So, this past Tuesday I brought six more completed arrangements in to Ft Meade to be read by The Jazz Ambassadors. They were kind enough to give me an entire two hour rehearsal to run the music. It was especially kind since they have rehearsals and a performance this weekend at The Kennedy Center as part of the Kennedy Center Honors that they needed to prepare for. They get to play with Dave Brubeck as he is one of the honorees. Not bad. However a little bird told me the chart that was provided for them on Take Five is not that good and that certain past or present Jazz Ambassador arrangers would have done better. (Just a little fodder there for the tabloids.)
The band played quite well as the music is rather difficult. Not necessarily from the standpoint of the player needing to be a virtuoso, but instead because it is difficult from a conceptual standpoint as well as the blend and balance needed to pull off the orchestration. I have an affection for writing across the band as it is. That is, not writing so much tutti material for one section but instead having one idea played together by members of different sections while another idea, or two or three is being played by other instrument combinations. Most "traditional" big band music is not written this way. Generally, saxes are all playing the same figure, whether unison or harmony. The same goes for the trumpets and the trombones. Sometimes the different sections play different parts, other times they have a tutti figure for all the horns. This type of writing makes it easy for the player to hear and play together with those that are playing the same figure. As I mentioned, I have a tendency to do things a bit different. And The Rite of Spring is written such that it is even easier for me to decide to go that direction. This means that, for instance, the second alto might be playing a melodic line with the guitar and two muted trumpets. Now the second alto, instead of listening to his lead player next to him, has to "find" the other players that are playing with him and blend and interpret the line with them. And so it goes for several other sets of instruments.
The Jazz Ambassadors have been playing my music long enough to know to expect that from me. However, these figures are a bit different. There is a different harmonic orientation as well as some different sorts of melodic material. Often there are notes or lines that make you uncertain if you played them right. Or, if you know you played them right, you wonder if they are written right. This is why one player commented on my Facebook page that the music is cool but also hard as @%@&*%!. I take that as a compliment.
So, besides being hard there were the usual few editing errors on my part. Two trumpet parts had a wrong note. That was a unison that was cut and pasted from one part to another. The same thing happened with a figure in the piano and guitar parts on another tune. And there was a small enharmonic inconsistency in the sax parts in one chart. That was the tune that drove me crazy trying to get the sharps and flats spelled out in the most readable manner. (Key signatures, or the lack thereof, are a whole other story with this piece!) And now I'm down to just four more charts. I've yet to get started on part 11 which puts me ever so slightly behind in my scheduled goal of a January 31 completion date. But that date also allows for finishing quite later and still being on time.
So, as I had mentioned in my first blog, I intend to write a bit about the nuts and bolts of what I have done with each part of Rite of Spring. And since I had a face to face request for that the other day, next time I will talk about the first part/chart. I don't know if I'll get through it in one sitting or if it will stretch to another writing. We shall see. It's kind of like writing the music, I just get going and who knows where it will come out in the end.