Jovan Alexandre

Collective Consciousness

Collective Consciousness
Jovan Alexandre's debut album

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The band:

  • Jovan Alexandre, ts
  • Andrew Renfroe, g
  • Taber Gable, p
  • Matt Dwonszyk, b
  • Jonathan Barber, d

Recording track list:

  1. Collective Consciousness 5:01
  2. To Music 6:59
  3. Stars In The Sky 7:51
  4. Yalesville 5:23
  5. The Formula (For Kahlil Bell) 5:40
  6. 25.1 5:28
  7. They Say It's Wonderful Written-By – Irving Berlin 6:53
  8. Red Blues 9:55
  9. Reconnaissance 7:26

Collective Consciousness: release info and credits

Copyright date on CD is 2014, but release date is scheduled for Feb. 24, 2015.
Xippi Phonorecords – XP22540

  • Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Taber Gable (tracks: 5)
  • Written-By – Jovan Alexandre (tracks: 1 to 6, 8, 9)
  • Mixed By, Mastered By – Jim Chapdelaine
  • Producer – Thomas Rome
  • Recorded By – Tom Tedesco at Tedesco Studios. 

About the recording

In Yalesville or in Irving Berlin's They Say It's Wonderful, the softly fitful tinges are framed in the manner of a Coltrane ballad such as After the Rain or Central Park West. Elsewhere, in Red Blues, To Music, or the title tune, Alexandre’s magnetic disquietude sources its power in quite different tempos, and he converts understatement to a bolder language.

Alexandre says that some of the tunes on Collective Consciousness, such as the title tune and To Music, came together, as he wrote them, “like a puzzle. I probably wrote the form, chords, and hits before the melody, with the ending taking shape before the beginning, and I figured out what the final order should be later.” To Music, written by Alexandre at age nineteen [in 2008], uses improvised sections alongside composed melody and in-betweeen solos, “with a written line that cues back into a collective melody that acts as a send-off to the next soloist,” as Alexandre describes it. He says the harmonic movement in the piece is inspired by “composers like Joe Henderson and Jackie McLean,” noting that “the way the chords cycle and turn back to the top of the form is similar to the arrangement of Kenny Drew's A Callin' on McLean's album Rites of Passage [1991].”

Stars in the Sky is in E major, “a difficult key for saxophone,” says Alexandre, “but practical because the lowest note on tenor, G# concert, is the major third, and the top note on tenor is D#, so we have the third and the seventh. For this tune, I did write the melody at the same time as the chords and the bass line.” Yalesville is in B major, a perfect fifth from Stars in the Sky, and another difficult key for saxophone. It has a very short eight-bar form that repeats. Alexandre explains that “the title is a tribute to my hometown. Yalesville is a village within the quiet Connecticut town of Wallingford, named after Charles Yale who purchased a seventeenth-century mill there in 1804. My family and I have lived there my whole life.”

The Formula (for Kahlil Bell) “departs from the overall swing of the rest of the album,” Alexandre forewarns. “The drum beat and the melodic form are inspired by another of my mentors and collaborators, the drummer and percussionist Kahlil Bell, born in Harlem, raised in The Bronx, now living in East Orange, New Jersey. I admire the space he creates in his music. For instance, there may be sixteen bars of vamp on one chord, sixteen bars of melody, back to vamp for sixteen, then melody and solos or a bridge and send-off to solos.”

Alexandre calls 25.1 “a reprise of the straight-ahead swing sound of the rest of the record. It's in Bb major, but moves around harmonically quite a bit. The bridge goes to E major sharp 11 which is a tritone away from Bb major. The title has a few different meanings to me. Firstly, it signifies my age when I wrote it (twenty-five [in 2013]). Secondly, the numbers 2, 5, 1 signify a workhorse harmonic progression to jazz players – sometimes written as ii-V-I. And lastly, 25.1 is numerically close to 26-2, the title of a composition I love on Trane's Coltrane's Sound album. To go along with that, the first four bars of 25.1 use the same progression as 26-2.”

Alexandre conceived Red Blues as a salute, he says, to “all of the great musicians coming out of my alma mater, the Hartt School of Music, especially pianist Alan Jay Palmer and trumpeter Raymond Williams. After the melody statement, the solos are an A minor blues. When I listen to this song, the color red comes to mind, perhaps because red is our school color. And in naming the song, the overall energy of our playing, contrasting with the song's ‘blue’ minor key, struck me as interesting and, almost in some synesthetic way, as ‘red against blue.’ A unique feature here is that there is a cued interlude setting up a rhythmic break that lets the soloist create a new tempo. And on this song everyone gets a chance to solo.”

Reconnaissance takes its name, Alexandre reveals, “from one of the possible meanings of the word – exploration. After the introduction to this song, we go into blowing with just horn, bass, and drums. We go exploring. I also found out later that a possible French meaning of the word, in English, would be gratitude. There is a written melody that I play on the last A part of the song form. Dyed-in-the-wool jazz fans may recognize the chord changes from Ray Noble's Cherokee. The solos are tenor, guitar, drums, and tenor again for the melody out.”