Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Music Publications’

Long and McQuade Reading Clinic 2013 - New Music for Jazz Ensemble

On August 21, 2013 I directed a reading sessions of new big band arrangements and compositions for Long and McQuade Music here in Vancouver. This big event has held over several days and included reading sessions for new music for wind ensemble, jazz band and choir along with several related workshops. The main point of these reading sessions is to expose and promote ensemble music aimed at music educators.

The band in front of me that day was made up of teachers, students, big band enthusiasts, a couple of hired guns and their task was to sight read all the music in front of them, some of it quite challenging. I didn’t choose the music myself, that was up to the Long and McQuade folks, particularly Greg Passmore. We read through a huge range of styles, tempos and levels of difficulty. While new music reading sessions have been going on for many years, this particular year marked an important event - this reading session was combined with the annual Northwest Musical Services reading session. Northwest Music, founded by the late Bill Stonier in the very early 1970s, had just been sold to Long and McQuade Musical Instruments, marking a major change on the music retail and music education scenes. Not long after Bill established his business, he started the yearly Northwest Music new music reading sessions, always in late August, to promote new publications for concert band, jazz band and choir. These sessions were a big hit with educators. Besides the exposure to newer music, Bill also added a big social element - there was the hang at the store, the hang at the venue, a harbour cruise and a barbecue at Bill’s home. On top of the socializing between the educators Bill also made sure to bring in the composers and arrangers of the new music and they were always a big part of the hang. I worked for Bill at these events for 2 summers in the mid-1970s right after I graduated from UBC and I remember the reading sessions vividly and through those experiences I was able to meet some wonderful writers and educators. They were great fun for everyone. Bill was, and still is I think, a major figure in the music retail business. You could say he helped revolutionize the music retail business. Many of his ideas have been successfully incorporated into other music stores.

Anyway, many of the teachers who attended the reading session, and some that did not attend, have asked for my thoughts on the music we read through on that Wednesday morning. So, I thought I might post my notes here. I don’t know how helpful they will be, as they are very informal. I didn’t mean for anyone else to read them, they were notes I made for myself in preparation for the reading session. There are some excellent charts in this collection so I’m sure everyone should be able to find a few things that will fit their program. Besides my short notes, I should note that most publishers have mp3s of their publications that can be streamed or downloaded for study. A few allow you to look at the full score.

The 2013 L&M Jazz Ensemble Reading Clinic
Wednesday, August 21, 2013

1.) Things Ain’t What They Used To Be - Mercer Ellington/Rich Sigler Grade 2 Belwin

Rich Sigler is jazz trumpeter and current music director for the USAF Airmen of Note.

  • Med Blues in Bb with some reharmonization.
  • Simplified melody (missing part of the initial triplet)
  • Playing pickups - m.1- m.4 especially with other sections picking off the last 1/8th (trbs) can be a little difficult for some students.
  • Awkward phrasing in m33-34 (tenors/trbs). While the phrasing does work I found the students were able to better understand the phrase by making the 1/8th on beat 3 (m.33) and beat 1 (m.34) long
  • Have fun with the length of the fall. Students often short change falls. Have fun playing falls of different lengths, but remind them to keep the air moving to sustain the sound.
  • The solo section - Alto 1 (2 choruses), Trpt 2 (2 chor)
  • M.79 the trbs shifting between voiced support of trumpets and the Bb plunger notes is a little awkward, especially for smaller students. The plungers can be omitted, which makes the phrase a little easier to play.
  • You can add solos. Maybe some piano off the top. If you use a piano solo as the intro start playing the written intro as the last 2 and a 1/2 bars of the 12 bar blues form. That is, all the horns will have a 10 and a 1/2 bar rest.
  • I used this very nice chart with 12 to 15 year olds at the 2013 UBC Summer Music Institute with great success.

2.) Top Dog - Greg Yasinitsky Grade 2 Kendor

Saxophonist Greg Yasinitsky is the Coordinator of Jazz Studies and Regents Professor of Music at Washington State University.

  • Med Up Blues in F
  • Some nice simple tutti writing that can really roar, especially the forte pianos.
  • M.10 the anticipation followed closely by a downbeat can feel a little awkward as the tendency is want to play the next note as an anticipation as well. I think of these as rhythmic speed bumps.
  • Nice stop time chorus
  • Solo space for trpt 2 (2 chor) which can be opened up. Try adding improvised bkgs based on the blues scale
  • Sax soli - manageable

3.) It’s Just You and Me - Fred Stride Grade 2.5 Sierra

  • Written for the UBC Summer Music Institute
  • Ballad - alternating between swing and even 1/4s
  • Work on shaping of phrases, blend, tuning, releases, time (hard because of slow tempo), dynamic range
  • Solo space for piano - written or changes
  • The short 4 bar interludes can be improvised. I’ve used vibes as the soloist. Could also be guitar or even a harmon muted trumpet - D Dorian/Eb Dorian

4.) It’s Only a Paper Moon - Michael Sweeney Grade 1.5 Hal Leonard

  • Medium swing
  • Classic Harold Arlen standard
  • Trombones have the melody :)
  • Nice sectional contrasts through chart
  • Solos - Trb, Trpt
  • DS
  • Nice ending, a bit of a surprise with some new material and a crescendo to the end.

5.) Old Devil Moon - Rick Stitzel Grade 1.5 Hal Leonard

  • An accessible, very short, medium easy latin (bossa nova) and swing chart
  • The change to and from latin and swing can be a challenge for younger players without changing the tempo
  • Solo space is for trpt 2. You could also treat this as a trumpet soli. But be careful, as the of return of the tutti may tire the trumpets, especially trpt 1.
  • To lengthen the chart a little you could add solo space by using the DS twice (horns would not play m.68 the 1st time. On the first DS maybe add a piano or guitar solo. Solo down to m.68 then do the DS again as written, this time playing m.68.
  • Bkgs are not necessary, or even desirable, for piano solos. However, the trb/bari figure at m.53 to the down beat of m.59 might be nice behind a guitar solo. The trb. bass line at m.59 would be better behind a guitar or horn solo.

6.) Mack the Knife - Kurt Weill/Rich deRosa Grade 1 Belwin

Rich DeRosa is an associate professor at the University of North Texas where he is the director of jazz composition/arranging studies

  • Scored for 5 saxes and 6 brass. Will work for 2 altos, 1 tenor, 2 trpts and 1 trb.
  • Medium swinger, begins with the big intro and settles into a nice 2 beat feel. The hi hat technique is suggested on the score (part?) but is incomplete. The hi hat is always played open-closed-open-open-closed-open. IE - only the down beats of 2 and 4 are closed, the “ands” are open. This gives the HH more sustain and keeps the groove moving forward
  • Nice open 5 part sax voicings at m.37
  • Solo - Pno (16) Trpt 1 (16), Alto 1 (16), Drs (have player improvise own but be aware of the ensemble ins and outs. Think of solo fills as rhythmic connectors. Each fill needs to come out on a beat to make the next horn entrance clear.
  • This chart could use a few more rehearsal markers (the score has them every 16 bars).

7.) Misty - Erroll Garner/Terry White Grade 1 Belwin

Terry White, a veteran music educator in the Portland Maine area, is also an active a trumpet player and arranger/composer.

