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Tom Varner : Heaven and Hell (OmniTone 12210)

4 stars!in Down Beat magazine (February 2010)!

An ex-New Yorker's post-9/11 meditation on the good and bad around us all, the gorgeous suite Heaven and Hell is a roaring-yet-tender new work for tentet by brilliant French hornist/composer Tom Varner — featuring master trumpeter Russ Johnson and a cast of Seattle's top players.

"Heaven and Hell," Tom continues, "is a 'looking back' at an almost-eight-year process of thinking about, composing, organizing, and executing the music, during a time of huge changes in the world and personally, as well, for many folks."  It's filled with, what Tom describes as, "the 'combo platter' in life that seems to grow  stronger the older we get — the good and the bad that is all around us," from "The Daily Dance," which reminds Tom of "the morning scramble of getting kids to school," to the snapshot of "new parents at 3 AM" that is "Waltz for the Proud Tired Worriers," which Tom feels is the most heaven-like, to the bleak, twisted, smouldering "Structure Down," which is "the most 'hell'" to Tom's ears.

The sections of the entire Heaven and Hell suite, which form a dramatic arc, are tied together with short, improvisational interludes that Tom describes as interludes as "'quiet reflections,' bits of staring into space, between more heavy events." He goes on to say, "I also think of the whole piece rather cinematically, with lots of jump-cuts from different moments in time, often from a reflective present to a turbulent past. 'The Trilling Clouds' signals a heightened awareness, and the final 'Postlude: Nine Years Later' is a kind of 'sigh from the future.'"

Buy Heaven and Hell now at the OmniTone store.


Tom Varner, French hornRuss Johnson, trumpetChris Stover, tromboneJesse Canterbury, clarinetSaul Cline (#1-4, 6) or Hans Teuber (#8, 10, 12, 14), soprano saxophoneMark Taylor, alto saxophoneEric Barber, tenor saxophoneJim DeJoie, baritone saxophonePhil Sparks, bassByron Vannoy, drums

For sound samples, click on MP3 (for an MP3 sample) or WMA (for Windows Media):

1.  Prelude (1:04) MP3 WMA
2.  Overview (8:11) MP3 WMA
3.  A Moment (1:14) MP3 WMA
4.  The Daily Dance (11:17) MP3 WMA
5.  Bells (1:34) MP3 WMA
6.  The Trilling Clouds (8:26) MP3 WMA
7.  Three Thoughts (1:20) MP3 WMA
8.  Queen Tai (12:07) MP3 WMA
9.  Fields (0:52) MP3 WMA
10.  Birds and Thirds (3:56) MP3 WMA
11.  Low Resolution (1:36) MP3 WMA
12.  Waltz for the Proud Tired Worriers (4:01) MP3 WMA
13.  Searchlight (1:22) MP3 WMA
14.  Structure Down (11:03) MP3 WMA
15.  Postlude: Nine Years Later (1:19) MP3 WMA

All compositions by Tom Varner, Tom Varner Music (BMI).
Recorded on 13-14 April 2008 at Jack Straw Studios in Seattle, Washington.

Recording and Mixing Engineer: Doug Haire (
Mastering Engineer: Katherine Miller
Photographer: Daniel Sheehan (
Cover Artist: Hope Varner
Album Designer: Frau Kranift
Producer: Tom Varner
Executive Producer: Frank Tafuri
Production assistance by Ann Terry, McGlipto Tragmolian
Producer: Tom Varner
Executive Producer: Frank Tafuri

Supported in part by Jack Straw Productions, Artist Residence Program (

Special thanks to Earshot Jazz, the Seattle Art Museum, the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, and the incredible musicians on this recording.

An extra-special thanks to OmniTone's hard-working Frank Tafuri and Terry Wojtkunski, to Jack and Hope Varner, and most of all to the beautiful, wise, witty, and patient Terri Constant.

Buy Heaven and Hell now at the OmniTone store.

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