Tuesday, April 05, 2005


One of the biggest challenges of teaching my daytime combo (as opposed to the evening one, which is mostly older adults and thus more stable personnel-wise), is that I never know exactly what my instrumentation will be until the first week of school. This makes picking music beforehand a challenge, because I could have anything from what I have now (a fairly "normal" horn section of alto/tenor/trombone, just like TD/D) to what I had about five years ago (four saxes, four guitars, a trumpet and a piano). Putting a vocalist into the mix adds to the challenge, because I always want to add horn parts to the lead sheets she (yes, it's always been a "she" so far) brings in.

There's a really good vocalist in there this semester, so I obviously wanted to write for her, but my writing tends to move at a glacial pace most of the time. More often than not, I have to be in the mood to write, and because of that, many of my big projects have never gotten past the idea stage. But this semester, they've come to fruition not once, but twice.

While I've always been pretty disciplined in my work, the times outside of work have tended to be downright lazy. I feel like I've earned the break, in a way, but lately there's just so much I want to accomplish, especially in the area of playing and writing (I really want to start writing for big band soon, for one thing). The first little project was taking a big band arrangement of "Orange Colored Sky" and condensing it to three-horn combo; that got done earlier in the semester. But the magnum opus of the spring was born when our vocalist wanted to do "Nature Boy" as a samba, and the idea came to me to add a long, technical soli section like the one found in my very first jazz composition, "Samba de ZuachiƱu." I actually sketched the idea out on paper over spring break and started writing the parts out last week. I still had a few to go as of this morning, but I had promised the group they'd get to read it today, so I finished the parts in the faculty office at the college (totally forsaking the computer until I got home). I was really happy with it; it turned out like I wanted it to do, and everyone seemed to really like it, even though it's hard. I still have to come up with an ending and some horn parts for when she sings the head, but the hardest part is done. The plan is to play it on the spring concert on May 7.

So, after years of wanting to do some big, elaborate arrangements for combo, I finally did it. (I also practiced during the time when a student didn't show up to his lesson, and I worked out at the college gym after combo...what a day.) I think this more-disciplined approach to things will stick around this time, because I like the results.

Oh, and if you're in a non-jazz mood at the moment, this post shares its name with a pretty cool King Crimson CD.

Buzz kill: I was scared for a moment earlier today when I thought my computer was about to give out; it was making this weird random buzzing noise for no apparent reason. It turns out that the sound in question was coming from a little animated fly in a banner ad at the site I was visiting. I'm not sure that's a really effective form of advertising; while the ad got my attention, it sure didn't make me want to buy the product or service it was hawking (which, appropriately, I've already forgotten).

Plllllllllllay ball! As I type this post, the Rangers are on TV playing the California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It's so great that baseball season is back; if you missed my tribute to the virtues of baseball from about a year ago, check it out, because I can't add much else to what I said then.

(OLD SCHOOL) QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Discpline is never and end in itself, only a means to an end."--from the liner notes to the above-mentioned King Crimson CD.

1 comment:

Gary P. said...

I'd like to hear your arrangement of Nature Boy. I've got a big band version of it in my head based on the version Kurt Elling recorded, but I don't know if it'll ever make it to paper.

I tend to have a lot of enthusiasm for new arranging projects until I get about 85% into them. That last 15% just kills me. I don't know if I'm scared to actually finish them and have them held up to public scrutiny or if the engineer in me wants to continuously tinker with them a bar at a time or what the deal is.

I've got a couple dozen arrangements or re-orchestrations of charts in Finale in various stages of non-completion. Only a couple have ever actually been finished and subsequently played. ::sigh::