  • Slow swing ballad.
  • Scored for 5 saxes and 6 brass. Will work for 2 altos, 1 tenor, 2 trpts and 1 trb.
  • Intro is a borrowed from a Tadd Dameron tune - On A Misty Night - a very subtle connect via tune titles.
  • Melody is set in a Li’l Darlin’ soft tutti style
  • Avoid playing this too slow.
  • This chart provides opportunities for working on dynamic contrast, as the melody moves up and down in register, blend, tuning and pulse.
  • Solos - Alto 1 (8), Trpt 1 (8)
  • I suspect the 1st trumpet note at m.58, the second note, should be a written G (see Alto 1).
  • A nice ensemble chart, it is probably better suited to a grade 2 or 2.5 level band due to the slow tempo and slightly more advanced swing rhythms in the melody.

8.) Jive Samba - Nat Adderley/Terry White Grade 1 Belwin

  • Scored for 5 saxes and 6 brass. Playable by 2 altos, 1 tenor, 2 trpts, 1 trb.
  • Simple latin (bossa with ride) or light rock type feel.
  • A re-harmonized arrangement, changing the funky F7(#9) chord of Nat Adderley’s original to the lighter and lower D Dorian. The lower key and dorian mode makes it a little more playable by young players.
  • Melody for small group Trpt 1, alto 1 and tenor 1 - then a change to trpt 2 playing lead over both altos and tenor 1. After the familiar tutti phrase trpt 1 plays over the 3 saxes.
  • There are 2 solo sections - #1 is assigned to Tenor 1, but the solo is also cued for alto 1. Solo section #2 - is assigned to Trpt 1, but is also cued in Trb 1.
  • There is no additional ensemble writing. Strictly melody and solo space.

9.) Mood Swings - Lennie Niehaus Grade 3 Kendor

Lennie Niehaus, a prolific arranger and composer, was lead alto and soloist in the 1950s with Stan Kenton. He has also been involved with film scoring, notably with Clint Eastwood.

  • Medium swing - to slow rubato (a cappella) - to jazz waltz. The shift to the jazz waltz will take a little preparation. Drs give a 1 bar setup (fill).
  • The ride cymbal pattern is written as 1/4-dotted 1/8-16th, but should be played as if seeing 1/8ths
  • M.3 and m.7 are challenges due to the downbeat after the anticipation.
  • Lennie loves sax solis (m.55). This one will be a challenge.
  • The chart returns to 4/4 at m.55.
  • The saxes are followed by a brass soli with Trpt 2 on the lead (m.69). Trpt 1, and Trb1 re-enter with the powerful tutti at m.71
  • Solos - the solos section is long - 32 bars. The solos are open. Bkgs are behind the second A and the bridge.
  • Big strong tutti at m.111
  • Piano solo at the bridge. Lennie suggests guitar or bass could possible solo on the bridge.
  • The rhythm section parts contain only chord symbols. No written bass or piano parts.

10.) Stuck in a Groove - Lennie Niehaus Grade 2 Kendor

  • Another easy feeling medium swinger by Niehaus.
  • Tutti intro with a nice inner moving Trpt 2 line which is not easily audible on the demo recording. To strengthen the line maybe write out those 6 bars for Alto 1. The written Alto part is duplicated in the trbs.
  • Alto 1 and Trpt 1 have the melody.
  • Lots of ensemble throughout.
  • The solo section is long (32 bars). For younger players, for which this chart is designed, the solos could be shortened to 8 bars each. You could even have soloists trade 4s.
  • the RS parts are written out

11.) Gentle Rain - Kris Berg Grade 4 Belwin

Bass player, composer, arranger Kris Berg is the Director of Jazz Studies at Collin College near Dallas, Texas. Has his own big band - Kris Berg & the Metroplexity Big Band.

  • Pretty bossa nova arrangement of the Luis Bonfa classic. Has a ballad-like attitude.
  • The melody is played by an outside soloist - flugel on the demo recording.
  • Calls for 4 flugel horns throughout. These can be covered with the trumpets pointing their bells in the stands (not too close) this will take the edge off the sound of the trumpets.
  • The trombones need bucket mutes throughout. Again, pointing into the music stand will take off a fair amount of brightness.
  • The guitar comping rhythm is notated with chord symbols. The piano and bass are written.
  • This is a wall to wall feature requiring a strong soloist.
  • The ensemble writing beginning at m.92 is beautifully written.
  • This chart never gets too loud, but maintains a lightness throughout.

12.) Elvin and the Hip Monks - Doug Beach/George Schutack Grade 1 Kendor

Doug Beach is a performer, composer, publisher, educator, arranger, trumpet player, and Grammy Award winner. He is also the jazz director at Elmhurst College in Chicago. George Shutack is a keyboard player in the Chicago area. He has been associated as a writer with both Doug Beach Music and Kendor Music.

  • A funky, boogaloo-styled blues chart.
  • Written with just 4 interchangeable horn parts for bands with smaller instrumentation. This is also an opportunity to work soloing without all the hassle of learning a fully realized big band chart.
  • The solo section, a C blues, is open. Backgrounds are provided, but this could also be an opportunity to make up backgrounds by ear using the C blues scale.
  • There is an effective ensemble chorus at m.56.

13.) Swing State - Doug Beach/George Schutack Grade 1 Kendor

  • Another chart for 4 horns, this time a medium Bb blues Basie-ish swinger.
  • Solo section is open with bkgs provided.
  • There is a 1 chorus shout.
  • The melody returns harmonized at m.69.
  • Effective chart for a small band, or bands with less than a full compliment.

14.) El Castor Loco - Andy Ballantyne Grade 3 Clovertone

Andy Ballantyne is a highly skilled and respected Toronto saxophone player. He plays with most of the top Toronto jazz orchestras and leads his own 11 piece Andy Ballantyne Large Ensemble

  • A latin chart for stronger and more experienced groups.
  • The independence required by the drummer is always a challenge.
  • Rhythms are all notated.
  • Sax soli at m.28
  • Shifts into a boss nova-ish groove at m.44 and continues through the solo section
  • Solo section is a bit long for younger or less experienced soloists. The solos can easily be shortened and divided up. the original latin feel returns in the latter half of the solo section
  • Powerful shout section followed by a horn-drs exchange

15.) Friday Night Special - Christian Overton Grade 2 Clovertone

Trombonist Christian Overton performs with many Toronto ensembles including the nine-piece funk band King Sunshine, The Toronto Jazz Orchestra, and The Art of Jazz Orchestra. Christian is also the featured composer and musical director for The Composers Collective Big Band. On top of his playing he is the owner of Clovertone Music

  • A medium up swinger for younger players. The trumpet range tops out at written B above the staff.
  • The solo section is a 4 bar vamp.

16.) Oclupaca - Duke Ellington/Michael Mossman Grade 4 Hal Leonard

A New York based trumpet player who is is equally skilled as a composer and arranger. Mossman has a special affinity for latin jazz.

