Blue Dawn into White Heat is perhaps the first (or at least one of the very few) jazz compositions written for concert band. It is therefore a piece not only with its own intrinsic musical merits, but one that also serves a certain educational, didactic purpose, i.e., teaching classical players something about jazz, modern jazz at that.
The work, in one continuous movement, is divided into three sections delineated by clearly discernible, ever-faster tempos as well as changing meters (3/4, 5/4, 7/4, 2/2). Although mostly written-out (through-composed), the work does feature some brief improvisational episodes for trombone, tenor saxophone, and piano.
This title of the piece was suggested by Fred Harris, the conductor who commissioned the work through the Belmont (Mass.) High School.