>> write // chris trinidad's changing tides: liner notes

Chris Trinidad: bass guitar
Reggie Padilla: saxophones
Jamie Dubberly: trombones
Miguelito Valdes: trumpets and flugelhorns
Evan Francis: flute (1, 6, 7)
Alex Hand: guitars
Christian Tumalan: piano (3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
David Rokeach: drum set
Jose Sanchez: percussion (2, 6, 7)

Produced and mixed by Chris Trinidad at Elemental MusicWorks, Pinole, CA.

Recorded remotely in isolation in California, Hawaii, Texas, New York, and British Columbia from 7 March to 16 July during the Coronavirus Continuation of 2021.

Mastered by Akiyoshi Ehara on 21 September 2021 at Sleepy Wizard Studios, El Cerrito, CA.

Layout and Design by Chris Stevenson.
Artwork by PJ Martín.

Looking Back to Move Forward
In mid-March of 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order shutting down the State of California in order to contain the Novel Coronavirus. I played my last gig for what turned out to be six months a few days after that order was instituted. The silver lining to that final engagement is that I had the opportunity to play with drummer David Rokeach as part of the rhythm section for the Voices of Praise at the First Congregational Church of Oakland.

As the lockdown was instituted, musicians were suddenly relegated to becoming overnight recording engineers in order to continue plying their trade. I offered to help David navigate the technology, which led to an introduction to guitarist and arranger Tony Corman who, in turn, asked David and I to provide drums and bass guitar tracks for a virtual version of his Morchestra Jazz Orchestra. As I laid down those tracks for Tony in my home studio, the idea for my next project was hatched: a big band record!

Certain Times
A few years back, I had commissioned pianist Christian Tumalan of the Grammy award winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra to arrange Latin jazz versions of tunes from my Common Themes series of albums. This time around, I sought to reexamine songs from the Certain Times record that I completed in 2014. I figured that these tunes could provide sufficient fodder for reimagining in the hands of capable jazz orchestra arrangers.

The compositions on that album were written in a span of seven days in the midwinter month of December 2013, during the liturgical season of Advent—the time in the Western Christian calendar when expectant waiting and preparations for Christmas took place. Assembled from a collection of riffs, motifs, and ideas I had collected over five years of living in the ever sunny San Francisco Bay Area, the tunes were modest and sparse. It reminded me of the snow capped mountains, bare branched trees, and fresh crisp winter solstice air of my home province of British Columbia.

The titles I chose for each song were meant to relay a sense of hopefulness, of eager anticipation, and of memories steeped in nostalgia. Times seemed certain, buoyed by the sense of artistic, academic, personal, and spiritual renewal I was experiencing as a new citizen of the United States. To be sure, I was and am still very much Filipino-Canadian by heritage and nationality, and these inform who I am today and how I continue to emerge.

Changing Tides
Fast forward a couple of years, and the social context in my adopted homeland changed with the unimaginable election of the 45th president of the United States. The joy I felt was soon dashed, and I set about channeling my energies toward creative endeavors. As the political landscape shifted to destroying, demeaning, and disenfranchising people, I wanted to counteract all of that negativity by creating, building, and envisioning. I ended up releasing five albums within a four-year span.

With the legitimate election of the 46th president, and the rapid development of a vaccine that helped to stem the tide of the raging pandemic, there was much healing that needed to take place politically, socially, emotionally, and medically. It was my fervent hope that this artistic and musical project would help with that healing. Tides were changing, indeed.

The Camaraderie of Musical Comrades
Flashback to ninth grade when I was first introduced to jazz. I picked up the bass guitar in order to join my high school stage band. The energy of hearing trumpets layered on top of trombones, of saxophones sandwiched in between, all driven by a rhythm section, was exciting to me. I learned about different grooves and styles, and I got a taste of improvising.

I remember the thrill of being part of a community of music makers. It was while part of the stage band I learned the special bond musicians develop as they experience the joys and challenges of making music together, and then taking that music on the road. Indeed, my first "gig," as it were, was at a high school jazz festival where the stage band competed against other high school jazz bands.