  • This is a wonderful, and fun, re-invention of Duke’s classic composition from his Latin American Suite. Mossman adds very little new melodic material but instead re-harmonizes the original material and moves the various musical components around.
  • The challenges are directed primarily at the drums, especially making the shift to and from the 12/8 groove.
  • There are several typos. The most glaring is in the Alto 1 part in m.8-9, which should look like m.117-118. In m.16 trpts 3 and 4 are missing the anticipation (see AS2 and TS 1) and an accidental is missing in trpt 3 in m.43 - the second C should be C# (see AS2).
  • Definitely for more experienced groups.
  • While working on this chart it would be great to spend a little time playing the Ellington original which is available as part of the Essentially Ellington Series published by Alfred Music.
  • Regarding the demo recording - I do feel that the tempo on the demo recording is a bit bright. I found that pulling the tempo back a little, about 10%, really helped it find a great groove and still maintain the wonderful intensity of the wring.
  • This is an excellent arrangement.
  • I performed this during the senior week of the 2013 UBC Summer Music Institute and, while it took quite a bit of work, the students really enjoyed playing it. Everyone had something challenging and fun to play.

17.) Fiesta del Tigre - Mike Story Grade 1 Belwin

  • For very young bands. Written for 5 saxes, 6 brass. Playable by 2 altos, 1 tenor, 2 trpts and 1 trb.
  • Slow majestic intro followed by a latin groove (bossa using the ride cym). This is a nod to the famous Bill Holman arrangement (Stan Kenton) Malaguena
  • An emphasis on the trumpet section.
  • Written solo for trpt
  • This one works well for the younger players and has a nice energetic punch

18.) Matador - Fred Stride Grade 4 Sierra

  • Originally written for the UBC Summer Music Institute.
  • An even 8ths swaggering Spanish flavoured chart.
  • There is a fair bit of independent part writing throughout, so players need to be on their toes.
  • Solo section is for TS 1 or Guitar.
  • The trumpet section is featured in a soli.
  • A short drum solo.
  • The loud tuttis should be big and powerful. The band should “roar.”
  • This piece enjoys a second life as a wind ensemble piece, Parade of the Matadors (the original title), which was recorded by Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Trajectories) in 2005.

19.) Chili Pepper Christmas - Doug Beach/George Shutack Grade 3 Kendor

  • A fun latin, mostly samba, Christmas medley of I Saw Three Ships, Angels We Have Heard On High and Jingle Bells.
  • Solo section #1 is open (8 bars)
  • Solo section #2 is also open - 32 bars
  • Drum solo - 8 bars to trade 2s with horns (16 bars).
  • Ensemble to the end.

20.) Ye Jazzy Gentlemen - Peter Blair Grade 1 Belwin

  • A medium tempo, cool swinger for younger players of the very familiar Christmas carol.
  • The melody is passed around for 2 choruses with an 8 bar interlude between.
  • The interlude returns, modulates and is followed by more melody up a step.
  • There is no solo section although one could be added. For example, instead of going on into m.35 go back to m.9 for a couple of solos then continue into m.35. You could also solo over a Cmin7-Dmin7/G vamp, although this could quickly become boring
  • Note the swing phrasing on the parts does not actually follow the common practice of slurring to a downbeat (see trpts. m.4).

21.) Backrow Politics - Gordon Goodwin/Peter Blair Grade 2 Belwin

  • A simplified version of Gordon Goodwin’s funky chart.
  • As with the original this version features the trumpet section. Many of the rhythms in Goodwin’s original have been straightened out. However, if your students are familiar with the original it would not take much to return some of the original phrasing.
  • Solo section is very long for young players. This should be an opportunity to have everyone take a solo.
  • Due to the solo section and the trumpet melody throughout this is a real fun workout for the trumpets.

22.) Told Ya So - Gordon Goodwin Grade 3 Belwin

  • This is cool school music with a Miles Davis So What attitude. The bridge goes up a minor 3rd instead on a 1/2 step as with the the Davis tune. The tune also has an interlude.
  • Solo section - The solo section is open with changes written for AS 1, TS 1, Bari, Trpt 3, Trb. 1. Piano or guitar could also solo. If a piano solo it would be good to omit many of the background figures. As with many of Goodwin’s tunes the solo section can be a little long for some soloists. Don’t be reluctant to beak it up.
  • The solo section is followed by some extensive and excellent ensemble writing.
  • Excellent chart.

23.) Motor City - Roger Schmidli Grade 1 Brolga

Roger Schmindl resides in Melbourne, Australia where he is a professional trombone player, composer, conductor and music educator. He is currently Head of Brass and Bands at Scotch College, Melbourne where he directs the Senior Wind Symphony and the Scotch College Senior Stage Band.

  • The title Motor City refers to music of Detroit and the styles associated with Motown records. Very simple riff based melodic ideas.
  • Solo section - 14 - 16 bars (m.15-16 are a break). Solo indications and changes for Alto 1, Tenor 1, Trpt 1. Could also have a guitar solo.
  • Playable with optional reduced or expanded instrumentations.

24.) A Moment Like This - Larry Neeck Grade 3 Barnhouse

In addition to composing, Mr. Neeck teaches instrumental music in the Webster (NY) Central School District. He directs concert bands, jazz ensembles, and is co-founder and director of the Willink Middle School Student/Parent Band.

  • A very simple 1970’s pop flavoured ballad. The score is for alto sax 1 but the recorded demo uses a flugel horn.
  • Trumpets use straight mutes.
  • Opportunity to work on dynamics. Ballads are often played at a single volume - soft. This chart has several big loud moments.
  • No improvised solo section - the feature is written out.

25.) March Bopish - Mike Carubia Grade 3.5 Smart Chart/Barnhouse

Mike Carubia is an active trumpet player in New York. He currently teaches at Ward Melville H.S., East Setauket, New York.

  • This chart has more than a passing reference to Benny Golson’s Blues March and some of the big band charts of Thad Jones. The conductor notes state the quarter note accompaniment of the melody is “pseudo corny melodic articulations.” For me this is a little dangerous and may encourage performers to play the chart as some type of cartoon music. Students would be very well served to check out Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers recording of Blues Walk or the Thad Jones recording of A That’s Freedom. These performances illustrate the fun, but serious, aspect of the music.
  • Trumpets are split into 2 harmons and 2 cups. Using the optional/additional flute part on the initial melody brings it much closer to Thad Jones’ music
  • Trombone 1 travels up to the high Ab.
Solo section is open for any soloist. 16 bar choruses.
  • A  very nice sax soli followed by some nice sax/brass interplay a-la Thad Jones
  • A good shout
  • An excellent chart.

26.) Barbeque Sauce - Mike Carubia Grade 3.5 Smart Chart/Barnhouse

  • This is a funk chart with blues infused melodic lines, with a slight nod to the funk charts of the great Thad Jones.
  • Because of the 16th notes in the saxes and trumpets the chart looks harder than it is.
  • The solo section, open for any soloist, is an 8 bar section of alternating F7 and Eb7 chords.
  • Some nice ensemble writing after the solos
  • Fully notated RS parts

27.) Cold Duck Time - Eddie Harris/Eric Morales Grade 3 Belwin

Eric Morales teaches and plays trumpet professionally in the New Orleans area, in addition to maintaining an active composing and conducting schedule.

  • Fun rock-funk chart that begins with a Birdland beat (Open-closed HH with cross stick).
  • A 16 bars solo section with space for AS 1 or Bari.
  • Some nice stop time breaks
  • Solo space later for guitar or trpt 2
  • The final ensemble beginning at m.83 is a long haul, but very well written and quite exciting
  • A possible printing error in trpts 1-2 in m.35 written G should probably be and Ab as trpts 3-4.

