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Mode Seven: A Jazz Tribute to the SNES

Catalog Number OCRA-0077
Release Date Nov 07, 2022
Publish Format Doujin/Indie
Release Price Free
Media Format Digital
Classification Arrangement
PublisherOverClocked ReMix / /

Credits

Original Composer / Robin Beanland, Kenji Yamamoto / , Koji Kondo / , Setsuo Yamamoto / , Yumiko Kanki / , Nobuo Uematsu / , Yoko Shimomura / , Hirokazu Tanaka / , Ryoji Yoshitomi / , Kazumi Totaka /
Arrangement / Dylan Wiest (Wiesty), Brian Fratto (Fratto), Markus B. (Nostalvania), Jorik Bergman (Bowlerhat), Gregory Weaver, John Stacy (JohnStacy), Alejandro Espinosa
Drums / Dylan Wiest (Wiesty)
Fender Rhodes / Dylan Wiest (Wiesty)
Tenor Saxophone / Anthony Lofton, Gregory Weaver, Carlos Eiene (insaneintherainmusic)
Trumpet / J Damashii, John Stacy (JohnStacy)
Piano / Markus B. (Nostalvania)
Synths / Markus B. (Nostalvania)
Vibraphone / Doug Perry (DrumUltimA)
Guitar / Alejandro Espinosa, Andy Pearce (AndyP)
Bass / Alejandro Espinosa
Trombone / Brian Fratto (Fratto)
Bass Trombone / Brian Fratto (Fratto)
Alto Saxophone / Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice)
Baritone Saxophone / Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice)
Flute / Jorik Bergman (Bowlerhat)
Electric Piano / Markus B. (Nostalvania)
French Horn / John Stacy (JohnStacy)
Congas / Doug Perry (DrumUltimA)
Bongos / Doug Perry (DrumUltimA)
Clavinet / Markus B. (Nostalvania)
Liner Notes / Wiesty, Fratto, Nostalvania, Bowlerhat, Gregory Weaver

Tracklist

Disc 1

01 Combo Breaker (Killer Instinct) 8:27
02 Brushwork (Mario Paint) 3:53
03 Red Soul (Super Metroid) 5:28
04 Gigantrious Koopalooza (Super Mario World) 6:05
05 Hylian Serene (Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past) 5:00
06 22nd Century (Digital Boy) [Mega Man X] 4:47
07 Chico del Futuro (Dragon Ball Z Super Butouden 2) 6:13
08 Quiet Rider (F-Zero) 5:37
09 The Distant Night (Final Fantasy VI) 5:05
10 Live Mega, Live Más (Live A Live) 5:31
Disc length 56:06

 

Notes

Mode Seven: A Jazz Tribute to the SNES
Comments from album director Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) and ReMixers
Album freely available at https://mode7.ocremix.org

For many gamers, the SNES marked a golden age of video games and the soundtracks that accompanied them. For the first time, technology was available that was capable of producing games with vivid art, complex and captivating storylines, and music that could truly establish the atmosphere required to complete a fully engaging experience for gamers. Game developers were finally able to produce epic masterpieces on Game Paks that truly represented their artistic vision, as opposed to relying on the imagination of gamers to fill in the gaps left by the technology of previous generation consoles.

Though the SNES served as a launching pad for the level of immersiveness video games would go on to provide over the next 30 years, it was also the pinnacle of the 16-bit era, providing gamers with one last glimpse of how far technology had come before game developers would go back to the drawing board to start from scratch in the 3D era of graphics. The SNES's relatively minimal, sprite-heavy graphics showed how vivid and imaginative artists could be with fairly primitive technology, and it has always amazed me how well SNES-era graphics have aged when compared with their 3D successors. Likewise, the SNES's SPC700 audio engine, which could only handle 8 distinct voices at any given time and up to 64kb of audio data, required composers to be extremely thoughtful in the choices they made. The phrase "limitation breeds creativity", is profoundly apt when it comes to the artists who brought us the masterpieces of the 16-bit era, which have gone on to inspire a sort of renaissance in recent years with the explosive popularity of 16-bit style games such as Shovel Knight or Octopath Traveler, as well as the world of chiptunes and music trackers.