The pandemic radically changed music making. We musicians are, to some extent, social creatures, and our need to connect with our comrades transferred online. As 2020 came to a close, I released a Coronavirus Hibernation project called Canción Tagalog. The album was recorded in isolation through file sharing across multiple time zones. I headed into 2021 thinking and feeling that the worst was not yet over, and I yearned to keep the creativity and the camaraderie flowing. Was it possible to realize another artistic endeavor without even setting foot into the same space? Could we again use technology to keep us connected rather than isolated and divided?

I set about contacting a number of old and new music mates from near and far who would join me in this endeavor. Tony arranged the first tune. Other featured arrangers included Alex Conde and Charlie Gurke, who were two of the original players on Certain Times. Associates from my Common Themes days, Jared Burrows and Len Aruliah, also answered the arranging call. Rounding out the cast were Danny Cao and Ivor Holloway, who I had the pleasure of playing with in Danny's quintet. With the arrangers commissioned, I set about assembling the big band that would give the music life. The players I chose are also familiar friends and I am extremely fortunate to have such high calibre musicians grace this recording.

The rhythm section included the aforementioned Con Todo arranger and pianist Christian Tumalan. Originally from Mexico, Christian studied at Escuela Superior de Música and graduated with a quadruple major in classical piano, jazz piano, arranging, and sound engineering. While he is best known for co-leading the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, he has also performed with Alex AcuĖa, Calixto Oviedo, Wayne Wallace, John Santos, Giovanni Hidalgo, Pete Escovedo, and Sheila E.

Alex Hand, who played on my Chant Triptych II album, played guitar. Originally from Reno, Nevada, Alex is a guitarist currently based in the Texas area. He has toured, performed, and recorded with a variety of artists in the genres of swing, gypsy jazz, rock, Irish traditional, Balkan folk, and more. For six years he was based in the San Francisco Bay Area, teaching and performing with his own group (of which I was privileged and honoured to be a part), the Alex Hand Band, a baroque ensemble called Les Ameriqains, and a Flamenco/Balkan fusion orchestra called Istanbul Connection.

Of course, I only had one drum set player in mind when I started this project. David Rokeach was the perfect percussive partner. A long time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, David toured and performed nationally and internationally with such luminaries as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Taj Mahal, Patti LaBelle, Aaron Neville, and Mavis Staples, amongst many others. David and I worked together to curate the grooves and feels and to ensure that each tune had a unique rhythmic infrastructure.

José Sanchez, who I had the honour of recording with on Vancouver-based singer and songwriter Susana Abreu's debut album, provided percussion on three tracks. Born and raised in Cuba, he began percussion studies at age eleven at Manuel Samuell Conservatory and graduated with honours from Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana. He has toured the world with the likes of Adalberto Alvarez y su Son, Rojitas y su Orquesta, Amaury Perez, and others. After moving to Vancouver in 1997, he joined the Puentes Brothers, toured with singer Amanda Marshall, and Juno and Latin Grammy award winner Alex Cuba.

The varied influences, experiences, and backgrounds of the rhythm section players made for a rich and colourful foundation for the horn players to do their thing.

Reggie Padilla played tenor saxophone on my Canción Tagalog album. We met in 2014 at the Filipino American Jazz and World Music Festival in Los Angeles. Originally from Long Island, New York, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Classical Piano Performance and a Master's degree in Music Education, Reggie now resides in Honolulu, Hawaii where he lives an active music life as a performer and educator.

Jamie Dubberly was featured on my Latin Jazz album Con Todo. We met while playing with Braulio Barrera's salsa band Somos El Son in 2017. Originally from Brunswick, Georgia, Jamie has an established reputation in California as a first call trombonist who has performed with a wide range of musicians in a variety of styles. With an earned Bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia and a Master's degree from The Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, Jamie won a 2014 Grammy award as a member of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra.

Miguelito Valdes is a trumpet player that I had the pleasure of playing with as a member of Vancouver-based Raphael Geronimo's Rumba Calzada Latin jazz group. Highly regarded as one of Cuba's foremost trumpeters of his generation, Miguelito Valdes carries a rich history of performing with many of Cuba's top groups, including the Cabaret Tropicana Orquesta, Pablo Milanes, Isaac Delgado, Mayito Rivera, Klimax, Afro Cuban All Stars, and Chucho Valdes. In 2000, he began playing with Omara Portuondo of the Buena Vista Social Club, with whom he traveled around the world for six years. Miguelito also participated on the 2001 Latin Grammy award winning recording La Rumba Soy Yo. He has also played with important jazz musicians including Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, John Patitucci, Danilo Perez, and Wayne Shorter. Miguelito is a member of the Canadian Forces as part of the Royal Canadian Navy Naden Band.