28.) Message from Westlake - Mike Kamuf Grade 3 Belwin

Mike Kamuf freelances as a commercial trumpet player in the Baltimore and Washington DC areas. He is currently the Director of Bands and Orchestras and Music Department Chairperson at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus, MD.

  • This medium up swinger is based on the changes to the classic Bernie’s Tune. Bernie’s Tune was a favourite in the 1950s particularly with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker. The voiced ensemble of trumpet, tenor, bari, trb and guitar is typical of the lighter jazz on the westcoast in the 1950s and early early 60s. On the bridge Kamuf uses 3 separate small groups.
  • No hiding in this chart.
  • Cup mutes for both trpts and trbs are important to the sound of the chart.
  • Solo section - Trumpet is up first with a full chorus solo (32). Guitar also has an indication to solo at this point. A written solo for both trpt and guitar is provided, as it is in most charts for student bands. Tenor takes the next chorus.
  • A solo trpt vs tenor exchange.
  • Some very good powerful ensemble writing in places.
  • There is a drum - hrn exchange towards the end.
  • Excellent chart.

Stan Kenton: A Centennial Celebration

Stan Kenton!

It seems there are 2 camps of people with opinions about Stan Kenton and his music - you love it or hate it. I belong to the former.

kenton_live_london

I first got to know Stan Kenton’s music via the double lp Stan Kenton Today. I simply loved what I heard. Unlike other kids born in the early 1950s, I grew up with the sounds of the big band era - Benny Goodman, Harry James, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. As a young trumpet player the new-to-me sound of Kenton’s brass section was an absolute thrill, unlike any of the other big bands I had heard up to that time. I also found the compositions and arrangements interesting, and this was before I had ever written a note of music.  The lp, released on the Decca/London Records Phase 4 Stereo series, was lean on information about the players in the band as well as the arrangers. One of the arrangements really jumped out at me - Yesterdays, which featured Richard Torres on tenor. For a while I wondered who wrote that wonderful arrangement. Another arrangement I really enjoyed was Malaguena. Talk about exciting! I eventually found out that someone named Bill Holman wrote both of those arrangements. Bill Holman quickly came to the top of my list of favourite arrangers as I found other recordings featuring his outstanding writing. When I started to write Holman became a major influence on my own work and he continues to be an important influence on my own work today. This double lp soon led me to other Kenton lps, some recorded by his then current band and some reissues, all released on Stan Kenton’s Creative World label. What an interesting variety of sounds Kenton recorded! The early 1940s Luncefordesque rhythmic style, the emphasis on the saxophones in his earliest recordings, the increasing size of the brass section, the upward direction in range of the trumpet players, the sometimes almost classical, sometimes non-swinging, but engaging music of the mid to late 1940s, the Innovations Orchestra of 1950-51, the New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm band full of top notch soloists, Cuban Fire, the mellophonium band of the early 1960s, the LA Neophonic Orchestra and his last bands of the 1970s. I love it all!

This December 15 marks the 100th year since Kenton’s birth and many big bands around the world are presenting Kenton concerts. As the director of the University of British Columbia Jazz Ensemble I, I felt I too wanted to do a program of Kenton’s music. I also felt it was important to expose my students to the Kenton sound and style through playing some of the music recorded by his bands and this centennial provided the perfect opportunity. For a concert program I thought that I would try to give the audience a cross section of the music he made with his bands - from the early 1940s to the end of an era in 1979. Choosing this program was overwhelming to say the least. I needed some help, or a way to deal with all the charts he recorded. Of course I started with those arrangements and compositions that are readily available through Sierra Music Publications. I then loaded my numerous Kenton cds into itunes, created a playlist and started listening. Some charts jumped out as being iconic Kenton material - Artistry in Rhythm (Stan Kenton), Opus In Pastels (Stan Kenton), Malaguena (arranged by Bill Holman) and Intermission Riff. But I thought we should also work on some of his less performed music - Improvisation (Bill Russo), Portrait of A Count (Bill Russo), Machito (Pete Rugolo) and Three Thoughts (Dee Barton). To round out the program I thought we should play something by the audacious Bob Graettinger so we are working on Modern Opus. Johnny Richards is represented by Artemis and Apollo, Recuerdos and El Congo Valiente. Bill Holman is represented by Bags, Malguena and his deconstruction of What’s New?. We are even working on Pete Rugolo’s Fugue For Rhythm Section.

I also decided I wanted UBC Jazz Ensemble II, directed by Dennis Esson, involved. This allowed a greater range of music to be played without killing off all the brass players. Listening to, and rehearsing, this music has created some keen interest and curiosity in many of the students. They have learned quite a bit about Count Basie and Duke Ellington over the years, but many were unaware, or were only vaguely aware, of Stan Kenton and his musical legacy. They also did not know he was a pioneer in jazz education, the very thing that helped create the opportunity to study and perform big band jazz.

Even though I am very familiar with all these Kenton recordings I have to say it has been an immense pleasure to wallow in Kentonia for the past 3 or 4 weeks.

UBC Jazz I will present a short mixed program, which will include several pieces recorded by Stan Kenton, at noon on Monday, November 14, 2011 at the Robson Square Theatre in downtown Vancouver. UBC Jazz I will then play a 1 hour program of Kenton material at noon on Thursday, December 1 in the Roy Barnett Recital Hall at UBC. Finally, both UBC Jazz Ensembles will present a full evening program of Kentonia at 8:00pm on Monday, December 5th, also in the Roy Barnett Recital Hall. All concerts are free.

Here is a list of the pieces the UBC Jazz Ensembles are working on:

El Congo Valiente - Johnny Richards
Portrait of a Count - Bill Russo
Modern Opus - Bob Graettinger
What’s New? - arranged by Bill Holman
Three Thoughts - Dee Barton
Artemis and Apollo - Johnny Richards
Rise and Fall of a Short Fugue - Bob Curnow
Decoupage - Hank Levy
Intermission Riff - Ray Wetzel
But Beautiful
- arranged by Lennie Niehaus
Improvisation
- Bill Russo
Artistry in Rhythm
- Stan Kenton
Machito - Pete Rugolo
Willow Weep For Me - arranged by Bill Mathieu
Malaguena - arranged by Bill Holman
Young Blood - Gerry Mulligan
Opus In Pastels - Stan Kenton
Fugue For Rhythm Section - Pete Rugolo
Bags - Bill Holman
Elegy for Alto - Pete Rugolo
Kingfish - Bill Holman
The Blues Story - Gene Roland
Recuerdos - Johnny Richards
Whatever Lola Wants - arranged by Lennie Niehaus
Unison Riff - Pete Rugolo
Reed Rapture [aka Reed Rhapsody] - Stan Kenton
Southern Scandal - Stan Kenton

Of course the is no way, short of playing a 4 hour concert, that we could play all these on our next concerts but those that get dropped from this concert series will be scheduled for a performance on one of the concerts in the new year. At UBC we will be celebrating Stan Kenton for the entire school year. For more information on the UBC Jazz Ensembles go to <http://www.music.ubc.ca/student-ensembles/jazz.html>

UBC Summer Music Institute 2011 - The Jazz Bands

It has taken me a while to get around to writing and posting this blog, but here goes.

ubc-summer-logo-2011-small

We recently wrapped up UBC Summer Music Institute #19. It seems like yesterday that my old UBC associate Marty Berinbaum (now retired) began the camp. We’ve had many talented kids go through the program over the years and this year was no different. And, as always, my job was directing jazz ensembles.

