Arts Desk

One Track Mind: Mark Meadows’ “Once Upon a Purple Night”

OTM_31Standout Track: No. 5, “Once Upon a Purple Night,” a gentle jazz waltz led by the wordless vocals of Christie Dashiell on Mark Meadows' Somethin' Good. At least, it starts out as a gentle jazz waltz. But after melodic, one-chorus solos by vibraphonist Warren Wolf, alto saxophonist Brent Birckhead, and pianist Meadows (and a restatement of the three-part theme), the ensemble steers into a dramatic 4/4 coda featuring Birckhead and Dashiell in a call-and-response. The intensity increases as Meadows, bassist Eric Wheeler, and drummer Eric Kennedy converge in a fever pitch.

Musical Motivation: The piece didn’t come about from some moment of unplanned inspiration, but because Meadows “finally had a second to just sit down at the piano and write a tune.” He gleaned the song’s tone from the view outside the window of his Balitmore apartment. “It was a dark, cloudy evening, the sky was tinted dark purple, and it was a kind of a mysterious thing with all these trees against the sky,” he says. “I wanted it to be reminiscent of the way the sky looked at the time.” It was Meadows’ first time composing music to imagery rather than a specific concept.

That’s So Ravens: The purple night that struck Meadows’ fancy came in late January 2013, just as the Baltimore Ravens clinched their trip to Super Bowl XLVII. A Ravens fan, the pianist now associates the song with the team’s 2013 championship. “I named it ‘Once Upon a Purple Night,’ not making the connection at the time that the sky was purple and that it was the city of the Ravens, who wear purple,” Meadows says. “It was just serendipity.”

Mark Meadows plays Black Fox Lounge and Blues Alley on Sunday, August 3 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.

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