The first major project in this semester's jazz arranging class was a simple, 8-bar melody orchestration for brass and rhythm section—all told, no more than 15 seconds of music. The idea was to give us an opportunity to hear how we're doing before applying what we know to a full-length big band chart. The project was due on Monday, and we recorded them all live in a two-hour demo session Wednesday afternoon (I got to play in the trombone section, which was both fun and repetitive).

In keeping with tradition, I thought I'd post a recording of my project, along with a few comments. To tell you the truth, before I heard it out loud with the right instrumentation, I thought I had done a pretty good job. Once I did hear it, it still wasn't terrible—but there are a few things I wish I had done differently. Here, to begin with, is the recording:

Just Friends, 8-Bar brass orchestration

And, for reference, the score:

Score, Just Friends 8-Bar brass orchestration

And now, some comments:

  1. Half-Step slide
    In bars 4-6, I decided to go with unison trumpets supported by trombones in density (one of several stock techniques we've been learning). I do like the effect, but the trombone harmonies I decided on are extremely plain. If I did this exercise again, I'd probably change the chord on beat 3 of bar 5 to add some extra color. Either that, or have the trombone chord slide up a half step and then back down again with the trumpet lead.
  2. Reharm and Match the Trumpets
    The trombone rhythms in 4-6 are completely out of sync with the trumpets. If nothing else, move both half notes back one eighth note to line them up with the trumpets, and take out that silly punch on beat 1 of bar 6 (the rhythm section can handle the setup for beat 2 just fine on its own).
  3. I'm also not a fan of my trombone lead lines; I chose them more with regard to their intervallic relationship with the lead trumpet than for their own melodic integrity. I'm especially unhappy with beats 1-2 of bar 6, where the lead trombone actually moves down a third at a key climax of the passage—it just doesn't seem to fit. Either of the above two corrections, however, would seem to fix this problem by keeping the intensity relatively high until after bar 6.

So, hopefully by writing this down I will have solidified these particular lessons in my head, and might be able to avoid them on my full big band chart. That's due in April, so if you follow along, I imagine you'll get to find out if I succeed or not.

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