Week 1 - Intermediate Jazz Band

The first week I worked with younger students in the intermediate jazz band (big band). This year we had students ranging in age from 12 to 17, with 14 probably being the average age.

Interestingly, the numbers were down this year in the saxophone section (go figure that one!). I ended up with 1 alto (a real mystery), 2 tenors and a bari. There were 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 guitar, 1 bass and 2 drummers (no piano). I also had some junior counselors (senior high school students) helping out and filling in some of the holes in the sections (alto 2 and piano).

As I always like to do, we read through a few charts on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday morning before I decided on a final concert program. The first week of the camp goes very quickly so there is not much time to spend on reading, although I feel strongly that this needs to be done.

Tuesday afternoon was the faculty recital with some of the jazz faculty ending the concert. I played piano, which is something I’ve been pursuing with a little more intensity in the past couple of years. Joining me were Adam Jones (bass), Alex Flock (guitar) and Bernie Arai (drums), who became a dad for the second time the very next day. Congratulations to Bernie!

kenton

Stan Kenton

To help give this years camp a stronger musical focus, we celebrated Stan Kenton’s 100th birthday (December 15, 1911) by listening to a few recordings and reading through some pieces associated with his bands.

Since the music performed by Kenton’s band was beyond the technical capabilities of such young musicians, we worked from my new junior band arrangements of Artistry in Rhythm and Intermission Riff. Also on the concert program were Work In Progress by Gordon Goodwin, Paul Murtha’s arrangement of What Is Hip?, Winter Poem by Sammy Nestico and Michael Sweeney’s arrangement of Mas Que Nada.

The final concert was a great success with the band really peaking on What Is Hip?. It’s great to hear such young players concentrating on the details and still bringing substantial energy and fun to the performance. The Intermediate Jazz Band was then followed by the Intermediate Concert Band, directed by Bryan Knapp, another original UBC Summer Music Institute faculty member. Bryan is a marvelous conductor and he can really get the younger musicians following his every move. To use a little “jazz speak” - “they were very tight.”

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Week 2 - Senior Jazz Band

Week 2 was with the older students, with a wide range in age, from 14 to 69. And, because the enrollment was up this year for senior jazz, we ended up having 2 bands. My colleague Dennis Esson directed the “other band.”

As a first order of business, Dennis and I had to divide up the students to create 2 big bands of equal ability. To help us recognize the abilities of the students we had them read through two of Sammy Nestico’s great charts - A Little Blues Please and The Blues Doctor. Both charts are relatively easy to play, with just enough reading challenges to help us gauge their skill level and with the flexibility to be opened up for solos. Because we had 8 alto saxophone players, we had them play in pairs and in various combinations. The other instruments switched off, sometimes returning in a different combination. Helping us with this task were my RA (rehearsal assistant) Adam Gough (saxophone) and guitar instructor Alex Flock. After hearing all the students play we chose 2 lead altos, 2 lead trumpets and 2 lead trombones. We then filled in each section making sure to spread out the soloists. We did not want to have any band ranking, no #1 and #2 band.

Dennis’ group ended up with 4 altos, 3 tenors, 1 bari, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 guitars, 1 piano, 2 basses, 1 drummer. My group had 4 altos, 2 tenors, 1 bari, 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, 2 guitars, 1 piano, 2 basses, 2 drummers and 1 mallet player (vibes, marimba with some latin percussion). We were a little lean on trumpets this year, but all 6 six were excellent players topped by 2 very superior lead players. BTW - all the performers dressed in blue shirts in the photos below are councilors who function as camp assistants. Their help contributes greatly to the success of the camp.

Each band then set off to their respective rehearsal spaces to spend the remainder of the first day reading through various charts. Rather than start working right away on the music for the Saturday concert I prefer to read (as does Dennis). By doing this the students become exposed to many more writers than they would in their school bands. This also has the added benefit of helping them work on their reading skills, which can be a serious issue for many high school students. Another benefit is I can really get to know their skill sets, including who likes to solo and how well they might be able to solo. There is no point in choosing repertoire that has solo sections beyond the capabilities of the available soloists.

On Monday and Tuesday mornings Dennis and I worked with our own groups and after lunch we changed places. I felt this was important to all the students and would go a fair ways to help eliminate the inevitable perspective of an A band and B band. We preferred Dennis’ band and Fred’s band, although the office used red and blue.

This year only Monday and Friday afternoons were set aside for 3:00-5:00 recreational activities. The Tuesday rec. period was given over to the faculty concert, which was composed of solo pieces and assorted small ensembles performing an eclectic mix of classical music and jazz. The faculty jazz band was made up of myself at the piano, Adam Jones on bass, Alex Flock on guitar, and stepping in on drums, for an absent Bernie Arai (a new father), was current UBC student Jeremy Lawi. Our front line was Dennis Esson on trombone and Mike Braverman on tenor sax. I had a great time playing with the guys and hearing their great solo work. Mike, as always, set the room on fire with one of his solos.

Wednesday afternoon was set aside for master classes for all instruments. I was in charge of all the rhythm section instruments. Perhaps playing would have been nicer, but we ended up talking about practicing, music education, life and many other things both musical and non-musical. Recreation period on Thursday had sessions for flutes and brass, with the brass session being a mouthpiece manufacturer demonstration and tryout. Most days ended at either 3:00pm or 5:00 pm, but Monday and Friday were long days beginning at 9:00am running until noon, then another 2 hour rehearsal from 1:00-3:00. We would then meet again at 7:00pm and finish at 9:30. Still, I always felt good at the end of each day. The kids were great to work with, both serious and willing.

With my group we read through various charts on the first 3 days of the camp including: Machito (Pete Rugolo), Artistry In Metal (Artistry In Rhythm) (Stan Kenton arr. Fred Stride), Groovemeister (Les Hooper), Artistry in Rhythm (Stan Kenton), Big Dipper (Thad Jones), Time Waits For No One (Sammy Nestico), Street of Dreams (Victor Young arr. Stan Kenton), Chunga’s Revenge (Frank Zappa, arr. Fred Stride), Black Nightgown (Johnny Mandel), Shadrack (McGimsey arr. Bill Holman), Dancing Nightly (Bill Holman), Rompin’ At The Reno (Benny Carter), Riba (Duke Ellington arr. Ron Collier), Bags (Bill Holman), Intermission Riff (Ray Wetzel/Stan Kenton), Blues Express (Shorty Rogers), Michelangelo (Astor Piazzolla arr. Fred Sturm), and Pacific Swing which was composed by our lead trombone player, Jared Richardson.

This group of students turned out to be quite decent in the reading department, which allowed us to plow through all this music. It seemed that most of the kids, in both weeks I might add, loved the reading experience and many of them told me they don’t read very much in their school band and they could feel their reading getting stronger. I think we could have easily read new charts every day. But there is a point when it is better to concentrate on a few pieces and work on conceptual and performance skills.

