Tight Sweater: I Exposed Zipper

by Jake Schepps

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We recorded this first movement of “Tight Sweater” called “Exposed Zipper” in 2012 for a grant application I was working on at the time. We also filmed it as a teaser for the world premiere of Marc’s piece “Flatiron,” happening later that year. I discovered Marc’s music via the album “Real Quiet,” featuring the piece “Tight Sweater.” With crazy movement names like “Mechanically Separated Chicken Parts,” quirky instrumentation, and driving rhythmic figures, it was unlike anything I had ever heard. And I loved it. I thought about trying to work up the entire 6-movement suite with the Expedition Quartet, though I realized it would take a serious amount of time to get this music together. At the same time, I thought having Marc compose a piece for 5-piece string band could offer a different creative challenge and new sounds. This was the germ for “Entwined,” and I got in touch with Marc soon after that.

Commissioning composers is standard fare for many string quartets and symphonies but was very new terrain for me. Marc was gracious in walking me through the process, while I tried to bring him up to speed on how a bluegrass band works. As a classically trained composer, he has deep experience writing for violin, guitar, and bass, yet banjo and mandolin were new terrain. Once he was about to hold those instruments and try out ideas, much of “Flatiron” flowed out. I am deeply grateful for Marc’s patience to work with such a green commissioner as myself, and the collaboration was a true treat.

I cannot post the sheet music for copyright issues, yet here is the banjo tablature if you so choose to play along. As you can see, there is a ton of mixed meter in this piece (shifting time signatures). Most all bluegrass is in 3 or 4, and learning to feel new grooves (rather than count) was an important learning process. One cannot think ⅞ and figure it out. Another component to learning this music was getting my counting together. Learning to count in odd or mixed meters and play simultaneously was its own learning process, and has proven invaluable in my own playing and composing.

There is plenty of Marc’s music available out on the web, and all is worth giving a listen. As I said, I am particularly fond of “Real Quiet.”


released December 28, 2016

Enion Pelta-Tiller: violin
Jake Schepps: banjo
Grant Gordy: guitar
Greg Garrison: bass

Composed by Marc Mellits
Arranged by Jake Schepps
Produced by Jake Schepps
Recorded at Mighty Fine Productions, Denver CO, April 2012
Engineered and mixed by Colin Bricker



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Jake Schepps Boulder, Colorado

Jake Schepps has made a name for himself as a banjo renaissance man, an artist with not only an adroit touch on his instrument but an intrepid, imaginative vision for contemporary stringband music. Based in Boulder, Colorado, he leads the Jake Schepps Quintet, playing longform classical works written for string band, music by Bela Bartok, and of course some good ol' bluegrass. ... more

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