Jazz Compositions for Small Ensemble

Welcome to the Jazz page.

Featuring 30 pieces written between 1975-85 with Richard Boukas as leader, these seminal works represent Boukas as composer for small ensemble. Boukas assumed and honed his role as "guitarist-as-pianist" and used his scat vocals as both a doubling for the primary horn and being an improvising soloist in his own right.

Among the noteworthy professional musicians who performed these early works were horn players Tom Harrell and Ralph Lalama; bassists Micheal Formanek and Jay Anderson; drummers John Riley and Akira Tana.

As a body of work, these thirty compositions traverse a wide stylistic range: mid-60's Blue Note swing, even eighth-note post-fusion, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian roots blended with jazz harmonies and classical idioms– all set in a wide variety of tempos and meters and forms. The sound of the ensemble ranged from very acoustic to more electric depending on the composition.

Some pieces are very concise and used primarily as what Boukas calls "blowing vehicles"– highly reminiscent of Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson which he sites as major compositional influences in this period. Other pieces develop broader through-composed forms where improvisation is more compartmentalized within the larger performance structure. Each piece therefore presents a distinct harmonic language– offering fresh challenges to the contemporary improviser.

This early Boukas repertoire is an ideal resource for educators seeking fresh repertoire to use for their small combos.

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Richard Boukas Jazz Works for Small Combo


Richard Boukas Jazz Works for Small Combo

Pieces whose sections change meter and/or groove are separated by (,)
Piece Title           Meter(s) / Rhythmic Groove(s)
Alaquippa Strut medium swing
Autumn Suite 7/4 Afro-Cuban, 6/4 swing
Birthday Ballad jazz ballad
Bittersweet slow 3/4 (guitar trio or 4 voices)
Calico fast jazz samba
Camouflage slow 3/4, triplet feel
Camouflage Revisited samba 3/4, 4/4 B section
Conspiración 6/4 Afro-Cuban, Swing B section
Chanson even-eighth 6/4 (voice w/ lyrics)
Commitment fast swing, guaguancó B section
Embarcadero even-eighth
Fantasie: Pas de Deux ballad 3/4
Fantasie Revisited 3/4 samba
Frankly... medium swing
Frederic Samba even-eighth, slow 3/4
Gajatucada fast samba, 12/8 Afro-Cuban
J.S. (dedicated to Bach) medium 3/4 funk samba, classical even-eighth B
Keep It Loose, Jack medium swing
Last Call jazz ballad
Mitochondria medium up swing (bass unison melody)
Northern Dawn 12/8 Afro-Cuban, 4/4 Swing Bridge
Ontario Moon 6/4 swing (voice with lyrics)
Osmosis medium swing (bass unison melody)
Pier at Sunset jazz ballad
Plars-X uptempo swing
Prince of Hipness medium swing (triplet feel)
The Quiet Monster medium swing (triplet feel)
Sooner for Me.... uptempo swing, mixed meter B section
Twist That Tune medium swing (bass unison melody)
Tragoudi Horikos medium samba / even-eighth




Jazz Ensemble Excerpts

Composer comments

The six tracks below represent a fairly wide spectrum of grooves, tempos, forms and changes on which to improvise. The years they were written were between 1976-83.

• Rudolph Goes West is an uptempo swing with slow 3/4 phrases interjected in the bridge. Solos by Ralph Lalama on tenor and Tom Harrell on trumpet. 

• Northern Dawn
(here presented complete) is a 12/8 Afro-Cuban bembé which then swings in the bridge. Solos by Boukas, Ralph Lalama and Tom Harrell.
The rhythm section on these two tunes are Alan Simon, piano; John Ray, bass; Rick Cutler, drums.

• Autumn Suite
this excerpt is part of a larger suite with chamber and choral sections (which explains the ending). The main tune is a 7/4 "Latin" with a 6/4 swing bridge. Solos by Steve Lampert and special guest appearance by guitarist Jack Wilkins.

• Keep It Loose, Jack
(written for Jack Wilkins) is a medium swing trio tune where I scat the melody and solo. Tenor would be best to take the melody.

• Calico
is a fast jazz samba in trio setting. For practical use with horns, I've transposed the original key of A to Bb. I'm joined by Mike Formanek on bass and John Riley on drums.

• Birthday Ballad
is an obvious tenor feature. Here Jeff Gordon states the melody beautifully, solos, then followed by Tom Harrell on flugelhorn.

1. Rudolf Goes West
2. Northern Dawn
3. Autumn Suite
4. Keep It Loose, Jack
5. Calico
6. Birthday Ballad