What if Love is the Thing – Steve Heitzeg

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Product Type: Digital Download

Format: Full Score

Composer: Steve Heitzeg

Instrumentation: Jazz Ensemble and Vocalist

Duration: Approx. 4 minutes

Date Written: 2023

Premiered by: Mairs Concert Hall. Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN 4/28/2024

Commissioned by: Macalester College Music Department for MacJazz

Additional Information: While my wife Gwen and I were talking with Joan Griffith (director of MacJazz) after the MacJazz concert this past December (our daughter Zadie plays alto sax in the ensemble), Joan asked me to compose a piece for MacJazz. I was thrilled and honored to compose a piece for this talented group of musicians and their renowned jazz guitarist/conductor.

Commissioned by the Macalester College Music Department for MacJazz and dedicated to the students of Macalester College and the global spirit of justice, here are a few notes about What if Love is the Thing for jazz ensemble and vocalist.

The piece opens with a light street groove, then moves toward the ballad-like chorus in which the vocalist sings the phrase “What if love is the thing?” A subtle phrase or wish that implies its own answer: maybe, just maybe love wins over hate, love and music bring us together—breaking down walls and barriers, and more love equals more peace and justice in the world.

A vamp in the middle of the piece features solos for alto sax, soprano sax, and electric guitar while the vocalist freely improvises on the word ‘love” in any language(s). [For this performance vocalist Bontu Takele includes over 25 languages for the word “love”.] The opening groove returns and leads us to the chorus again, followed by a dream-like/dreamy? outro for vocalist and ensemble that affirms “love is the thing.”

Influences for this piece include John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Miles Davis’ All Blues, Max Roach’s We Insist! (Freedom Now Suite), Kamasi Washington’s Truth and Elizabeth Alexander’s poem Praise Song for the Day (“What if the mightiest word is love?”).

—Steve Heitzeg, composer Minneapolis-Saint Paul April 17, 2024

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