After the OC Jazz Collective's in-depth exploration of Chrono Trigger in 2016, I knew that the console which provided us with one of the most memorable gaming experiences of all time deserved its own treatment by the collective. After all, many series of equal stature to Chrono Trigger such as The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Mario, and Metroid, all released some of their most popular titles on this console which would go on to define their respective genres. While the initial groundwork for Mode Seven: A Jazz Tribute to the SNES began way back in late 2016, multiple circumstances including relocating across the country, personnel changes, the loss of my father (who bought me my SNES in 1996!), and a global pandemic delayed the release until 2022. While Chronology will always hold a special place in my heart, I think that the OCJC has upped their game to a whole new level for Mode Seven. The "dream team" assembled for Chronology has grown in size, and new arrangers, musicians, and a representation of SNES titles both beloved and overlooked have all come together to create a fitting follow up to our first release in 2016.

Capturing a style of music such as jazz that requires such close interaction between musicians is no easy task when the musicians are seperated by multiple continents, recording their parts one at a time. However, with the level of musicality and meticulous attention to detail this ensemble brings, I hope that Mode Seven: A Jazz Tribute to the SNES will be as memorable as the console which inspired it.

- Dylan Wiest (Wiesty)

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1. Wiesty, The OC Jazz Collective - "Combo Breaker"
Source: Killer Instinct - "The Instinct"
Original Composer: Robin Beanland

Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - arrangement, drums, Fender Rhodes
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
J Damashii - trumpet
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - piano, synths
Doug Perry (DrumUltimA) - vibraphone
Alejandro Espinosa - guitar, bass

Wiesty: Killer Instinct was one of my favorite games growing up, with its enormously varied soundtrack and cutting-edge graphics. I knew that any SNES album would not be complete without a track from this game, which I feel is a very underappreciated OST. My main concept with this track was to arrange it in a neo-soul/Robert Glasper-esque style, with a heavy emphasis on modern harmonies and breakbeat drumming. The track is essentially divided into two halves, with Alejandro and Markus shredding some solos on guitar and synths, respectively, in the first half. The beginning of the track comes to a bit of a pause, featuring Ale's excellent work on bass, before the entire track begins to build to the end, with Doug, Alejandro, Markus, and Anthony all soloing overtop of each other creating a cacophony of solos until the end of the piece. This section, as well as the intro, were difficult to coordinate, as you never truly know how the musicians are going to interact with each other in a non-live situation, but everyone's musicality and virtuosity really shines through.

2. Fratto, Wiesty, The OC Jazz Collective - "Brushwork"
Sources: Mario Paint - "Title", "Creative Exercise"; Super Mario Bros. (Super Mario All-Stars) - "Overworld BGM" (cameo)
Original Composers: Hirokazu Tanaka, Ryoji Yoshitomi, Kazumi Totaka, Koji Kondo

Brian Fratto (Fratto) - arrangement, trombone, bass trombone
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - arrangement, drums
Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice) - alto saxophone, baritone saxophone
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
Jorik Bergman (Bowlerhat) - flute
J Damashii - trumpet
John Stacy (JohnStacy) - trumpet
Andy Pearce (AndyP) - guitar
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - piano
Alejandro Espinosa - bass

Fratto: After choosing this track, Dylan and I were talking about how much it reminded us of Neal Hefti's "Cute", which is a great chart, and that idea got me started. The muted intro takes the "Title" theme and gives it the "Cute" treatment. After that, it moves to the "Creative Exercise" theme and a couple great solos from Jorik and Andy. Each wind section gets a soli starting with the bones, then Dylan gives us muted trumpets, and ending with the saxes. Big ol' shout section, then it tones down a bit for the ending. I've really gotten to enjoy writing with Dylan and I finally got to arrange my VGM big band chart.

Wiesty: This is a track I've always wanted to arrange, given how much it reminded me of Neal Hefti's "Cute". I was super-happy that Brian picked it as a tune, and was impressed with his overall orchestration and direction for the track. I offered to step in to do a bit of rhythm arrangement, as well as writing a trumpet soli for the tune which both Jordan and John pulled off with ease. As one of our only big band tracks on the album, it required a great deal of coordination to pull together, but the final product was well worth the effort.

