Zoot Suite for Orchestra (Berners, John Edgar)

Sheet Music


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Jberners (2012/11/12)

Publisher. Info. John Edgar Berners
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General Information

Work Title Zoot Suite for Orchestra
Alternative. Title
Composer Berners, John Edgar
I-Catalogue NumberI-Cat. No. IJB 1
Movements/SectionsMov'ts/Sec's 3 sections
I. Rag Nocturne
II. Humming Harmlessly in Harlem
III. Headlong Boogie
Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp. 2002
First Publication. 2002
Average DurationAvg. Duration 10 minutes
Composer Time PeriodComp. Period Modern
Piece Style Modern
Instrumentation Full Orchestra

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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.