Piece of the Week: Talk is Cheep by Kris Berg

Talk is Cheep

At SmartMusic we love to hear from composers and arrangers about the things that inspire them. Recently, composer Kris Berg shared with us the story behind his 2012 jazz band piece Talk is Cheep.

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Composition Notes by Kris Berg

Talk Is Cheep is another in my continuing attempt to funk-ify the common chicken. All of my chicken charts are meant to be fun; challenging and high energy and I think Talk Is Cheap does that very well. As a grade 3 chart there is a need to limit the ranges in the brass vertically, but I like to challenge young performers with linear lines that hopefully inspire them to spend some time in the practice room.

The opening 8 bars of the chart should be played in a “legit” style, like a brass choral. To create a contrast, be sure the rhythm section really digs in when they start playing at measure 9. The bass should be funky and precise. The piano should pay attention to long and short notes without clipping the staccatos too short. The guitar should be muted yet punchy. When playing the melody (M13), the saxes should pay very close attention to articulations. The same thing applies the second time through with the brass parts. The baritone sax cannot be too loud here—really honk! The next a cappella section (M40) is a real challenge. Staccatos should be short, fall offs should be quick, and accents should pop. Be careful—some lines (M44) in the saxes and brass (M45) should be legato and flow smoothly to create maximum contrast. Be sure to play strong accents at M47 and give the line a crescendo leading into the solo section. Solo changes are simple and can be addressed with just 2 modes—concert C and G mixolydian. It’s easy to think of these as a major scale with a lowered 7th note. There are other choices too, including blues scales, that you can try once you have worked through the chords. While the solo space is provided for tenor sax and trumpet, since the chords are simple—feel free to have anyone solo.

M64 is the full band shout chorus and it should be big. Be sure to balance and not play too heavy. The section lines that are interjected between the full band need to be heard, so play out. Examples are trombones (M 66 & 67) and saxes (M70, 71, 74, 75, and 77). The drummer should play out here so that it supports all of the horn energy. I try to hide the “hook” from my arrangement of “The Chicken” in every one of my chicken charts.—it’s hidden in the shout chorus here—see if you can find it!

Section 80 reminds me of part of “Birdland,” the great tune by Weather Report. While this section is loud, it should still build. From here the chart rounds things up by bringing back the main theme and then a short version of the a cappella section from earlier. Be sure the last note is PHAT! ENJOY!

Composer Biography

Kris Berg, director of jazz studies at Collin County Community College, TX. He received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in jazz studies from the University of North Texas. Under his direction, the Collin jazz ensembles have appeared in Nassau, Bahamas and festivals throughout the U.S. Mr. Berg is the founder/director of the Collin Jazz Fest and the Texas All-Star Jazz Camp. Mr. Berg’s charts have been performed and recorded all over the world, and Berg is currently active as an artist/clinician for Yamaha Corporation of America.

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If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at [email protected]. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

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