3. Nostalvania, The OC Jazz Collective - "Red Soul"
Source: Super Metroid - "Brinstar - Red Soil Wetland Area"
Original Composer: Kenji Yamamoto

Markus B. (Nostalvania) - arrangement, electric piano
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
J Damashii - trumpet
Brian Fratto (Fratto) - trombone
Doug Perry (DrumUltimA) - vibraphone
Alejandro Espinosa - bass
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - drums

Nostalvania: For my interpretation of "Red Soil", I decided to go for a more funky, upbeat style, in contrast to the rather dark, eerie mood of the source tune and probably most of its remixes.

Actually, the origins of this arrangement go back to an old electronic remix I did years ago, where I took some of the reharm ideas from. Furthermore, I also got some inspiration from the Jazz Crusaders. Since there is a good amount of repetition, I tried to keep things interesting by adding more instruments and countermelodies as the track progresses. This is actually the first arrangement for which I wrote a trombone part! That's why it was practically unplayable [insert sad trombone sound here]. But after transposing it down an octave or so, it was fine. After the theme, there is a solo section, which harmonically almost only consists of II-V progressions. I did this because I like to reharmonize music, and also to prevent the track from getting too repetitive. Shoutout to Anthony (tenor sax), Doug (vibraphone), and Ale (bass) for the great solos! And, also, I found out that it's possible to play the melody over the chords from the solo part, which was very convenient, because that way I was able to maintain the momentum and drive which came from said section. The last part (outro/vamp) is like a return to the classic "Red Soil" mood. It gradually builds up and intensifies until the end, greatly supported by Dylan with some excellent drum soloing.

4. Bowlerhat, The OC Jazz Collective - "Gigantrious Koopalooza"
Source: Super Mario World - "Sub Castle BGM"
Original Composer: Koji Kondo

Jorik Bergman (Bowlerhat) - arrangement, fute
Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice) - alto saxophone, baritone saxophone
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
John Stacy (JohnStacy) - trumpet
Brian Fratto (Fratto) - trombone
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - piano
Alejandro Espinosa - guitar, bass
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - drums

Bowlerhat: When I first arranged "Gigantrious Koopalooza" a few years ago, the piece was fully in medium swing time. Back then, Dylan had already suggested changing it to 12/8 to mix it up, but I had cluelessly rejected the idea. Then, after the SNES project had meandered for a bit and I came back to redo the arrangement, about 1.5 years ago by now, I decided to try out his idea and switch up the 4/4 medium swing with a 12/8 Latin groove. Best. Idea. Ever. The piece starts slow and retrospective, dramatically introducing the main motive of the arrangement. Then, after the intro, the 12/8 groove gets introduced and the piece truly starts. It's a party, hehe.

One of the biggest challenges for me personally when arranging video game music is dealing with the melody. When I compose original compositions, I never reuse melodies, I always develop them and introduce new motives and mix it up. It'd be silly to just repeat the same old melody for 5 minutes. But with arrangements like this, where there's a set theme which is so beloved by many, I somehow have to stay true to the original while still also having some kind of melodic development happening throughout the piece. What I tried to do in this arrangement is having the original main melody happen at the very end, as the big climax of the piece and only "alluding" to the main melody before that. So I tried many different ways to play the theme without actually playing it. That way, when the main melody finally hits after the flute solo and the big epic drum riff, it feels like even more of a resolution. It's a dynamic climax, a rhythmic climax, and now also a melodic climax. Of course, since it's mandatory to modulate at the climax of a piece, I modulated from F minor to the slightly brighter C minor.

As a flute player, I almost never get solos. And, since I'm almost always conducting my own projects, I decided to use this rare opportunity of a virtual band recording to just give myself the solo, hehe. The timing was a bit unfortunate, since at the moment of recording I had just bought a new flute, which I wasn't completely used to yet back then, but I think I still did a semi-nice job with the improvisation. I found the arrangement to be very fun to play, which in my opinion is the most important thing when arranging. If the band is having fun, the audience is most likely also having fun. So I hope that the rest of the band enjoyed themselves as well, haha. I'm very thankful Dylan gave me the opportunity to write for such a cool project, and it was a pleasure to share the virtual stage with people from all over the world. I'm already looking forward to the next one. :)

5. Wiesty, The OC Jazz Collective - "Hylian Serene"
Source: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - "Kakariko Village"
Original Composer: Koji Kondo

Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - arrangement, drums
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - piano
Alejandro Espinosa - bass

Wiesty: I wanted to arrange a tune for the album which featured a very basic arrangement of the source material, and more of a focus on the individual voice of each musician. Like most great jazz standards, the chord progressions and melodies are quite simple, allowing the musicians to take the song in directions nobody else has before. I knew "Kakariko Village" would be a great source for such a track, and, after jotting out a road map and working out some reharmonizations, I left it in the very capable hands of both Markus and Anthony, who crafted a gorgeous ballad full of feeling and nuance. Ale and I added our own touch for the second half of the tune to add a bit of energy, and I could not be happier with how this track came together given the minor directions I provided for everyone.