With Reggie, Jamie, and Miguelito playing and overdubbing multiple parts, my hope was that the feel, phrasing, articulation, and dynamics would have a unique consistency from track to track.

New York-based multi-reedist Evan Francis adorns several tracks on flute. I had the honour of playing with Evan as a member of Lina Torio's Mestiza y La Ley. Named a "Rising Star" in the flute category of the 2019 DownBeat magazine critics poll, Evan has performed, recorded, and toured around the world with notable musicians like Stevie Wonder, Michael Bublé, Taylor Eigsti, Helen Sung, Me'shell Ndegeocello, Lyrics Born, and Talib Kweli. His flute and saxophone playing was also featured on the Grammy-winning debut record of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra. His composing and bandleading skills have been employed in the form of various projects including Spaceheater, Blast Furnace, and The Evan Francis Group.

Inevitable Evolution
Tony Corman was gracious enough to set the tone for the project. His belief as an arranger is that he should work to serve the tune, ask it what it wants, and impart a clear character and story line. According to Tony, he wanted to highlight, with maximum contrast, the changes in rhythmic feel. In addition, he saw the original melody as motivic and divided the orchestration into a kind of question and answer pattern. He also used elements of the motifs as material for background lines and echoes in order to add a sense of coherence to the arrangement. Because my original tune featured a lot of dominant harmony, he took the opportunity to use rich, crunchy, and multi-note voicings in the horns. The sections of the tune that featured symmetrical modal harmonies allowed Tony to sonically paint an aural picture that was perhaps more Mondrian, and maybe less Realist. Evan takes a flute solo and Reggie does the same on alto saxophone.

A 1977 graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a degree in saxophone performance, he had an active career playing woodwinds in various groups including holding the lead alto chair in the Full Faith and Credit Big Band. In 2002, Tony developed a movement disorder called focal dystonia which compelled him to stop playing woodwinds. He switched to guitar and co-leads the FivePlay jazz quintet with his wife, pianist Laura Klein. Finally, he is the leader and the self-described "lone arranger" for the Morchestra Jazz Orchestra!

Something New In The Familiar
Pianist and composer Alex Conde chose this number to arrange. He and I met as members of Lina Torio's Mestiza y La Ley. I remember being quite taken with Alex's phenomenal technique and he kindly lent his talent and played on my Certain Times record. At that recording session, I remember quite distinctly Alex suggesting that we lay down this track with a more explicit funk-informed vibe. It is quite fitting then that he would take inspiration from the original recording as a template for how he approached arranging this tune. David and José set the groove for the tune and Jamie takes the spotlight with a solo.

A recognized prodigy, Alex demonstrated perfect pitch at the age of four. His parents gave him his first keyboard and encouraged him as he began taking formal piano instruction. He earned his first bachelor's degree in classical performance from the Jose Iturbi Conservatory of Music in 2001. From there, he went on to study at L'Aula de Música de Barcelona and earned a Diploma of Excellence in 2006. Later that year, Conde was offered scholarships to pursue a second bachelor's degree from Berklee College of Music. He has five recordings to his credit as a leader including Jazz and Claps, Barrio Del Carmen, Descarga for Monk, Origins, and Descarga for Bud.

The Benefit of Hindsight
Jared Burrows and I go way back to my formative playing days in Vancouver. A guitarist, luthier, scholar, educator, composer, and arts administrator, Jared is a modern day polymath. An instructor in the Jazz Studies program at Capilano University (of which I am an alumnus), Jared teaches improvisation and conducting while directing small and large ensembles. He's a member of a number of Vancouver-area bands including Thunder Lizard, Dave Robbins' Electric Band, Delta Quartet, Brad Muirhead Quartet, Colin MacDonald's Pocket Orchestra, and Djangophilia. Jared earned a Doctorate in Arts Education from Simon Fraser University and is actively engaged in writing and research work in the areas of social models of cognition related to free improvisation, community music, the teaching of improvisation, and Sufi and Taoist philosophy applied to performance practice.

