I have in mind but not completely. Rhythmically, Return to Forever
incorporated rock into jazz. I want to do the same thing, except I want to incorporate
the rhythmic feel of punk rock and funk into jazz. However, the harmonic and melodic
content of Return to Forever eschews the compositional style of great songwriters like
Gershwin or Billy Strayhorn for a modern jazz approach that to me is unappealing. I
never find myself humming a Return to Forever tune to myself in the shower.
In my compositions, I have tried to take the Strayhorn approach of adhering to
tonality but finding new ways to change chords that are unexpected. I have an idea that
I have used to compose two of my tunes. I am using the idea of extreme modal

interchange to borrow chords from increasingly distant keys, while still staying in one
key. If I am in the key of C and I use a Db chord, it can be analyzed as a chord from C
Phrygian mode. If I use Gb, it can be analyzed as coming from C Locrian. But what
about B? Why cant I use that chord using the idea of modal interchange? Since C
Phrygian is Ab Ionian and C Locrian is Db Ionian, if I wanted to use B, I would have to be
in Gb Ionian. Using this idea, I created synthetic modes that have 8 notes. These notes
are the notes of an Ionian scale with the note of C added. So, for the chord B in the
context of the key of C, the mode would be (C, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, B). This can be
done for every Ionian scale that does not contain C. The interesting thing about it is that
generally when a composer uses modal interchange, they are moving to a darker mode
by adding flats. Normally, Locrian is the darkest one can go. By creating these
additional modes, I am able to be darker than Locrian! But, as one keeps flatting notes
to become darker than Locrian, the notes that have already been flatted become
natural as they are flatted again. The effect is a feeling of the inversion of emotions, as
notes that are normally major and bright feel darker than minor.
My concept is a jazz piano trio that plays punk rock and funk. In order to do that,
I need musicians who are both great jazz players and interested in other genres. I have
been rehearsing with Henry Vaughn on drums and Jude Kim on bass and they have

taken the concept and ran with it to the edge of the space-time continuum. So, luckily, I
think as far as personnel goes, I should be good.
I hope to make a kind of music that is both traditional and forward looking,
expressive, exciting, a little dangerous, and appealing to an audience that is not just the
traditional jazz audience. I have played in a number of metal/punk bands and there is
something encouraging as a performer about an audience whose idea of a good time is
to smash into each other in a violent manner. I also hope to raise the bar for the level of
harmony and melody in those genres, because the level at which most popular music
operates is so much lower than when jazz was actually a popular music.