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||Zoot Suite for Orchestra
||Berners, John Edgar
- I. Rag Nocturne
- II. Humming Harmlessly in Harlem
- III. Headlong Boogie
|Year/Date of Composition
This is the composer's orchestration of a piano piece by the same title, based on American piano idioms--rag, popular song, and boogie woogie.
- Program note
Zoot Suite began life as a piano piece based on American piano idioms and later grew into a full orchestral suite. Although the piano is not used in the orchestra, a different piano style is the basis of each movement.
- The first movement, ‘Rag Nocturne,’ is a slow dance with just a bit of rag syncopation. Maybe because I was studying the piano music of Satie when I composed it, it came out sounding a little French.
- ‘Humming Harmlessly in Harlem’ is a passacaglia in a dreamy style with a hint of lounge piano and dance-band brass playing.
- ‘Headlong Boogie’ is a tribute to the great boogie-woogie piano players of the thirties. The left hand is the heart of boogie-woogie and this movement uses a number of the bass patterns my father, a boogie-woogie aficionado, taught me when I was little. Near the end, in the second-to last bar, is a brief quote from the great Chicago boogie player Jimmy Yancey, who ended all his recordings with the same tag, always in E-flat Major, no matter what key the piece had been in! Jimmy’s tag is heard here in the strings (in E-flat, of course) before the full orchestra plays the “real” ending a measure later.