Commissioned by Philippe Trovão (Lisbon, Portugal)
Piece will be on sale after the patron premieres it.
about the piece
Jogo de Cartas is Portuguese for “card game.” I opted for the Portuguese to honor my patron for this piece, tenor saxophonist Philippe Trovão of Lisbon.
In this work, I celebrate four favorite card games.
War is a relatively simple game in which each player is dealt half of the deck. The players play one card and the player with the larger card value wins the “battle.” If both players play an identical value, a “war” is started. There are variations on the game at this point, but in one popular version, each player places three cards face down then play another card face up—whichever player has the highest card takes all the cards. The object is to win all of the cards in the deck. In this musical setting, the sax and piano are each a “player,” and each plays cards (translated into rhythmic values) with the conflict and victory painted in dynamic, sometimes dissonant vitality.
In Solitaire, the sax plays alone as one plays this game alone. And, just as in the game, each phrase (or suit-based pile) becomes longer, more complex, and ends in an excited flurry of activity as “victory “ is achieved!
The third movement, Blackjack, illustrates the deceptively-simple game of chance, with gradually ebbing and flowing tension until, in this case, the (sax) player takes the hand. The number 21 features prominently in the construction principles of the movement as a hand totaling 21 is considered the best in the game.
The finale is a wild ride portraying a newer card game called Egyptian Rat Screw. In this colorful and fast-paced game, players flip one card up in turn, continuing to do so until one player puts down a face card. The next player then has several chances (based on the specific face card played) to match or beat that card. In a interesting quirk, if two players play cards of equal rank, the player who “slaps” the card pile first wins all of the cards in the pile. This unique game was fertile ground for musical interplay, illustrating both the back-and-forth and the more aggressive aspects of play!