During the summer of 2016, I was approached by Russ Schmidt, a Phoenix-area pianist and good friend, to participate in what was at the time a nascent effort to increase the visibility of jazz composers in the local scene. That project later became the Nash Composers’ Coalition, an ensemble of composers of various ages, skill sets, and backgrounds creating new works for jazz ensemble, the instrumentation of which was determined by the group’s personnel at a given time. For its inaugural concert, there were ten of us, providing an opportunity to write for either a very large combo or a very small big band, depending on how you looked at it. As I was looking to broaden my jazz music-making horizons beyond what I was doing at school, I couldn’t wait to get started – and I’d already found my title.
Red Light Horizon, the concept, popped into my mind just weeks before, when I was visiting friends at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. It was the end of a week of music-making and adventures, and one of my companions was driving us home after an evening of board games and painting. As we drove, he pointed out a group of bright red lights atop power poles in the distance. “They’re for planes, but that’s campus,” he said. “As long as you can see those, you’ll always be able to find your way home.” That stuck with me, and I resolved to write a piece that embodies both the energy of those friends during that week and the joy of finding one’s way home.
N.B: Red Light Horizon is also available for nine musicians (SATB saxophones, trumpet, guitar, piano, bass, and drums).
The Nash Composers’ Coalition performs Red Light Horizon:
Alan Acosta, Eric DeJarnett, Chaz Martineau, Julianne Colwell, Megan DeJarnett, Ellis Green, Marcus Henley, Max Beckman, and Connor Sample perform Red Light Horizon (nine-musician version):