The initial idea for “Common Ground” came pretty quickly and then details like form and instrumentation came together more slowly. A few things come to mind about this tune. One, is how ideas come about in the composing process. I have tried off and on to write away from an instrument altogether. Mostly unsuccessfully unfortunately. There are a couple of reasons why it might be good though. After playing an instrument for a while your hands tend to fall in certain patterns instead of relying on your ear to guide you. So without your instrument you have to really hear your ideas. Also when I’m writing for instruments other than the piano, it really helps to have some knowledge of that instrument’s range, sound etc… In that respect I’m glad I had the experience of playing the trumpet for many years in school bands. One definitely cannot play the trumpet without taking breaths or other woodwind instruments as well for that matter. In this tune I thought some kind of interplay between the soprano sax and flute might be interesting sound and it seemed to work pretty well orchestration-wise. Recently I was playing an instrument that I hadn’t played in a year or so, an old Wurlitzer electric piano. For some reason the sound and feel of the instrument drew out some of the musical ideas in this tune. I think sometimes a certain instrument can do that, not sure why. So perhaps this music wouldn’t have come about if I hadn’t been playing on the Wurlitzer? Hard to say.
Lately I’ve listening to music by the Brazilian guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti and I think some of that sound seeped in unconsciously. Also I was thinking about how Antonio Carlos Jobim develops his melodies and harmonic structures. Definitely one of my all time favorite composers. In fact when playing with jazz musicians and it comes time to play a Latin-type tune, most of the time a Jobim tune is suggested. I think there is a reason for that.
As for the title and its meaning? Well not sure if there is a definitive answer but, I am always trying to find a balance (musically and otherwise) between being tied to ideas and being open to unfamiliar ones or the ones that emerge unconsciously. This music seemed to reflect that to me.