Jared was initially attracted to this tune because of the introduction that was originally devised in the studio by Alex Conde. The bass part, along with various shifting piano rhythms were sufficiently intriguing and appealing that Jared added other melodic bits and pieces to build drama. He saw that the main pentatonic melody was simple and clear and so he sought to present it in a few different ways through the course of the arrangement featuring solo baritone sax, octaves in the saxes, saxes with guitar, and so on. He liked the idea of pentatonic melodies with shifting harmonies so he tried to find as many ways as possible of increasing the harmonic palette while maintaining the intention of the original composition.

I wanted to see if I could escape having to lay down a solo, but sure enough Jared knew my playing well enough to insist that space be created for me to do my thing. What I love about Jared's playing and composing is that he really thinks about who he is writing for. He wants to ensure that the parts he is writing are fun and hold the interest of the players. At the same time, Jared considers how much time each player gets and what roles they might play in the larger scheme. He thinks this comes from playing so much big band music where composers never gave a thought to what the guitar should do. He did not want to do that to someone else on any instrument. So, he gave space for and specified that the guitarist should take the first solo. Alex Hand answered the call and unearthed a blistering molten jazz-metal solo complemented by some tasteful accompaniment from both David and Christian.

Finding Somewhere Forever
Shortly after Jared said yes to the project, I contacted his good friend, UK-based saxophonist and composer Len Aruliah. Len chose to arrange this ballad because it was chorale-like and he sensed that the melodic theme contained many possibilities for arrangement. Len looked to the late Kenny Wheeler for inspiration, who he met while studying at the Banff Centre for the Arts 1993 Jazz Workshop, held in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Kenny's musical approach affected him profoundly from that first encounter, and he knew that he wanted to play and write music like his. Although he never studied formally with him, Len spent many years transcribing and learning Kenny's compositions, and emulating elements of his music. Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Len chose to make my tune and his arrangement sound as much like Kenny's work as he could.

To begin, Len tweaked my original melody and harmony to create the template for his arrangement. As well as re-harmonising the melody slightly, he used a technique borrowed from Kenny (also employed by Jerome Kern and Sergei Prokofiev, among others) of transposing and reusing melodic and harmonic material in different key areas. Reimagined as a jazz waltz, Len then also wrote a new melody (or contrafact, to use a technical term) based on the original theme, adding an extra repetition of the final two chords to create an extended release before returning to the beginning of the form. Having established the source material, Len set about arranging for the ensemble.

After a dramatic opening sequence of chords, he orchestrates the ballad theme, increasing the density of the instrumental texture in each section of the theme, passing the melody from solo trombone to the saxophones, and finally to the trumpets. A brief transition follows which sets up the waltz groove, the statement of the new waltz theme, again increasing density while passing the melody between instrumental choirs. After two full choruses of the form for improvisation featuring Miguelito, Christian, and Reggie, Jamie gets a full chorus. An instrumental soli without rhythm section accompaniment follows. In the final chorus, both main themes are stated together: my original melody phrased in waltz time alongside the contrafact. Initially presented in unison, harmonies are gradually added, and the density increases toward the climax when the groove ends abruptly. A partial restatement of the ballad theme then leads back to the opening chords to conclude the piece.

As a UK-based freelance musician, he has performed with The Hackney Colliery Band, The Bristol European Jazz Ensemble, The Mike Collins Quartet, Gene Pitney, The River City Stompers, The Charles Condy Quartet, Paul Weinreb's Tarantula, The Hot Orange Big Band, The John Bennett Big Band, Meta/Mistura, The 4Seasons Band, The Association of British Calypsonians, as well as his own groups. He has also worked in theatre orchestras in London's West End. In 2007 he released a jazz quartet album called Full Circle which I had the honour and privilege of engineering, and a decade later he released his quintet album No Complications featuring his compositions.

