There is frequently a sense of many things happening at once in Maiden’s music. Soloists are occasionally asked to improvise simultaneously, creating spontaneous counterpoint. This happens in Didn’t We
, Keep on Truckin’
. There is also brilliant counterpoint throughout April Fool
. Maiden sets his own bari against the solo trombone in two-part writing that begins only a step apart and soon covers a span of almost two and a half octaves. Later in the same piece Maiden sets up a three-part contrapuntal texture by adding a Harmon muted trumpet improvising above the bari/bone combination.A Little Minor Booze
demonstrates a developmental technique that Maiden used frequently. After stating the melody in the first twelve bars, he repeats it, adding a bop inspired eighth-note counterpoint played by the unison saxes. He also used this technique in Watch What Happens
, No Harmful Slide Effects
and Love Story
Often his genius was in his simplicity. A Little Minor Booze
was his most popular composition for the Kenton band. It is still played by high school, college and pro bands all over the world. And yet the score contains only a twelve-bar blues head played twice, a couple of solos, and two ensemble out choruses. There isn’t even an extension at the end. The last chorus has twelve bars just like each of the others. And no one feels shortchanged.
In the Theme from Love Story
Maiden arranged just one and a half choruses of the popular melody for the band. The wonderful alto/baritone duet on the live recording, in which each rhythm section member enters one at a time, is not in the score. Instead, it is notated simply as an improvised chorus for rhythm section and solo alto. In Watch What Happens
there is also one and a half choruses notated on the score, with the rest turned over to rhythm and soloist.
Examining two original compositions more closely will demonstrate the brilliance that poured from Willie Maiden’s trusted mechanical pencil. Kaleidoscope
is a medium swinger, full of joy and humor. The Height of Ecstasy
shows Maiden’s more serious side, but also with his brand of humor peeking through.Kaleidoscope
composed and arranged by Willie Maiden
Recorded by the Stan Kenton Orchestra 13 August 1971
In Maiden’s original composition Kaleidoscope
, many of the techniques that marked his distinct sound are present. From the descending scale of the introduction to the final ascending scale and last note trills, this is all Maiden.Kaleidoscope
consists of an introduction [Figure 1
] followed by five choruses. Each chorus is an eighteen bar AABA structure, having four distinct sections of four bars each with a two bar extension. A four bar transition follows each the first three choruses. During the first two choruses the melody is presented. In the third and fourth choruses the alto and trumpet trade solo passages. The final chorus has a return of the melody as it modulates up a whole step to the key of E-flat major. There is no transition leading into this section, although the preceding chorus is extended an additional two bars to accommodate the modulation.Kaleidoscope
opens with Maiden’s familiar scale passage. Starting with a high C in the first trumpet, each note of a descending D-flat major scale appears and is sustained in a different instrument. Instruments enter and exit, creating a pan-tonal wash as the notes are layered in a bell-tone effect. By the second bar five of the seven scale tones are sustained simultaneously. The layering begins anew in bar three as the scale continues to descend and by the sixth bar six of the seven pitches occur together (see Figure 2). This scale descends almost three octaves over ten bars before landing on the first non-diatonic sound, a lowered II chord (D9b5), which quickly resolves to the tonic.
In the first chorus the melody is divided between the saxophones, trombones and Harmon muted trumpets, each playing 5-part block chords [Figure 2
]. Unlike the introduction, in which the syncopated entrances overlapped one another, there is a pointillistic effect created by using primarily short notes with little overlapping. His use here of klangfarbenmelodie, a term coined by Arnold Schoenberg, is exciting. Sax, trumpet and trombone sections are pitted against one another as they pass the melody around, note by note.
The second chorus adds an eighth-note melody to the pointillistic line of the previous chorus. This melody is played by alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet and trombone. The color of this melody changes constantly, as only two of these instruments play at a time, swapping the melody back and forth every three or four notes [Figure 3
In the final four bars of each of the first three choruses there is a series of pointillistic descending diatonic seventh chords (Dbmaj7 – C half dim – Bbmin9 – Ab9 – Gbmaj7 – Fmin7 – Ebmin9) which ends on the lowered II. The transitions also utilize descending seventh chords in a pointillistic manner, but the descent is chromatic, rather than diatonic. However, the final chord of these transitions is also the lowered II chord.
Virtually the entire composition is diatonic, with only a few exceptions. The bridge of each chorus contains secondary dominants and altered chords. And the transitions feature chromatic harmonic motion. But the introduction and the A sections are entirely diatonic within the key of D-flat (or E-flat in the last chorus).
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a kaleidoscope as a “tube-shaped optical instrument.” But it goes on to offer a second definition: “a constantly changing set of colors.” No title could more aptly describes this composition. The whirling timbres and melodies spin like the bits of colored glass. The colors shift with unexpected surprises. And it swings.The Height of Ecstasy
Composed and arranged by Willie Maiden
Recorded by the Stan Kenton Orchestra 22 August 1972The Height of Ecstasy
, or Orgasm
as Maiden originally titled it, is clearly his most experimental work. The entire composition is based on the opening seven-note motive [Figure 4
]. This simple motive undergoes dozens of restatements, sped up and slowed down, but never transposed. Throughout the piece the trombones are asked to play almost continuous glissandi, creating an undulating background.
After a climax is reached about half way through the piece, another crescendo begins, during which the opening motive is absent. Three overlapping major triads, E-flat in the trumpets, D-flat in the trombones and C in the saxes, repeat over and over, each section accenting a different beat. While these dissonant chord combinations continue, and the tempo increases, the solo trumpet is asked to “blow on this scale,” the scale being a C Phrygian mode. The motive finally returns played by the full band for a climatic statement that resolves to a chord containing all twelve pitches [Figure 5
Although the “key” is ambiguous in this work, there is no doubt that C is the tonal center. It is present as an almost constant pedal in the bass voices. And the final 12-note chord is firmly rooted on an open fifth, C and G, in the bass.
The final bar contains the instruction “vocalize sub tone” for the entire band, which seems to be Maiden winking at the listener. It never failed to leave smiles, rather than bewilderment, on the faces of the audience, after such a dissonant, unsettling composition.
Maiden left the band in mid-1973. Kenton never officially recorded another Maiden piece after his departure. The only mainstay in the library was A Little Minor Booze
, which Kenton continued to perform until the end. After his departure Maiden was head of the Jazz Studies program at the University of Maine. He died of spinal meningitis in 1976 at the young age of 48.
Harris, Steven D. The Kenton Kronicles
. Pasadena, California : Dynaflow Publications, 2000.
Lee, William F. MF Horn: Maynard Ferguson’s Life in Music
. Ojai, California : MF Music, 1997.
Lee, William F. Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm
. Los Angeles : Creative Press, 1980.
Sparke, Michael, and Pete Venudor. Stan Kenton: The Studio Sessions.
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin : Balboa Books, 1998.
Selected compositions and arrangements by Willie Maiden recorded by Kenton
* arranged, but not composed, by Willie Maiden