Chromatic March Trumpet Quartet

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by Eddie Lewis

Trumpet quartet sheet music for Chromatic March is available at:

“Eddie Lewis’ Greatest Hit” Pat Hill

Chromatic March was one of my earliest trumpet ensemble compositions. When I say “earliest”, I mean earliest of the ones we publish. I wrote trumpet quartets in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We don’t publish those for a variety of reasons.

Chromatic March trumpet quartet sheet music pdf
Cover art by Pearl Lewis

Chromatic March has a lot of memories attached to it. Always the first memory to come to mind comes from when it was first recorded. One of the leaders I worked for, his name was Pat Hill, had just built a home studio. He asked me if I had any trumpet quartets that I could use to give his studio a test run.

Now, this was way back when home studios were just starting to be a thing. Pat Hill was like that He was always on the cutting edge of technology. He was one of the very first web designers EVER. Him and his friend even created what he called an online mall. That was very, very early in the evolution of the internet.

Anyway, the piece I took to his house to record was this Chromatic March. That recording was my first time recording my own piece with me playing all the tracks.

The quality of the recording was not as good as what I do today, and in fact, I don’t use that recording anymore. I re-recorded it for the Trumpet Quasi Master album. But I have fond memories of doing that little half hour project with Pat Hill.

Pat passed away not long after that. He was in his mid 50’s. I say, “not long after that”. It was probably several years. But when you are looking back from 25 years later, it really does feel like “not long after that”.

Chromatic March – Enigmatic Beginnings

The creation of the composition, Chromatic March, is a story worth telling here. The trumpet quartet started off as an etude in my first etude book.

Ha! That reminds me of another piece that started off as an etude. It is called The Blue Bird Barks. It was an etude from the same book, 20 Studies. I think that was my third or fourth book. I “orchestrated” it for brass quintet (yes, “orchestrate” is the appropriate word for that). When I told one of the brass quintet leaders I was working with at the time that I had a piece I’d like to play, he asked me to tell him about it.

I did. I told him that it started off as an etude. He wasn’t interested…..because it started off as an etude. Ha ha!!!!

This guy later told me that he didn’t know you could make real music out of etudes. The image he had in his head was that “etudes are boring – therefore, music derived from etudes must be boring.” He he he….

Anyway, yeah, Chromatic March started off as an etude from that same book. But guess what, it was an etude I didn’t want to write.

Pressure to Write an Etude Book

In the early 90’s I wrote etudes to help me with specific issues I was having with the standard trumpet orchestral excerpts. I was studying to become an orchestral player at the time and I had a wonderful teacher. Dick Schaffer is the best teacher I ever had. And not only was he the best teacher I ever had, but he was also my greatest champion for the books I was writing.

When other people were saying (and this is an exact quote) “who is Eddie Lewis that he thinks he can write a book?” Dick Schaffer liked my stuff and was encouraging me to do more.

When I brought the etudes I wrote into our lessons, he liked them so much, he said, “you need to publish these in your next book.”

And he encouraged me to write this book for what seems like a few years before I finally got around to finishing it.

But here’s the thing….

I don’t write like that. Out of all the books I’ve written, literally dozens of trumpet books, the etude book is my least favorite. But there’s a reason why. I don’t write just for the sake of writing. I never once sat down and said, “I want to write a book. Where can I get some ideas?” NO! When I write, it is always to fill a need. The original etudes I wrote were specifically focused on issues I was having with the excerpts. That kind of thing. But to sit and just write a book, I’m just not wired that way.

So, to fill the pages, and honor Dick Schaffer’s request to finish the etude book, I started writing what I can only call today, “sarcastic” pieces. For example, one of the etudes is a John Coletrane solo in reverse order. Another etude is a jazz solo I recorded with different rhythms. Yet another was composed over the changes for Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring (that one is a very fun double tongue etude).

So you get my point?

I was just filling pages with juvenile creativity shortcuts. Some of them worked beautifully. Some of them, not so much.

The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine

Chromatic March started off as an etude, but the etude started off as Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. You see, Chromatic March was one of those page fillers that I wrote just to get the etude book done.

For this etude, I took the rhythms of Yellow Submarine and completely disguised them with different notes and melodies.

Check me on this. Sing the Yellow Submarine to yourself once, and then play the video above again to see if you can hear it. When I hear (and play) the Chromatic March, I can’t NOT hear the Yellow Submarine. Ha ha!!!! But most people never make that connection.

The etude book was self published, just like my other books, and it sold some copies in the 90’s. I think we sold about 100 copies. And that was good, considering that it’s not like my other books.

Chromatic March was “orchestrated” into a trumpet quartet about two years later, I think. I took the etude and did what I always do with a single melody piece. There are a number of these pieces that started off as single part pieces. Probably the biggest of these is my brass quintet piece called The Lord’s Prayer. That started off as a musical prayer for trumpet alone. Seven movements. We used to sell it as a physical product and each part for the quintet had its own rib bound book. Ha ha ha…. that much music coming from a single melody line. Right??? I enjoy doing that.

Anyway, that’s how the Chromatic March came into existence. It is one of my sarcastic pieces, but it is enigmatically sarcastic.

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