6. Gregory Weaver, The OC Jazz Collective - "22nd Century (Digital Boy)"
Source: Mega Man X - "Sigma Stage 2"
Original Composer: Setsuo Yamamoto

Gregory Weaver - arrangement, tenor saxophone
Doug Perry (DrumUltimA) - vibraphone
J Damashii - trumpet
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - electric piano
Alejandro Espinosa - bass
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - drums

Gregory: Mega Man X is one of my favorite games of all time. I grew up obsessing over the original Mega Man games on NES, and I clearly remember how, after my parents got the game for my brother and me, I'd wake up before breakfast on cold winter mornings to play it. I still enjoy revisiting it.

The game's music played a huge part in my love for it, so when I was presented with the opportunity to arrange for this tribute to the SNES, I immediately started dreaming up ideas around MMX's OST. It's wild to think about, but this project was my first foray into online collaboration. Wiesty and I first chatted about doing something for this album back in Oct. 2017—I legitimately bought my first mic for this work!

My first ideas were to either arrange this piece or "Sigma Stage 1". I chose to do "Stage 1" first, but when things were on hold for this album, I ended up debuting that with my own band, The Hard Modes, and then arranged "Stage 2" for the OCJC when things started ramping up again.

One of my favorite parts about the original tune is how the Capcom Sound Team arranged it to move between clearly defined sections that are infectious and exciting. They inspired me to try to capture that feeling in my own arrangement, particularly in the solo sections.

The A sections are open—basically one chord for 16 bars over which the soloist can bend the harmony to their will. The harmony becomes more defined in the subsequent sections, but it's the rhythmic build that leads the soloist between ideas, just as in the original. The band certainly delivered for this cut; the energy from section to section is intense—palpable!

It's fortunate that this group's composition matches that of the Modes. We also have a great vibes player that I love to showcase, so I was psyched that I had the opportunity to feature Doug here. The best moment in this recording, to me, is when Doug enters his solo, sustaining the last chord of the form. The contrast of that huge breath of fresh air to the energy the sax solo ends with is perfectly and hauntingly disarming.

In the game, after Zero sacrifices himself to allow X an opening to defeat Vile, and after a trying battle with a giant spider robot, X stands alone to continue his quest to defeat Sigma. Ultimately, I hope the listener gets the same intensity from this arrangement as they do when they experience that moment.

7. JohnStacy, The OC Jazz Collective - "Chico del Futuro"
Source: Dragon Ball Z Super Butouden 2 - "Trunks' Theme"
Original Composer: Kenji Yamamoto

John Stacy (JohnStacy) - arrangement, French horn, trumpet
Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice) - alto saxophone, baritone saxophone
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
Brian Fratto (Fratto) - trombone, bass trombone
Andy Pearce (AndyP) - guitar
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - piano
Alejandro Espinosa - bass
Doug Perry (DrumUltimA) - congas
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - drums

Wiesty: John's arrangement of "Trunks' Theme" was actually the first track submitted in full for the album following the completion of Chronology way back in 2016. When John submitted the track, I was unfamiliar with the source, but loved the idea of including some overlooked music from the SNES catalog as a means to truly round out the album. As one of the few true big band tracks on the album, John's arrangement draws significant influence from Hank Levy's "Pegasus" and beautifully weaves it with Yamamato's work. The piece is written in 6/8 Latin, fluctuating between a 3 and a 2 feel, and is written for a full jazz orchestra including bass trombone and French horn, which is featured heavily throughout. Though atypical in big band settings, the French horn adds superb texture to the overall sound of the big band, and was often used by composers such as Gil Evans who were searching for a distinct sound. The Latin feel briefly transitions into medium tempo swing with pocket to spare before the final iteration of the melody, which slowly fades out with some dissonant harmonies in the brass and woodwinds.

