Bart Marantz NPR/KERA Jazz Education Interview
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"Beneath the Underdog"
By: Dean Sorenson
Instrumentation: Big Band
Publisher: Neil A. Kjos Music Company
Grade 4 Medium Swing Tempo = 112 $45.00
“Beneath the Underdog" was commissioned by the Apple Valley High School Jazz Ensemble in Apple Valley, Minnesota. Director John Zimmerman wanted to feature the pianist in his group and asked composer Dean Sorenson to come up with a vehicle that would show off the instrument, as well as it’s player. If you know Charles Mingus, then you are aware that his autobiography is of the same title. Apparently, Dean was reading this book at the time this opportunity came up and wrote a piece that depicts the autobiography. Although the composition is dark, it also has it’s very strong points and dose a wonderful job of bring the pianist to the forefront of the big band.
Care should be taken with the dynamics, especially in the backgrounds in the piano solo. The piano tremolo in bar 10 should continue into bar 12 with no break while the rest of the band is cut off. The tremolo should slowly diminish to the chord in bar 12. The piano sets the tempo in bar 13. The left hand part should be played dry, with little or no peddle. The soloist is encouraged to use not only the chord changes but also background rhythms, dynamics and overall mood of the piece as inspirations for improvisation.
Encourage your pianist to feel free to take risks and go perhaps in some directions that he/she may not have before. This is not a “traditional” piece by any means and should be used a composition that allows the soloist to grow in new ways musically.
“Beneath the Underdog" is not for everyone, but if you have a budding (no pun intended) pianist in your high school or college big band than you now have a new very exciting piece to feature him or her on.
Top note for trumpet C above the staff.