"La Commune"

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“La Commune” is a suite  that I composed as a tribute to the Paris Commune of 1871.  The Paris Commune began as a working class uprising; Paris was seized and controlled by workers for over two months, these events representing one of the first working class revolutions in human history and one of the first working class governments, taking place just 80 years after the French Revolution, which had marked the end of Feudalism and the beginning of Capitalism.  Although the Commune was eventually crushed by the French and Prussian armies, the Commune still represents the potential of the working class to unify and seize control of the productive forces of society and operate them in their best interests.

The compositions feature:

Jason Harnell on Drums

David J. Carpenter on acoustic bass guitar

Joel Peloquin on guitar

Leonard Thompson on keyboard

Storm Nilson on guitar

Mark Ferber on drums

Sara Gazarek vocals on track 3. (courtesy of Native Language Music)

Matt Otto composer/tenor Sax

The album was recorded, engineered and produced by David J. Carpenter (Big As Records) and released under the Jazz Collective Records label.

Mixed By David J. Carpenter and David Issac

Mastered by Alan Yoshida


You can preview the tracks from the CD baby store listing below:

Track 1. You Echo So

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The Impetus:

This first track, You Echo So, was originally written as a dedication to Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra.  While studying at Cal Arts, Charlie showed me a ballad called “Why Did I Choose You” (by Micheal Leonard) and I wrote this piece while I was working on that tune and learning the music for Charlie’s Cal Arts version of the Liberation Music Orchestra.  I was inspired by Charlie’s writting, the message being a social/political one and not merely music as a form of self expression.  Many of the songs we played (from both the “Ballad of the Fallen”, and “Not In Our Name” albums) where dedications to historical revolutionary figures (Sandino for Augusto Sandino the Nicaraguan revolutionary; Che for Che Guevara the Cuban Revolutionary; La Passionaria for Dolores Gomez, the Spanish revolutionary, to name a few).  This song “You Echo So”, an anagram of “You Choose,” was inspired by both the Liberation Music Orchestra and the idea that artists and their music can be both critical of social structures and a force for change.

The composition:

I wrote the progression first, taking nearly all the chords from the harmonization of an Eb harmonic major scale (major with a b13), except the last chord (Emaj7#11). The melody, and bass line are also mainly from Eb harmonic major with a few exceptions.  I wrote the bass line and second counterpoint melody on the bridge last and then made a simple arrangement.  Dave Carpenter (Martin acoustic bass guitar) came up with the bass introduction on his own, so you’ll hear that played before the written bass line begins.  The track also includes Mark Ferber on drums and Leonard Thompson on keys.  Like most of the material on this album, I was trying to write a sort of instrumental folk music, where the melody is lyrical even if complex and the chords and meter create a nice colorful environment.

You Echo So Score

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2. Paris Commune

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The Impetus:

In France, 1871, Louis Bonaparte, who had begun a war with Otto Von Bismarck the Minister of Prussia, had just abdicated and replaced by August Thiers.  The workers of Paris, who had been fighting the Prussian army for months, became frustrated when Thiers began talking about conditions of French surrender with Bismarck.  The workers, many members of the French national guard, seized Paris and set up a democratically run Central Committee, the first workers’ government in human history.  The Commune controlled production and distribution for over two months in Paris before both Thiers and Bismarck agreed to suspend war in order to deal with the Communards.  Thiers broke the Commune’s barricades on May 21st, and a week later had crushed the commune and killed between 20,000 and 30,000 Communards.

The composition:

The first unison line between the guitar and sax outlines the scale I used for the first theme (and the ending theme), it’s a Eb major scale with a b9 and a b13 (hungarian minor) and both melodic lines; the harmony and bass part all come from that scale.  The next section, with the main melody, I wrote at the piano, humming melodies and playing chords until I was content with the material. In the third section I expanded a bit on the first theme mostly by adding a few more notes to the basic scale I was working from (I added natural 9 and sharp nine).

This track also includes Jason Harnell on drums who solos over the ending material, Storm Nilson on Guitar and  David J. Carpenter on acoustic bass guitar.

Unfortunately the final arrangement of the piece never got recorded, which had developed during live performances and rehearsals over the year after the recording. The pdf of the score shows the changes that where made.

Paris Commune Score

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3. Enigma

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The Impetus:

Enigma was partially inspired by the Theo Bleckman album “Origami”.  A few of the compositions from that album have a beautiful open quality, the voice adding a transparency to the melodic material which I find very captivating.  On Enigma, Sara Gazarek sang the melody in unison with me.  She has a very pure and gentle voice which blends nicely with the saxophone.

The composition:

This piece moves through several three part voicings arpeggiated by the group. The melody on the second section breaks away from the voicing and was written freely by ear over the same bass and guitar part.  The solo section is over an Eb pedal.  Sara improvises after the melody while Dave plays a drone and chords simultaneously.

This piece also features Jason Harnell on drums and Joel Peloquin on guitar.

Enigma Score

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