Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Enter Sandman?

Dear Jazzers,

I know it seems this blog has spun in place, lights flashing, 70's disco music cued, and with a not so subtle cut screen, emerged into a skimpy, yet patriotically costumed comics blog.

Guess my mind has needed a break from all that jazz.

However, after today's second rehearsal of Maspeth Blues (the 5 note wonder chart!) by the PS 58 Elementary Jazz Band, lead by yrs trly, I'd like to pose a thought to all you jazzer intellectuals (and any other readers out there).

How wrong would it be to arrange an incredibly simplified version of Metallica's Enter Sandman for... elementary jazz band? Would I be reinforcing the current social musical hierarchy which places jazz somewhere above Kenny G, but way below Justin Timberlake (yes, I love him), Toby Keith, and Metallica? Or would I be stealthily bringing these young minds into the jazz fold through pop accessibility?

In the year and half that I've been working with this once a week rehearsing band of 5th and 6th graders, we've done nothing but jazz tunes: a simple unison blues (the aforementioned Maspeth Blues), an arrangement of When the Saints Go Marching In (a beginner jazz band staple) and most recently, a swinging arrangement of Jingle Bells entitled Jingle Jangle Jingle (yes, a reference to Brookmeyer's Ding Dong Ding).

I must say, these kids can swing! Or at least they try really hard. We talk about Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Buddy Rich and they are familiar with the popular players for their instrument. But as much as I'd like to think they are all about jazz, their free play at the beginning of class betrays them. At the beginning of 3rd period today, instead of hearing the repetitive strains of Maspeth Blues, I heard the electric guitarist belting out the introductory riff of Enter Sandman to the delight of the rest of the band.

I locked shocked eyes with Fran, the full time music teacher at my school, and my body was seized with th3 anxiety that accompanied my 8th grade year when that song was so popular.

"How do these kids even know this song?!?"

After Fran and I traded a few rounds of "That's awesome!" (these are elementary kids, we give lots of positive reinforcement), the instantly cool 6th grade guitarist turned a hopeful face to me and asked excitedly, "Can we play it for our spring concert???"

Um, do I look like Jack Black?

But then... my over-achiever overly-caffeinated mind started racing through all the cool ways I could interpret heavy metal through big band. And oh the challenges of doing it with a severely limited range (my lead trumpet rose to the occasion and managed a D in the staff for our holiday concert), 4/4 time signature, and with as few notes as possible for my heavy fingered saxophonists!



Gregory Dudzienski said...

I think you should do it. In doing so you'll transform the jazz band kids into the envy of all others...maybe. Or, maybe they'll just have fun. It also sounds like a great arranging puzzle. There is the aesthetic discussion which I am too tired to formulate right now...I'll check in tomorrow between overloads.

D0nnaTr0y said...

"transform the jazz band kids into the envy of all others"

Wow- wouldn't that be something! Hee, hee.

Get some sleep between all the IAJE madness!

Chris Allen said...

Go for it!!!

First, if there's any way to do it, ALWAYS bring the kids' interest into class, whatever the class's subject is. YOU become the "cool" teacher, and they listen to, and learn from, you more and better. :)

Second... it's just a way cool idea. :D You've got the chops as a composer---have fun with 'em!