Tom Waits (b. 1949) is an American songwriter, composer, actor and performance artist. He is frequently described as one of the last beatniks of contemporary music with a voice sounding “like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car” (Daniel Durchholz, critic).
He is a self-described maker of “adventure songs and Halloween music” and his lyrics explore a fantastical underworld on seedy, sentimental, grotesque and sometimes maudlin subject matter. His first nine albums (recorded from 1973-1983) are mainly written in the style of Tin Pan Alley over a jazz and blues framework and instrumentation.
Beginning with Swordfishtrombones (1983), his music starkly departs from this style and he developed a new orchestration and evolving sound palette that continues to the present. He employs accordions, organs, bagpipes, rare instruments, instruments of his own design and some invented by composer Harry Partch. Furthermore, he has created concept albums developed and presented in theatrical productions (Franks Wild Years, Black Rider, Alice, and Blood Money) and explores forms that are rarely present in popular music (vaudeville, rumba, polka, tango, spoken word).
Homage to Tom Waits (2012) is dedicated to this second period of his music. The title of each movement is taken from different Tom Waits songs: Deal out jacks or better from Tango til they’re sore; The fields are soft and green from Innocent when you dream; and Step right up from the song of the same name. Each movement paraphrases musical motives from Tom Waits works. The first and second movement draw their material from their respective songs and the final movement’s material is a re-imagining of the main theme from Knife Chase. The first and second movements are in simple forms (ABA, three verse song) and the last movement is a carnival dance which organically develops its material in a through-composed form.
The first version of Homage to Tom Waits was scored for bassoon, guitar, and double bass and has since been through many manifestations. The current version has been thoroughly reworked and was completed in 2012.
11/30/2012 Austin, TX – University of Texas. Austin, TX
Joseph Williams II, Joseph Palmer- guitars and Elizabeth Lehr- bass.