The compositions in Kris Allen’s jazz suite reflect on the hope and strength that carry us through difficult situations in reflection of Proverbs 28:
Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.
Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
(Proverbs 28:14-15, 27-28)
The Proverbs 28 Suite
Composed by Kris Allen, 2016
Movement 1: “Let’s Not Hide Just Yet,” Proverbs 28:28
I chose to begin the suite with a contrafact (new melody over a pre-existing chord progression) of Herbie Hancock’s composition “I Have A Dream.” In performance my group typically plays Hancock’s piece and “Let’s” together in one amalgamation of theme and variations. I wanted to reference Martin Luther King Jr. to invoke commonly held notions of leadership at it’s best, as well as his specific vision for society, which seems lately to be suffering a new wave of attacks. My title “Let’s Not Hide Just Yet” is a call to myself and others to remain connected, involved, and in dialogue, and to resist the urge to flee (Canada seems to be the most popular destination referenced) or withdraw in light of ominous national and world developments. I wanted the music to aurally embody a sense of determined strength amid turmoil.
Movement 2: “Tremble Always” (for Nancy Butler), Proverbs 28:14
Closer to home for me, the Spring of 2016 has been colored with concern (that surpasses that of the election cycle) by the illness of my pastor, Nancy Butler. Nancy has ALS and is losing control of her body at a quick rate. Even in illness and faced with a hastened end in sight, she continues to model Christ-likeness to me and so many. Nancy trembles before God in a way that helps others to delight in doing the same. Nancy continues to blog at End Time Stories: Stuff God Did Near the End of Pastor Nancy’s Life. The piece emotionally attempts to represent the spiritual discipline of solitary prayer that is such a huge part of who Nancy is and a source of so much fruit in her life.
Part of this piece references an original hymn of mine, a setting of the verse “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Movement 3: “Lack Nothing,” Proverbs 28:27
I don’t believe we ought to read a prosperity prescription in: “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing” (v. 27)! Rather, I think that the folks described by this verse are making two choices: first to give, and then to assume a grateful posture and worldview in which they trust God to provide for their needs. Second, to strive to re-interpret present situations in ways that coax out evidence of blessing, joy, and non-paradigmatic abundance. The piece swells gradually into an exclamatory texture, using 12-tone melodic and harmonic techniques to represent feelings of completion and infinity.
From the Artist:
My quintet, featuring myself on alto and soprano saxophone, Frank Kozyra on tenor saxophone, Jen Allen on Piano, Matt Dwonszyk on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums first debuted these pieces on June 26th, 2016 during the Jazz Vespers service at St. Peter’s Church in New York City.
I very much enjoyed and welcomed the challenge of adding a little thread to the larger work that Spark and Echo has instigated. It was especially interesting to spend a lot of repetitive and meditative time in Proverbs, a book of the Bible that is not exactly famed for drama, romance or emotional poignancy; I’d wager that comparatively few musicians have found their inspiration here over the millennia compared to the Gospels, the Psalms, or many other scriptures.
I chose to compose in response to the 28th Chapter of Proverbs. I was originally drawn to this chapter because of it’s repetitive themes of leadership; describing the signatures and effects of both wicked and righteous leaders. Of course with the American presidential primary season in full swing, ideas about leadership (especially fearful ones!) tended to dominate our cultures collective consciousness during the time of this composition, and I was certainly not immune! In addition to many admonitions to just and equitable personal and business practices, Proverbs 28 contains many vivid images of the misplaced potency of a wicked or evil person given power over others – “like a roaring lion or a charging bear” (v. 15). However, there is wisdom in this chapter that goes far beyond the specific issue of political leadership, and calls us all to take all of our fearful and apprehensive thoughts and fears captive to a trustworthy God. The three movements of the suite respond to and creatively play with the major ideas that resonated with me personally in these passages.
Saxophonist, composer and recording artist Kris Allen was born and raised in the Hartford Connecticut area. Kris began musical studies at an early age, but his desire to seriously pursue a life in jazz music was catalyzed through his apprenticeship with legendary alto saxophonist Jackie Mclean, first at Hartford’s Artists Collective and later at the Hartt School of Music in Mclean’s African American Music Degree Program.
He has gone on to perform at major jazz venues throughout New York, the US and worldwide, and forged a clear conceptual and aural identity as a composer, arranger, and educator to match his powerful saxophonic voice. His latest release, Beloved is his second album for the Truth Revolution Recording Collective, following his critically acclaimed debut recording as a bandleader Circle House (2012).
Kris has enjoyed a long career as a sought-after sideman, working in the groups of Illinois Jacquet, Gerald Wilson, Andy Gonzales, Jimmy Greene, Helen Sung, Winard Harper, Andy Laverne, the Mingus Dynasty, Avery Sharpe, Andy Jaffe, Earl Macdonald, Noah Baerman, Jen Allen, Ike Sturm, Gary Smulyan, Jazzmeia Horn, Rogerio Boccato, Kendrick Oliver’s New Life Orchestra, the Curtis Brothers and Mario Pavone among others. As a composer, Kris has been honored with numerous awards and commissions and has collaborated with dancers, poets, and visual artists, as well as musicians from across diverse genres.
A dedicated educator, Kris is the Lyell B. Clay Artist Artist-In-Residence in Jazz at Williams College, having previously held positions at the Hartt School, Trinity College, Southern Connecticut State University and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. He has been a Teaching Artist for Litchfield Performing Arts since 2001, and conducted clinics and master classes at institutions nation and worldwide.
Kris is a Vandoren Artist and plays Vandoren mouthpieces, reeds and ligatures exclusively.
For more information please visit www.krisallenjazz.com
This work was curated by Jonathon Roberts.
All materials are copyrighted by the artist and used here by permission.
Tagged with: bass • drums • Frank Kozyra • Jazz • jazz quintet • Jen Allen • Jonathan Barber • jonathon roberts • Kris Allen • Lack Nothing • Let’s Not Hide Just Yet • Matt Dwonszyk • Nancy Butler • Piano • Proverbs • Proverbs 28 • Proverbs 28 Suite • Saxophone • Tremble Always