Alto saxophone and piano
June 22, 2022 Interlochen, MI, as part of the Interlochen Saxophone Intensive Faculty Recital.
When Tim McAllister asked me to write him and his piano partner, Liz Ames, a piece for their ongoing “Project Encore,” I was delighted. The opportunity to write for one of the greatest saxophonists of all time is a great honor, if also a joyful challenge. How does one write an encore for a top performer who always plays a brilliant concert? As I began to sketch my first attempts at the commission, I kept thinking about how similarly gifted instrumentalists concluded a performance.Suddenly I thought of a perfect analog: Prince’s 2004 performance of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at Harrison’s posthumous induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Harrison’s song is a meditative piece written for his band The Beatles. It is often tied to a disharmonious period in the band’s tenure and the spiritual ambivalence of its author. In form, it is a sort of twentieth-century pop music chaconne in its schematic structure that operates as a vehicle for a dazzling instrumental line in its final third. On the night of the performance, Prince stood to the side of an all-star band that included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, and Steve Winwood. When The Purple One (uncharacteristically dressed in red under his black mourning suit) emerged for the final third, he proceeded to eclipse his collaborators. Prince’s performance cemented his status as one of music’s greatest guitarists and acted as an ecstatic apotheosis that remedied the doubt detected in Harrison’s earlier verses.
“Lilac Tears” is my engagement of this phenomenal solo with the ambition to showcase Tim’s skillful playing and the emotional depths that his playing inspires. It is an homage to the almost alchemical experience of great instrumentalists and a testament to my esteem for Tim in the comparison.