The final concert at the Chan Centre on Saturday afternoon began with Dennis Esson’s group performing Les Hooper’s The Residual Fire Dance, Ascending by Fred Sturm, my version of Willie Maiden’s A Little Minor Booze, Bill Holman’s Kingfish, Bob Curnow’s beautiful arrangement of Pat Metheny’s Always and Forever, poignantly played by trumpet player Thad Mai and my arrangement of Earth, Wind and Fire’s Runnin’. Dennis’ rehearsal assistant was Cam Golinsky, who also taught trombone lessons and took care of all the jazz ensemble library needs. Thanks Cam! Cam is dressed in the yellow camp shirt seated in the trombone section. My rehearsal assistant Adam Gough filled in on tenor to cover for one of the students who had to leave that same morning.

Thad Mai soloing on Always and Forever

Thad Mai soloing on Always and Forever

Dennis Esson's Jazz Band - aka Blue Band

Dennis Esson's Jazz Band - aka Blue Band

My band followed and we began our set with Ernie Wilkins’ arrangement for the Count Basie band of Moten Swing. I think there are very few greater moments in big band music than that first ff horn figure going into the bridge in the first chorus. Wow!

Ol’ Man River is Bill Holman’s rousing arrangement of Jerome Kern’s classic tune. This chart features several soloists, particularly tenor sax and drums. The drummer on this chart, Miles Wong, was in great form throughout. Holman’s independent writing can be a little disconcerting for younger players that are used to full sectional work or block-type voicings. His approach demands that everyone play with strength and conviction and not to just follow the lead player, not unlike playing Ellington or Mingus.

sierra-radiohead

Steve Owen’s new arrangement of Radiohead’s Kid A was up next. This chart is part of a new series published by Sierra Music Publications of the music of Radiohead.  The students were really into playing this one. Overall the parts aren’t too hard, but the chart does require a skillful drummer and a strong trumpet soloist. Our trumpet soloist was Alex Gambrel, a recent recipient of a Fraser MacPherson Scholarship.

Loco-Motion is my 2009 UBC Summer Institute composition (published by Sierra Music Publications). This is a straight ahead blues chart that can easily be opened up for solos. We did find that it was better to open up the the trumpet solo section, where the rhythm section can be looser and really groove. This chart was directed by my rehearsal assistant, Adam Gough, a current UBC music major and aspiring music educator. I have always tried to create opportunities for students to get their feet wet directing the big band in both rehearsal and performance settings.

Adam Gough directing the Red Jazz Band

Adam Gough directing the Red Jazz Band

My newest UBC Summer Music Institute jazz band piece is It’s Just You And Me. This chart is a slow ensemble outing based on a reharmonization of an old standard. I alternated 4 bar phrases of a rhythm section-less chorale with a Li’l Darlin’ style ensemble melody. Between each 8 bar section I inserted a 4 bar phrase, or interlude, which I had intended the piano to solo over. For our performance I had the vibes take those short solos. The second chorus consists of a 16 bar piano solo with no interludes. The final B and A sections are more alternating chorales and swing feels, but occurring in different places than in the first chorus. I was fairly pleased with this one and it didn’t require too much work from the students. The main focus in rehearsal was tuning, blend and releases. When those things happen the group really becomes a much more mature sounding ensemble.

cuban-fire-2

Johnny Richards’ El Congo Valiente from Cuban Fire concluded our portion of the concert. This arrangement was written by Richards in the early 1960s for high school bands, but it’s still a challenge and closely resembles the original. We had all the necessary percussion on this one and they really added to the performance.

El Congo Valiente

El Congo Valiente

For a “really big band” finale we combined both jazz bands and played Pete Rugolo’s Artistry in Percussion featuring all 3 drummers at 3 different kits. We also had all 4 basses and all 4 guitars playing with both the piano players sharing the bench. This was quite the visual and aural experience, especially the trumpet soli played by 7 trumpets and the 3 drummers.

Massed Senior Jazz Band - Artistry in Percussion

Massed Senior Jazz Band - Artistry in Percussion

The week was very successful and both jazz bands were in excellent form throughout the concert. We were followed by a concert band directed by John Van Deursen, made up of visiting students from Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as some local students. They were followed by the Senior Concert Band directed by my colleague Dr. Robert Taylor (UBC Director of Bands) and Yeh Shu Han a very fine trumpet player and conductor from Taiwan. Like the jazz bands, these groups really played well. It is always a treat to hear all the groups on the final concert.

I’m looking forward to #20.

My March 2011 visit to Toronto, Kingston and Montreal - Part 3

March 6, 2011 - Day 5 - Montreal

Sunday was my travel day to Montreal - during a heavy snowfall. Jocelyn Couture drove me, along with tenor player Chet Doxas and trombonist Taylor Donaldson. All I can say is it proved to be a bit of a white knuckle trip. Jocelyn is very good driver, but coming from the west coast where we don’t get a lot of snow, the speed of the trip took me aback. I ended the day by having dinner at my good friend Ron Di Lauro’s place. What a great cook! Jocelyn Couture and Aron Doyle joined us. It was great see to see Aron again. Aron had been a student of mine at UBC when I first started working out there over 2o years ago. Another connection with Aron is that I had worked a fair bit with his jazz pianist father Bob when I was just starting out as a working trumpet player. Bob Doyle is one those all to common unsung great musicians that exist everywhere, but go unrecorded, and often unappreciated. Bob was always very nice to me, as well as encouraging. I guess it helped that I knew more than a few old tunes.

March 7, 2011 - Day 6

My first day in Montreal was fairly light. I had the morning free to spend a little time reading the new Thelonious Monk bio by Robin Kelley. What a great read! I love the way Kelley weaves the historical-social background into Monk’s story. One of the best jazz musician biographies I have ever read. After lunch I met up with Ron Di Lauro and we made our way to McGill University for some sessions with a couple of the big bands.

Since McGill big bands 1 and 2 rehearse at the same time it was decided that I would spend about 45 minutes with each group. I started out with the schools top big band, directed by Gordon Foote. Gordon had asked me to bring 1 or 2 things with me for the band to read through. One of the pieces I brought along was The Spanish Tinge. This is an aggressive and uptempo number that shifts between 3/4 and 4/4, which at one point has the drummer playing in 4/4 while everyone else is in 3/4. What can I say about the quality of this “student” band? The band read it down like they had been working on it for weeks, or even months. I was quite impressed by their overall musicianship. This is a very professional band in both skill and attitude. There are some great players coming up. I finished off this 45 minute session talking a little about my music and answering a few questions.

I then moved across the hall to spend a little time with Ron Di Lauro’s band, McGill’s number 2 big band. This band was working on 3 student compositions/arrangements. But instead of dealing directly with the band and performance issues, I ended up giving a little critique and advice to each of the writers.

After the big band sessions I met up with the folks that are developing a new virtual music-minus-one - The Open Orchestra. My connection to this research project is through my work as an instructor at UBC, which is involved in the development of the project, and that two of my big band pieces are being used in the project - Something For Ernie and Among The Pyramids (both published by Sierra Music Publications). This is a great idea, which is still in the development stage, a 21st century version of the old “play along” recording. In this case the student sits at computer console and through the use of an additional 3 video screens is actually placed into the band. For example if the student plays first trombone they would see the director and the rest of the band from that vantage point. They would also hear the sound from the rest of the band coming at them from the same perspective - the first trumpet would be coming from behind, the drums to the right and the saxophones in front, just as in a real band. For more info go to click here and click here

The Open Orchestra - The student perspective

The Open Orchestra - The student perspective

I then went out for dinner with Ron Di Lauro, Chris Lane, my old trumpet playing friend, who drove up from Ottawa, and writer/trumpet player Joe Sullivan and his wife. I had a great time meeting Joe and discussing jazz arranging and composition. By the way Joe has a terrific new big band CD out - Joe Sullivan Big Band: Northern Ontario Suite (Perry Lake Records).

