Two years after the release of SUSTAIN comes the long-anticipated follow-up, SUSTAIN VOL. 2. This fresh collection of works centered around the piano includes a range of contemporary compositional styles: tonal, atonal, and everything in between. Featured in this collection is composer Jim Puckett’s Nocturne, a jazz-influenced duet for piano and tenor saxophone composed with various chordal colors and intriguing voicing between the two instruments.
Today, Jim is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover the inspiration behind his piece and his experience in writing music for church…
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I’m not sure I know exactly when this happened. I began playing piano at friends’ homes before fourth grade, and my parents invested in my future based on what they saw. I began studying piano and percussion in fourth grade. By the time I finished high school, there was no thought of anything except music for my future. No plan B.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
We can’t possibly have enough space for all my errors, like losing hold of the baton while conducting, or getting tongue tied and saying embarrassing things from the stage. But one of my earliest professional embarrassing instances was being hired as an orchestra percussion extra. The gig paid $150 and I literally had 3 cymbal crashes to play for one piece on the concert. Miscounting hundreds of measures of rests caused me to miss a cue in the dress rehearsal. The conductor found me during the pre-concert break and said to me, “at fifty dollars per note, I’d like all of them in the right place if you don’t mind.” OUCH! I was mortified, but that early error changed the way I approached “easy” works from that moment forward!
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
I’m living that now. Like most musicians, my career has different faces: composing, arranging and orchestration, performing, university teaching, etc. My full-time gig for most of my career has been creating and leading music for the church. I can’t think of a better place to use music and the arts than to lead people in times of worship of their Creator. To see music have such a potent moment of impact in people’s lives is remarkable. To make music that frees people to express their thanks and praise to God is a high calling and a very rewarding responsibility.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
The beginning of Nocturne is so gentle and requires so much finesse. Both Lucie and Pavel did such a great job! Around 0:40 on the track, Pavel Zlámal lands one of the phrases and during a super controlled moment he adds a subtle lip vibrato. It’s a little thing, but it’s super sweet and a mark of his interpretive artistry. I’ll never forget that moment during the recording session. I’ve also played Sarah Wallin Huff’s The Reluctant Carnie many times. I just love the feel of that piece.
What does this album mean to you personally?
I’ve loved my experience with PARMA and Navona Records. I loved that this was an international project, but it really took a step of trust for me to allow the record company to select the musicians for my piece. There are many great musicians out there. But something as closely knit as a duet requires chemistry and working it out internationally goes way beyond the scope of my contacts. These players gave my music the best possible chance at being heard and understood. It was a great experience.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
Nocturne is a depiction of the deafening silence of a West Texas night. Taking a break while composing a larger work, I stepped outside for a moment of rest. Standing out under the stars, the silence was both serene and LOUD with energy. I can’t describe it well, but Nocturne is my attempt to express that experience.