8. Nostalvania, The OC Jazz Collective - "Quiet Rider"
Source: F-Zero - "Silence"
Original Composer: Yumiko Kanki

Markus B. (Nostalvania) - arrangement, electric piano
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
J Damashii - trumpet
Doug Perry (DrumUltimA) - vibraphone
Alejandro Espinosa - bass
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - drums

Nostalvania: For my first arrangement, I chose the tune "Silence" from F-Zero, one of the classic games that came with the launch of the SNES system, which (relevant to the album title) also used Mode 7 graphics.

I think I picked "Silence" because it was already kinda jazzy/funky and had some interesting harmonic changes. So, the first thing I did was turn that e-piano pattern from the A-section into a bassline, supported by a very straight 4/4 drum beat, while the trumpet plays the melody in a more lyrical manner.

"Silence" has that style shift where the second part changes to a funk-like groove. For my arrangement, I decided to use some good old swing for that part. The first time only is played by vibraphone, later joined by trumpet and tenor saxophone. After the theme, it's time for some solos. Piano takes the first one, followed by an energetic, virtuoso vibraphone solo played by Doug, who really did a great job here! I also thought it would be cool to have a break section at the beginning of the vibes solo, as a transition before it changes to double-time swing. Afterwards, we have the A-section again, this time played in a more Latin/salsa style. Then back to swing, into an interlude, and finally the ending.

9. Wiesty, The OC Jazz Collective - "The Distant Night"
Sources: Final Fantasy VI - "Terra"; "Fanfare", "Techno de Chocobo" (cameo)
Original Composer: Nobuo Uematsu

Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - arrangement, drums
Joe Zieja (XPRTNovice) - alto saxophone
Anthony Lofton - tenor saxophone
J Damashii - trumpet
Brian Fratto (Fratto) - trombone
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - piano
Alejandro Espinosa - bass

Wiesty: For anyone familiar with jazz and the great recordings of the post-bop era, they will instantly recognize where the inspiration for this track came from. However, much of my source material for this tune actually came from a saxophone quartet I arranged for Joe way back in 2013 entitled "Variations de Chocobo", which featured the "Chocobo" theme superimposed over the chord changes to Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments". That track never made its way onto OCR, but here we are years later, and I decided to run with that same idea, but with Terra's theme instead. If you listen closely during the horn solo, you can still hear the "Chocobo" theme sneak in, a throwback to 2013. This tradition of composing new melodies overtop of old chord changes is one that runs deep in jazz, something known as a contrafact. I love this approach to arranging video game music as the possibilities are endless, and I'm always surprised with how seamlessly they seem to fit sometimes. The musicians on this track captured the mood I was going for perfectly, adding in some fantastic solos to top it off.

10. Alejandro Espinosa, The OC Jazz Collective - "Live Mega, Live Más"
Source: Live A Live - "Megalomania"
Original Composer: Yoko Shimomura

Alejandro Espinosa - arrangement, guitar, bass
Carlos Eiene (insaneintherainmusic) - tenor saxophone
J Damashii - trumpet
John Stacy (JohnStacy) - French horn
Doug Perry (DrumUltimA) - vibraphone, bongos
Markus B. (Nostalvania) - electric piano, clavinet
Dylan Wiest (Wiesty) - drums

Wiesty: Alejandro has been an amazing addition to the OCJC since he started working with us a few years ago. When he brought this source to the album as an idea, I had never even heard of the game, but the music was super hip and had a lot of potential. Low and behold, Alejandro had the foresight to arrange some great music from a relatively obscure game, which was actually just recently re-released on the Nintendo Switch, 28 years after its Japan-only launch. Alejandro writes some very challenging music, and this arrangement was no exception, with the introductory vibes part requiring Doug to overdub his vibes, while also providing hand percussion to back up the drums. The drum part Alejandro envisioned required Nate Smith-esque energy, which took countless hours of work from Wiesty to capture. The horns did a fantastic job of playing with the energy and accuracy required for this tune, and Carlos Eiene (insaneintherainmusic) even graciously lent his skills, laying down a killer solo on this tune. We're excited to continue working with Alejandro, and to see what challenging and inventive arrangements he will write for us in the future!

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Sep 23, 2022 08:46 AM
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Nov 6, 2022 03:23 PM
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