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Alex Norris — “Fleet From the Heat” (SteepleChase, 2021)

Abstract:

In the exploration of my latest album, “Fleet From the Heat,” released under the SteepleChase label in 2021, I delve into the intricacies of my musical journey and the profound interplay with the relentless vibrancy of New York City. Marking a decade of collaboration with my quintet, this album emerges as a non-sentimental testament, an ode to the dynamic metropolis that has profoundly molded my artistic identity.

New York City’s recurrent presence in my life, punctuated by departures and returns, becomes a thematic thread. My sojourn in London in 1996 and subsequent exploration in Brazil were instrumental experiences that, intriguingly, led me back to the heart of the city in 2004. The title track, “Fleet From the Heat,” encapsulates the essence of my return in 2009, after a brief hiatus in Miami, symbolizing the fiery and dynamic spirit of New York that continuously reinvents itself.

The album’s composition extends beyond personal narratives, embracing the collective experiences of the global pandemic. The aptly named “Original Pandemic Suite” humorously navigates the tumultuous emotional landscape of a year marked by uncertainty and loss. “Holiday Blues,” composed in 2008, and “The Untamed Land,” inspired by Midwest travels in the ’90s, contribute to a poignant musical narrative, while “Night Bus” and “Grapple With a Snapple” showcase my creative process and commitment to pushing jazz conventions.

Reflecting on each composition, I recognize New York’s resilience and the unwavering support of its musical community. The album, a sincere expression of gratitude to the city, transcends academia, finding solace and purpose within the vibrant streets and venues. “Fleet From the Heat” stands not only as an artistic evolution but also as an enduring love letter to the ceaseless energy and boundless possibilities of New York—a celebration of a decade immersed in the heart of its dynamic and thriving musical community.

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Publication date:

ISSN: 2792-8349

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International Journal of Music

As I reflect on the creation of my latest album, Fleet From the Heat, released under the SteepleChase label in 2021, I find myself immersed in the rich tapestry of my musical journey and the dynamic relationship I share with the city that never sleeps – New York. This album marks a significant milestone, celebrating a decade of collaboration with my quintet, and it has been aptly described as a non-sentimental love letter to the bustling metropolis that has shaped my artistic identity.

New York City has been a recurring theme in my life, a city that I left and returned to multiple times. My initial arrival in 1992 was followed by departures, notably a sojourn in London in 1996, collaborating with the esteemed British jazz-funk group Incognito. This experience, intriguingly, led me to Brazil for the first time. However, my heart remained tethered to New York, prompting my return in 2004 with the intent to establish myself within the city’s vibrant musical community.

The album’s title track, Fleet From the Heat, serves as a declaration of my return to the city in 2009 after a brief hiatus in Miami. This composition embodies the fiery and dynamic essence of New York, capturing the evolving soundscape of a city that continually reinvents itself. Over the years, I’ve witnessed the emergence of new generations of musicians, each contributing a unique sonic palette to the city’s musical landscape. Embracing versatility and openness to these evolving sounds has been crucial to my active participation in this ever-changing musical ecosystem.

The aptly named suite, Original Pandemic Suite, was conceived during the unprecedented challenges posed by the global pandemic. Drawing inspiration from the myriad artistic expressions that emerged during this time, I playfully crafted a musical narrative that humorously echoes the notion of being the “famous original.” Each movement within the suite – What Normal?, Quarandemic, Ballad for 2020, and Dude, Where’s My Deli? – captures the emotional rollercoaster of a year marked by loss, uncertainty, and a longing for normalcy.

Holiday Blues, composed in 2008, reflects on the bittersweet experience of returning to New York after a stint in Miami. The joy of reacquainting with the cold weather is juxtaposed with the melancholy induced by seasonal affective disorder, creating a poignant musical narrative.

The Untamed Land, conceived during my travels through the Midwest in the ’90s, echoes the vast expanses of overlapping landscapes. The composition’s structure, influenced by the great Jackie McLean, captures the essence of the Midwest’s open terrain.

Night Bus, an early ’90s creation, takes listeners on a journey through the nocturnal cityscape. Originally conceived during a bus ride, the piece evolved into a reflective exploration of the city’s quietude amid the hustle and bustle.

In Grapple With a Snapple, the title itself pays homage to jazz tradition, drawing parallels with the iconic Scrapple From the Apple. The deliberate crafting of a definitive bridge distinguishes this composition, showcasing my creative process and commitment to pushing the boundaries of jazz conventions.

As I reflect on each composition within Fleet From the Heat, I am reminded of the city’s resilience and the unwavering support of its musical community. New York has been my muse, my confidante, and my constant source of inspiration. In the face of challenges and setbacks, the city’s musical fraternity has embraced me, providing opportunities for reinvention and growth.

While academia has had its challenges, it is within the vibrant streets and venues of New York that I have found solace and purpose. The album stands not only as a testament to my artistic evolution but also as a sincere expression of gratitude to the city that has shaped my musical identity. As I continue to navigate the ever-changing currents of the New York music scene, I am reminded that, for me, there is no greater joy than being a part of this dynamic and thriving community. New York, with its ceaseless energy and boundless possibilities, remains the beating heart of my musical journey.

Conclusion

Fleet From the Heat is more than an album; it’s my ode to a decade in the heart of New York City. From the spirited title track to the whimsical Original Pandemic Suite, each composition reflects the dynamic pulse of the city. Through Holiday Blues, The Untamed Land, Night Bus, and Grapple With a Snapple, I share personal snapshots inspired by the city’s rhythms.

This album is a celebration of New York’s resilience and the vibrant musical community that has been my constant support. It stands as a heartfelt expression of gratitude to the city that continues to shape my musical journey. In every note, Fleet From the Heat is my enduring love letter to the indomitable spirit of New York.

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