Joe Sullivan Big Band

Joe Sullivan Big Band


March 8, 2011 - Day 7

On Tuesday morning Ron picked me up and we made our way to the University of Montreal for a jazz composition/arranging session and a big band rehearsal. Two things concerned me about this visit - the University of Montreal is French speaking school and while I did take 5 years of French in high school like most Canadian students, I do not speak any French. I wasn’t particularly good in my high school French class and I haven’t used the language since. The other thing was they left the approach/topics up to me for the writing session. Well, I should not have been concerned, the students were wonderful and accommodated me by speaking in English. As far as a topic went I thought I might play some excerpts from a couple of my recordings. I started with a few things from my big band CD The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra: Forward Motion. I talked about the pieces, the inspirations for the pieces and how I set about putting those ideas into a musical form. Then, while the track was playing I would point out a few things. I felt by starting the session this way I would show my creative jazz side. I followed this up by playing a few things from my CBC recording Showboat which is a jazzy orchestral disc. My main purpose in playing things from this disc was to emphasize the importance of a broad technique. I played them everything from straight up orchestral pops, an imitation of Mozart, to a blending of Robert Farnon, Ravel and Bartok in an arrangement of All The Things You Are (Showboat - CBC Records). That particular arrangement, which I originally wrote in 1985 for a CBC project with Symphony Nova Scotia, always gets a strong, positive reaction.

Showboat-2

With the University of Montreal Big Band we worked on Opposition Party and part of the commission I wrote for the 2008 SOCAN/IAJE Phil Nimmons Established Composer Award - By All Accounts: Out There… This piece was premiered at the final IAJE Conference in Toronto in January 2008 and Paul Read’s Orchestra had the “misfortune” to be chosen to play this beast. Maybe I should start writing in 4/4 again? This piece, which is not for the faint of heart, is an uptempo work that avoids II-V relationships and never settles on a particular meter for too long, even changing metre in the middle of phrases. The UofM sounded very good, and its great to see and hear bands that take your difficult music seriously and strive to play it well.

The afternoon jazz composition and arranging session at McGill was very well attended and extremely satisfying. I took the same approach here as I did at the University of Montreal earlier in the day - playing excerpts from the same cds and making comments as the music played. The session ended with a question period. Interestingly, in all 3 writing master classes (Humber, UofM, McGill) I was never asked how to voice such-and-such chord. All the questions were general in nature with a few dealing with esthetics.

March 9, 2011 - Day 8

For my final day in Montreal I met up with clarinetist/tenor saxophonist James Danderfer, who is from Vancouver and working on his master’s degree at McGill. We wandered down a very cold Saint Catharines Street slowly making our way to Old Montreal. I know, I’m a west coast wuss. I’ll take the rain over the cold. We stopped in at a nice bistro for some breakfast then made our way to a museum. I love museums and art galleries and the Pointe-à-Callière Museum of Archaeology and History did not disappoint. The museum is built on the foundations of some old structures, including the Custom’s House which my great-grandparents would have visited when they came to Canada from England in 1906. We then had lunch at another great cafe then walked back to my hotel, then it was off to the airport and home.

While this trip did cause things to pile up at home I am really glad to have visited all the various schools, to have heard some great playing, made some great music with Greg Runions and his big band in Kingston and to visit with some old, and now some new, friends. I have to do this again.

Finally, a huge thank you to Greg Runions for making this trip happen in the first place and to Denny Christianson and Gord Sheard at Humber College, Ron Di Lauro at the University of Montreal and McGill and Joe Sullivan and Gord Foote at McGill University.

My March 2011 visit to Toronto, Kingston and Montreal - Part 2

March 3, 2011 - Day 2 - Kingston

Greg Runions picked me up at my hotel in the morning to begin what was to be visits to several schools in the area. First up was an adult concert band at La Salle Secondary School. This concert band, directed by Chris Alfano, is part of a music program for adults. We read through a little concert band piece of mine, Festival Celebration. This piece was commissioned about ten years ago by Magee Secondary School in Vancouver for their annual elementary feeder band concert. I talked a little bit about the piece and the types of things I had in mind for a performance. The band also played through another piece they were working on. It is a lot of fun working with older students and the band sounded good. What a great program.

Reading through Festival Celebration

Reading through Festival Celebration

In the afternoon I visited with the Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute Jazz Band. After telling them who I am, and what it is I do, I had the band play through Mike Kamuf’s nice arrangement of Watermelon Man, something they had been working on. I then worked on various performance issues in the arrangement. There are some very talented kids in that program.

I ended my first full day in Kingston working with the big band at Queen’s University, directed by my host Greg Runions. The band had been working on my piece Something For Ernie (Sierra Music Publications).  As with the earlier visits in the day, I told them a little about myself, then I worked on various things in the piece and my thoughts about how to play various sections and why I wrote them in the manner I did. This is a very fine band, full of wonderful musicians.

Working with the Queens University Big Band

Working with the Queens University Big Band

March 4, 2011 - Day 3

Friday began very early with a visit to Napanee Secondary School, which is about 20 minutes from Kingston. This was a small jazz ensemble with drums, bass, 3 trumpets, 1 trombone and 2 saxophones. In addition to the performers there was a large number of students observing. The students had been working on Mercy, Mercy, Mercy so I asked them to play it for me. Once again, after a short introduction on who I am and what I do, I worked with the students on the music. In this case rather than dealing with the written music, this session was more about improvising, in the broadest terms possible. To get to the point quickly, and without killing them with some music theory, we looped the first 2 measures. I first introduced the concept you could play a rhythmic solo using a single note, Bb in this case. I then started to add notes from the Bb blues scale and playing short 4 bar solos I slowly added a few more notes. I ended the session by having the students communicate with one another through their soloing - politely and even arguing. It was a lot of fun. I must add that the excellent bass player and drummer were very patient with this horn oriented session.

At noon Greg took me to my final high school session at Frontenac Secondary School back in Kingston. As we pull into the parking lot he tells me “by the way, this is not a band you are seeing at this school, but a string class.” Yikes! That was a little unexpected and definitely caused me a little concern. Now, I’ve always felt comfortable around string players and especially writing for them. But dealing with students is another thing altogether. I met the teacher and he filled me in on the students and what the class was about. I was then introduced to the students and again I said a few words about who I am and what I do. I then had the group play a few things from their method book.

It’s funny how you can start out a session like this wondering what you might do, and then when you hear the group you realize there are many things you can work on. I chose 2 things - sound and rhythm. As I listened to them play I could see, by looking around the room at this very large group, that some students were not doing much to create a sound. I could l also see that hand positions were an issue for some. These things I do remember from having taken class strings when I was a student at UBC. I talked about how your hand position may feel awkward now, as a beginner, but down the road having correct hand positions will help you play well and with greater ease. I also reminded them that a good sound is paramount to any musician and in any genre of music. I then talked about the importance of time and pulse and how important those things are when playing together in an ensemble and how much they contribute to a good ensemble sound. Since many of the students could only play on the open strings I had the students play the note D in whatever octave they felt comfortable. We then worked on playing together, emphasizing the importance of listening to one another. I then added the note A and I would cue shifts from one pitch to the other. Once they seemed to get comfortable grooving on D and A I then had the students improvise on the notes they knew (usually the open strings) in pairs or in groups of 3 or 4. Some were reluctant while others showed off. This session was a lot of fun for me, and something a little bit different.

