Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor
Born in 1946 in Kansas City, MO, Roger Aldridge discovered jazz at an early age thanks to his mother’s collection of big band recordings. Roger started on alto saxophone when he was 9 and developed an interest in composition in his early teens. This led him to study composition & arranging at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA.
At Berklee, Roger studied jazz composition with Herb Pomeroy and Charlie Mariano, classical composition with William Maloof and John Bavicchi, and woodwinds with Joe Viola. Afterwards, he studied composition with Dr. Robert Wykes, Dr. Stephanie Owen, and Dr. Champ Tyrone. Roger received a B.A. degree in composition from McKendree University and a M.A. degree in music from New Mexico Highlands University. As a graduate assistant at Highlands, Roger directed the university's jazz ensemble.
After working as a composer-arranger, music director, professional musician, and educator, Roger found that he needed to have a different way to support his family. He made a career change to become an analyst and worked at Southwestern Bell, Bell Atlantic, Fannie Mae, and DecisionPath Consulting for what became a 34-year career. Due to a busy work and family schedule, Roger was away from music for for 12 years.
A business transfer from Missouri to Maryland in 1983 became an important development in Roger's music. When he started to compose again in 1989 much of the new music was directly inspired by his life in Maryland – in particular, his love of the Appalachian Mountains and Chesapeake Bay.
During this time he began to explore an interest in fiddle music after hearing old-time fiddle players in West Virginia. It was easy for Roger to envision Appalachian fiddle music as an early branch of the jazz family tree. He explored various fiddle styles and incorporated them in his writing. As Roger's music and concepts evolved jazz and roots music along with blues, tango, contemporary classical, and other kinds of music became intertwined in unusual ways in his writing. A variety of styles and forms emerged along with expanded harmonic color, a quirky humor in much of his work, and a fluid, musically expressive approach to time. It was increasingly difficult for one to define Roger's work by genre.
For the next 22 years Roger composed as he was able between his work and family lives. Over 600 pieces were written during that period in a broad range of styles. Roger retired in 2011 or as he prefers to say, “Made a career change back to music”. Now, he has more time for music projects.
While Roger has been composing for many years, he did not have a good way for others to hear the music for much of that time. He prefers to focus on composition and have other musicians perform his music. In 2010 Roger began to use various internet resources as a way for more people to hear and discover his work. Positive responses have been deeply gratifying for him. Roger’s music now has friends in many countries around the world.
At this point in my life I compose mainly when new music comes to me through my intuition or dreams. A number of compositions have come in dreams, either hearing the music or seeing pages of a score. I have also found that ideas for new pieces can come to me anywhere...running errands, hiking in the mountains, etc. I have come to trust these experiences as a way to open the door (then, there is the work and attention to detail). Following are some of my recent pieces which were composed with this creative process.
Donut Music (solo guitar). Commissioned by Keith Calmes. The composition was inspired by a line in a story written by my granddaughter Eillonwy (then 8 years old): “Sitting in a dark room, eating a chocolate donut”. The music represents a stream of memories, images, and thoughts as one’s life is contemplated over a donut. Written in 9 movements (or bites), the composition draws upon various roots-based musical styles including blues, Appalachian, tango, jazz, and samba.
Music for mid-size jazz ensemble. The scores use flexible instrumentation to enable the music to be performed by many configurations of instruments. The pieces completed to date are: Connecticut Avenue SUVs, New Tango No. 1, Baltimore Row House, Sleepy Creek Samba, Smaller Ups and Downs, Blues for Lester, Salt Marsh Rag, and Appalachian Awakening. Stylistically, the music covers a wide range from American roots music to avant-garde.
Music for tango-jazz band. Each piece in this series expresses a particular quality of the tango including movement, mystery, attraction, longing, audaciousness, coalesce, and passion.
Buzzards in Love (wind ensemble). This composition turns the sound of a wind ensemble or concert band into that of a contemporary jazz orchestra. The music tells the story of an imaginary pair of buzzards. Section titles in the score include: buzzard search for life’s meaning, buzzard attraction, buzzard tango, buzzard dating, roadkill interlude (open improvisation section), and buzzard love in the sky. This piece has a spirit of fun and adventure.
Original tunes and extended pieces (in lead sheet format). The sheet music can be easily adapted for solo instruments and small groups.
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