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David Heyes

Bert Turetzky: Blues for Mingus for double bass quartet or massed basses

Bert Turetzky: Blues for Mingus for double bass quartet or massed basses

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About the Composition

Blues for Mingus is a lively, rhythmic and enjoyable jazz-inspired work for the intermediate quartet, also playable by massed basses, and is a fitting tribute to Charles Mingus (1922-1979), one of America’s iconic jazz bassists.

Primarily played pizzicato, there are optional opportunities for improvisation and this is a good opportunity to experiment with different pizzicato styles.

Composed in 1999 for the ISB Young Bassists Project, bass 1 plays into low thumb position but the others are firmly rooted in bass clef. The premiere was conducted by the composer who also performed the final cadenza in the penultimate bar.

Let your hair down and have fun!

"A largely pizzicato affair, with jazz triplet rhythms and occasional hand claps, this quartet defines the blues with a kind of laid-back rhythmic spirit. Textures are never too dense - something which cannot always be said of bass quartets - with interest spread among the parts and some unisons which help to keep the writing uncluttered. Mainly up to fourth position, there is one short higher section (into thumb position) for the first player, who also has an optional cadenza, but there are optional improvisations in other parts. The fourth part is restricted to first and half positions, but needs a strong adherence to the triplet rhythm. This quartet is a must for bass courses and as an interlude in youth orchestra sectionals." [ESTA - News & Views]

About the Composer

Born on 14 February 1933 in Norwich, Connecticut, Bertram Turetzky took up the tenor banjo at the age of 12 or 13. He switched to the guitar in high school, having fallen in love with jazz, and then changed to the double bass, which he described as '...the core of everything, the glue between the harmony and the wind instruments.'

He subsequently studied at New York University and Hartt College of Music of the University of Hartford and slowly changed direction from jazz to everything else a bassist is asked to do - symphony, opera, contemporary, jazz, teaching and recitals, featuring many of the new works that were being written for him. For many years he combined his hectic performance schedule with teaching, first at the Hartt School of Music and from 1968 as Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego, where he retired as 'Distinguished Professor Emeritus' only a few years ago.

Alongside his passion for contemporary music, Bert has also played a wealth of music from the 15th and 16th-centuries. He has transcribed works for every possible combination of instruments, but usually including the flute which was always played by his wife Nancy, and the husband and wife partnership have been fearless in their

promotion of music for this rare instrumental duo. The vast majority of repertoire for flute and double bass today was either written for Bert and Nancy, or inspired by them. Bert has an interest in any repertoire which features the double bass and has championed many chamber works which are unknown or have been forgotten.

Bert has composed and transcribed many works for double bass. For some years his interest in the music of Domenico Dragonetti (1763-1846) was a passion and in the early 1960s he edited six waltzes for unaccompanied double bass by the great Venetian bassist. Although Bert Turetzky has spent most of his life playing modern music and creating every possible sound and noise that the double bass can produce, his own compositions, on the whole, are far more traditional and accessible. He has composed a whole range of music for double bass, probably for his own use or for his students, and into his 80s the desire to compose and perform are as strong as ever. [David Heyes/June 2015]

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