Working with strings

Working with strings

I think the oddest thing about my visit to Frontenac Secondary School was meeting Fred Stride. Yes! There is another Fred Stride. The only Fred Strides I had ever known were my late grandfather and my father. This particular Fred Stride teaches english and science, but neither of us felt there was any link between us. Still it was fun to meet another Fred Stride. Fred doesn’t seem to too popular as a name these days, but I once played in a band with 3 Freds. Two of us were in the trumpet section!

Later in the afternoon I did a radio interview with Dave Coon at CFRC Radio. Dave played a couple of tracks from my big band cd: The Fred Stride Jazz Orchestra: Forward Motion (Cellar Live) and asked me about my music and the jazz scene in Vancouver. The hour just flew past.

The evening was my first rehearsal with the Greg Runion’s Big Band. The only musician I had worked with before was trumpet player Brian O’Kane. Brian had lived in Vancouver for a couple of years in his earlier incarnation as an RCMP officer. Of course I had gotten to know Greg over the previous couple of days and I met lead alto player Chris Alfano, the day before. The other players were a mix of local Kingston players with a few imports from Toronto and Montreal.

Greg Runions big band for this concert was:
Saxophones: Chris Alfano, Andrew Pitkin, Jon Stewart, Chet Doxas, Merlin Williams
Trumpets: Jocelyn Couture, Brian O’Kane, Blair Yarrington, Janet MacRae, Mike Verner
Trombones: Taylor Donaldson, Andy Sparling, John Palmer, Tim Booth
Guitar: Dave Barton
Piano: David Braid
Bass: Artie Roth
Drums: Mike Cassells
Vibes: Greg Runions

This is a good band populated with some very fine soloists. We played through Opposition Party, Gently Swaying, A Few Shades Darker, Oddly Enough, Spinny, Elegy, Input/Process (the first movement from Machina: Concerto for Jazz Orchestra) and my arrangement of Michael Brecker’s tune Peep (winner of the 2007 International Jazz Arranging Competition). None of these charts are easy to play. We also read down 3 of Greg’s pieces - The New Cure, Early Sunset and Catharine Anne. What a nice writer Greg is. This is one of the great things about traveling to another part of the country - meeting, learning about, and hearing, other like-minded musicians in the same country. This was something that CBC’s “Jazz Radio Canada” used to provide in the 1970s - a sense of a Canadian jazz community.

Greg Runions Big Band - The Friday night rehearsal

Greg Runions Big Band - The Friday night rehearsal

The rehearsal, while exhausting for all, went very well. What I really appreciated was the serious attitude of all the players and their willingness to totally dig in and play some very hard music. We finished off the evening at a local brew pub for a little socializing.

March 5, 2011 - Day 4

I had Saturday morning free. Whew! It was great to not have to rush off somewhere, I had been going steadily since I arrived in Ontario. After lunch we headed off to our 2:00 dress rehearsal. But before heading over to the Kingston Library, where the concert was being held, I went over the program and the order of pieces. It struck me that we were going to be playing a pretty intense program. So I thought it might be nice to add something like a “jazz sorbet” to break things up. Something to tap your toes to. I had brought along a couple of extra pieces with me, and seeing the trombones were a little underrepresented in the program, I decided to add my Basie-Nestico styled feature for the trombone section - Sammy’s ‘Bones.

Greg Runions Big Band - afternoon rehearsal

Greg Runions Big Band - afternoon rehearsal

Running a dress rehearsal, especially of difficult music, on the day of a performance is always a balancing act. As the director/conductor you are constantly asking yourself questions. Should we rehearse this chart all the way through, or just “tops and tails” (intros and endings)? Should I just run some of the shakier spots? How much should I fuss over exactness? When is it time to move on to another piece? Lingering too long on any particular chart can needlessly prolong the rehearsal. This in turn can cause some physical and mental exhaustion, as well as some anxiety, for the players. Time management is critical. In order to keep the rehearsal flowing efficiently I have to trust that the players will take care of things on their end. The band in front of me was excellent, so I felt confident that everything would be just fine. Another big issue with me for any performance, but especially jazz, is that the performance should have a certain feeling of spontaneity. With this in mind, over rehearsing on the day of a performance can be somewhat of a bad thing. I feel that hammering away at the music on the day of the concert can cause everyone to a be little overly cautious, and lose that indefinable “life spark” of the music in the process. I feel it is sometimes better to allow a looseness in the ensemble playing in favour of more energy and creativity. Of course this approach is not without its risks.

At the end of the rehearsal Greg and I conferred about the final program and because things were running a little longer than we had anticipated Greg very graciously decided to drop his piece Early Sunset.

stride-poster-small

Our concert began at 8:00pm in the Kingston Public Library. The hall was very nice and quite comfortable for the big band and our capacity audience.

The final program ended up being:

The New Cure - Greg Runions
Opposition Party - Fred Stride
Gently Swaying - Fred Stride
Sammy’s ‘Bones - Fred Stride
Elegy - Fred Stride
Oddly Enough - Fred Stride

Intermission

Catharine Anne - Greg Runions
Peep - Michael Brecker - arr. Fred Stride
Input/Process - Mvt I from Machina: A Concerto for Jazz Orchestra - Fred Stride
A Few Shades Darker - Fred Stride
Spinny - Fred Stride

There were many great moments throughout the concert - some fabulous ensemble work, some exciting and creative rhythm section playing and some stunning solo work. A couple of the memorable solos for me were David Braid’s solos throughout the evening, Chet Doxas on Gently Swaying and Brian O’Kane, particularly on Elegy. Brian seemed to be featured on almost every chart, albeit unintentionally. At one point I joked about this with the audience and welcomed them to “The Brian O’Kane Show.” Without missing a beat Brian leaped out of his chair and did a little dance. A very spontaneously funny moment.

Greg Runions Big Band - the Concert

Greg Runions Big Band - the Concert

Still, even after cutting one of Greg’s charts, the concert was still running a little long. It can be difficult to control the lengths of sets in a jazz performance due to extended, or open, solos. Then there is my talking about the music. Well, I tried to keep my comments on the shorter side, but…          After the first 3 tunes in the second set Greg felt we should drop another piece, to avoid going over time and incurring additional staffing expense for the hall. Besides, it was beginning to feel to me like we had “said enough.” Greg left the choice up to me. The problem was do I finish softly with A Few Shades Darker, or something a little more rousing like Spinny. Well, I decided on the softer side and Spinny was cut. Another big consideration for making this choice is that A Few Shades Darker always gets a great reaction from audiences.

A had a great time in Kingston and Greg was an absolutely fantastic host. The band was wonderful to work with and all of the outreach sessions in the various schools were a lot of fun. I hope I get an opportunity to visit with my new friends in Kingston again.

Greg - thanks for inviting me.

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