A Reading in Retrospect
Charlie Gurke is a San Francisco Bay Area based saxophonist, composer, and educator. In addition to leading various incarnations of his Gurkestra, Charlie is a member of the John Santos Sextet and The Electric Squeezebox Orchestra. An active freelancer, Charlie regularly performs and records with collaborators in a variety of genres. Charlie attended the San Francisco School of the Arts, where he studied with Wayne Wallace and Melecio Magdaluyo, among others. After high school Charlie moved to New York and attended the New School's Jazz and Contemporary Music program, studying with legendary saxophonists Billy Harper and George Garzone. Charlie holds a Bachelor's degree in music with an emphasis on composition from California State University East Bay, and a Master's degree in jazz studies from the University of Oregon.

Charlie's arrangement of this tune makes allusions to minimalist composers Steve Reich and Terry Riley, and a favourite contemporary composer and arranger, Alan Ferber. Charlie likes to use elements of the melody to build out an arrangement. In this case, he used the first bar and the last bar of the original melody to create what would become the introduction and interlude before and after the melody. He and I spoke at length about how the arrangement would fit into the whole album, which led to featuring Reggie on baritone saxophone and pianist Christian taking solo spins, as well as the "low end" soli that comes after the improvised sections and before the final statement of the melody.

Transcending December
Danny Cao is a San Francisco born-and-raised trumpeter, singer, composer, arranger and producer. His current projects include the DU UY Quintet, The Chesscapades, Inspector Gadje, Locura, and Istanbul Connection. He has worked with Vinyl, Royal Jelly Jive, Bayonics, Mars Villa, and Big Bones, amongst other groups. It was playing alongside Danny with his DU UY Quintet and Chesscapades, and with Manicato and My Peoples where I really got to know him.

Danny took this ballad which he said reminded him of a project that trumpeter Ron Miles did with guitarist Bill Frisell. Apparently, he was taken with the nostalgic nature and feel of my composition. Danny's process involved letting the song marinate in his head by repeatedly playing it on the piano. Also, as he walked or bicycled around San Francisco, he started singing the melody in different ways which led to a simplification of the original chords and to the incorporation of key transpositions. He also wanted to incorporate a trombone choir, which led to some melodic involvement for the brass instrument section in the opening section of the arrangement. Danny also came up with several feel changes for the tune which keeps it dynamic and fresh for the rhythm section. Miguelito is featured as soloist on flugelhorn.

Though Certainly Speaking
Saxophonist, composer, and educator Ivor Holloway arranged the last tune of the set. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland and raised in Northern California, he heard Stan Getz in concert as a youngster, propelling him toward a lifelong commitment to the saxophone and a love of music. Ivor studied composition and improvisation with Fred Frith at Mills College. His most significant current project is being a dad to his new baby girl, Annie.

Ivor chose this tune because he was struck by its relative simplicity since most of the melody is made up of two alternating riffs. He wanted to get a lot of mileage out of a small amount of material so he dressed it up by layering on a few more riffs without changing the original structure. Ivor also sought to incorporate familiar Latin jazz rhythms and vocabulary, and particularly the work of Chucho Valdes and Irakere, into a 5/4 time signature. The original bass line riff reminded Ivor of that Pee Wee Ellis tune called "The Chicken." In Ivor's words: "maybe more like a mutant 5/4 Chicken…with some Latin seasoning." Reggie takes a solo on tenor saxophone and Alex Hand takes it home on guitar.

My appreciation goes to all who contributed to this project: Tony Corman, Alex Conde, Jared Burrows, Len Aruliah, Charlie Gurke, Danny Cao, Ivor Holloway, Reggie Padilla, Jamie Dubberly, Miguelito Valdes, Evan Francis, Alex Hand, Christian Tumalan, David Rokeach, José Sanchez, Akiyoshi Ehara, Chris Stevenson, and PJ Martín.

Extra special thanks to my wife and life partner Pia whose steadfast love and constant care during the Coronavirus Continuation of 2021 empowered me to complete this project.

This work is dedicated to Jana Kmodras for incredible patience as my piano teacher and for showing me how to phrase a melodic line, to Larry Olson for giving me my first gig as a member of the school stage band in ninth grade at the British Columbia Interior Jazz Festival, and to J Scott Goble for teaching me how to program a concert and how to conduct an ensemble.

Chris Trinidad
September 2021


certain times

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