Swing & Rock with Beethoven and Bach

Swing & Rock with Beethoven and Bach


Click the links below to see and hear each movement in the book.

1. Swingin’No. 9
2. Toreador Swing
3. Bach Rock
4. Unfinished Swing
5. Ludwing van’s Funeral

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These five pieces all came out of a period where I was studying the works of vocal groups such as The Hi-Los and The Swingle Singers, and how they often applied jazz rhythms, ‘blue’ notes, and jazz articulations to well-known classical themes to create some wonderful swinging compositions. I’ve tried to keep the original melodies easily identifiable, while at the same time giving them an improvised feel. Most importantly, I urge everyone to listen to the original compositions before attempting these. After all, how can you know what you’re jazzing up, if you don’t know what was originally written?

Swingin’ No. 9 – Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from the 4th movement of his Ninth Symphony gets the swing treatment here. For me, the fun of this kind of piece is often in what’s left out, rather than what’s actually played. A line of melody that you might expect to start on the downbeat will very often be delayed, or perhaps left out entirely.  Triplet rhythms cause cool shifts in the familiar lines, and slurs, staccatos and syncopated phrases should make you want to dance while playing this. Don’t be too careful––be a bit brash with this one.

Toreador Swing – Here’s the “Toreador Song” from Bizet’s opera, Carmen.  In this one there are even more unexpected twists and ‘wrong’ notes. Be bold, be willing to play loud, and then suddenly come soft again. Don’t be afraid of the high notes!  Pay close attention to articulations in your practice––they’ll help you get a feel for jazz trumpet playing. Keep the swing lazy and relaxed, ever so slightly behind the beat if you’re playing with a pianist.
Bach Rock – This is J.S. Bach’s Minuet in G played here in 4 time instead of its original 3 time. It’s a boogie woogie arrangement, so the quavers are to be swung quite hard. I’ve kept the melody mostly unchanged, so if you play the syncopated rhythms with good sharp accents, you’ll bring out the fun in the piece.

Unfinished Swing – You like some weird? I often feel I have to write something for the student who, like me, just relishes the strange. So, here it is. Schubert’s wonderful melody from the 1st movement of his Symphony #8, the Unfinished, still unfinished, but severely modified. Not so much swung as rocking, with time signature changes every other bar or so, and melodic and harmonic shifts, especially in the last 8 bars. Have fun with it, try to find the lilt and the dance. It’s in there. No, really!

Ludwig van’s Funeral – Nothing like a swinging funeral, I always say.  And the old time New Orleans jazz players would heartily agree with me, as it was the way they accompanied every casket to the cemetery. Here’s Beethoven’s great funeral march, from his 3rd symphony, the Eroica, gently and softly swung, with some abruptly chopped staccato notes, syncopated rhythms, and jazzy triplet patterns. Play this one with some real soul.

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