Morning Music for brass quintet was written during the summer of 1986 for the American Brass Quintet. It is a sequel to a previous work of mine titled In Memoriam: W.E.S. for woodwind quintet written in 1981 and premiered by the Dorian Wind Quintet. The subject of that piece was the murder of my brother, William Evan Sampson, by the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis in 1979. Morning Music deals with my thoughts and feelings seven years later. As you will hear, the anguish over the death is as intense as ever, but strength and hope will gradually emerge from the despair. The work is one movement with clearly delineated sections ending with a fast-paced coda. I have dedicated Morning Music to my mother, Betty Sampson, whose optimism and resiliency have been an inspiration to me.
In Time for bass trombone, piano and percussion is a single movement, eight-minute work written in 1989. Commissioned by David Titcomb, the work was inspired by the events at Tiananmen Square and is dedicated to the victims. Although there is no direct linear program for In Time, the dramatic images of bravery against overwhelming military force and the sense of betrayal by the Chinese government to its people permeate the work.
Just Keep Moving was written as part of a concept album titled Chesapeake (Summit DCD 639). The album features the American Brass Quintet with two additional performers on percussion and piano. It is conceived as if one were attending a recital of the ABQ performing Breakaway for two trumpets and electronics, then Powell Trio for trombone, marimba and piano followed by Three Sides for trumpet, vibraphone and piano. Just Keep Moving is next with four movements of varied techniques and moods concluding with a wild drive to the climactic end. The title was suggested by a comment made by my mother, Betty, years before the creation of Just Keep Moving on how to deal with adversity and loss: “never stop, just keep moving”. The album or recital concludes with Chesapeake for brass quintet which aurally depicts three sailing trips on the Chesapeake Bay.
Distant Voices for brass quintet is a four movement, seventeen minute composition written during the spring and summer of 1990. Commissioned by the American Brass Quintet through a grant from The Jerome Foundation, the work was premiered on May 5, 1991 at Delbarton School/St. Mary’s Abbey Church at the eighth annual “Hardly Any Sampson” Music Festival.
The titles of the movements are as follows: I. James Agee: Writer; II. Bobby Hackett: Jazz Cornettist; III. Brother Paul Diveny: Benedictine Monk; IV. Ben and Mark: My Sons. These curious titles were chosen from a long list of people who have had a profound effect on my life. We are all the result of our continuous filtering of a myriad of influences. The “distant voices” referred to in the title are simply the voices in one’s mind that guide ones’ thoughts and actions. Distant Voices is meant to honor these people.
James Agee, the writer of “A Death in the Family”, impressed me from my college days as truly absorbed in his life as a creative artist. His voice challenges me not to accept the obvious or comfortable. Bobby Hackett, an elegantly lyrical jazz cornettist, was one of the first musicians I studied through recordings. I used to listen to and play along with his deceptively simple improvisations. He taught me how to play a line and make a beautiful sound. Br. Paul Diveny, a Benedictine monk at St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey is a special friend who helped me survive family tragedy through religion. He introduced me, through his example, to the spiritual aspects of life in a way that profoundly deepened my awareness. My sons, Ben and Mark, are a constant challenge and surprise. They allow me to see life as a child again and feed my creative approach to living. This depiction captures the energy of them playing “monster”.