Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jazz Arranging

This is my second day of blogging about my current big band arranging project; it's a piece entitled "Dig In Buddy" by Calgary-based drummer, Tyler Hornby.  After completing yesterday's list of observations and ideas, I sat down at the piano to do some experimenting and exploring.

The first item on my list was reinforcing the Art Blakey-esque quality of the piece, if possible.  The question soon became "How?"  I experimented with 3-horn "crunch" voicings (for a lack of a better label), that I have seen in many of the Jazz Messenger charts I have transcribed over the years.  These voicings typically have a major third and a minor second below the melody. Often they are used over a pedal point.  I applied these to Tyler's progression and came up with a little vamp that could be used within the intro, to underpin the melody, and as a background figure behind soloists.

Next, I experimented with the expansion of the hip rhythmic idea in the final measure of the piece.  I reharmonized it a few ways to create an expanded sound-off which will lead into a solo break of sorts.

Both of these ideas are demonstrated in the video above.

Today my main goal was to map out a formal plan.  This may change, but here is what I sketched:
  •  Introduction:  8 measures.  Vamp.  Trombones + rhythm. Maybe unison sax lines over top.  End w/ lick from m.16, either in its original form or w/ rhythmic expansion, played by full brass.
  •  Melody (1st 8): vamp continues underneath.  Melody presented by trpt and tenor, like original.  M. 8, entire brass section plays punctuation figure.  Spill off on Cmi.
  • return of 8 measure vamp.  [I'm not ready to move on yet.]
  • Melody (1st 8) again.  Full brass punctuations at measures 4 and 8, using his melodies.
  • 2nd 8: swing release (walking).  Big.  Maybe change orchestration on beat 3 of measure 12.
  • Full ensemble shout/rhythmic hits encasing a drum solo [it's his tune after all!].  This will serve to extend the intensity generated in m. 16.  I'll keep it big and exciting.  16 measures, ending w/ lick from m. 16.
  • Restatement of head, in a different way.  Voice it.  Alter it rhythmically slightly (either melody or phrase ending punctuations)
  • "Extended sound-off" (from video): Gb13, Eb13, D7, Db7, G7, break.  Sax section "fills" over extended harmonies.  Sax section takes 4 measure solo break.
  • Saxophone soli.  2 choruses.  During the 2nd chorus the brass backgrounds gain prominence, build and gradually take over.  Incorporate last 2 measures of melody.
  •  Full ensemble continues well into the first chorus of a trumpet solo, keeping the intensity up initially.  3 chorues.  2nd chorus, minimal backgrounds.  3rd chorus, intro vamp by tbns, on first half.
  • Lead into a fire-y tenor sax solo, propelled by quirky low register 5ths, alternating w/ 4ths structures.  Looped vamp?  Perhaps a modulation here would "give it a lift".
  • Rhythmically expand the tune's melody, leaving large spaces for drum fills.  Keep it quirky.  Fairly big at points.  Some lines in contrary motion.  End the piece with a different vibe from where it began.  Arrive somewhere new, rather than return home.

Ok... so there we have it.  It will be interesting to see to what degree I end up deviating from this plan.  For now, I am simply pleased to have a plan in place.  Now... to roll up my sleeves, sharpen my pencils and get to work!!!


  1. Great post--cassettes are the way to go! It' always great to see some real content. Keep up the good work, I'll link to you.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement Scott. I've just started going through your blog posts. Very impressive! I will look forward to reading your blog in more depth in the weeks to come. All the best, Earl


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