For Weeks 6 and 7 of Jazz & Popular Arranging, we are working on our final arrangement that was selected from our preferred list in Week 3. My facilitator elected for me to arrange “How Long Has This Been Going On?” by George & Ira Gershwin from the musical, Rosalie. There were no lecture materials or discussion board requirements for either week, just a first draft at the end of Week 6 and a final product at the end of Week 7.
Assignment: The instrumentation for this final project will be: trumpet and trombone; alto, tenor, and baritone saxes; piano/guitar; bass; and drums.
For this arrangement, you will employ a variety of instrumental combinations drawn from your five horns. Be as creative as possible within these limited parameters. The rhythm section will rhythmically support important elements of the horn melodies. The arrangement should be colorful, varied, and continually interesting at all times. Create good balance, and have it tell a convincing story. Keep all of the musicians happy by giving them each something fun to play. Carefully consider registration at all times. Most importantly, all melodies should swing! Please number all measures, and put rehearsal letters at all major divisions (usually every eight bars or so).
All arrangements must include the following:
One phrase (in most cases eight measures or so) of two-horn harmony, using thirds and/or sixths, as well as octaves and/or octave unisons as is appropriate. How much harmony you will be able to write depends on the portion of the melody you choose, so pick a section that allows you to harmonize effectively in this fashion. This portion will have only two horns.
One phrase (again probably around eight measures) of a trumpet melody with a four-horn harmonic background. Ideally, this background will include both sustained chords and rhythmic accents. In addition, it would be great if the background shifted with the horns at times, while also complementing them at others. Watch registration and low interval limits in your four-horn voicings. Your four-note voicings will use the root, third, fifth, and seventh of the chords (the 6th can be included if appropriate). As before, these should be in close position, as compact as possible (there should be no room to add other chord tones anywhere in these voicings).
A walking bass line employing just roots and fifths. Advanced students may write a smooth bass line employing roots, thirds, fifths, and sevenths. Make your own choices regarding the bass being in two or four. Please notate the chord symbols above the bass line.
A piano/guitar part using slashes (level one), and employing rhythmic notation in the staff (level two) to complement the rhythm of the horn melody. Do this latter step for at least two measures of each section of the arrangement (all As and the bridge). This of course requires you to notate the chord symbols above the piano/guitar part.
A drum part using slashes (level one), and notating important rhythmic figures (ensemble cues) on the first space above the staff for the drummer to use at her discretion. Also use level two notation for at least two measures of each section of the arrangement (all As and the bridge - this could be in conjunction with the piano/guitar).
The arrangement will be in concert pitch with these adjustments:
Baritone sax in bass clef (untransposed in any way)
Tenor sax in treble clef transposed up one octave
Bass transposed up one octave from its sounding pitch (this is always the case)
Feedback from First Draft: “Great arrangement: swinging phrasing, effective rhythm section support, solid voicings… Nice soli scoring at the end of the phrases.”
I missed a few accidentals here and there when non-diatonic chords occurred, but other than that things went well!
Prior to taking this course at Boston University, I had some experience with jazz arranging: independent study with Mike Giles at Iowa State University, a jazz arranging course with Tony Kidonakis at VanderCook College of Music using Tomaro & Wilson’s Instrumental Jazz Arranging text, and writing for those courses and my own students. Many of the rhythmic concepts in line writing from Week 1 and rules for constructing bass lines from Week 3 are similar to concepts from Mike Steinel’s Developing the Successful Jazz Ensemble MECA at VanderCook. The techniques employed in this course to write for piano, guitar, and drum set barely scratched the surface of what previous work has required from me. Similarly, we only worked on utilizing thirds, sixths, unisons, and octaves in 2-part writing and close voicing in 4-part writing. Tomaro & Wilson go into more depth in their text, much of which is applicable to understanding guitar and piano voicings.
While I am glad I took this course to continue to maintain my arranging “chops,” so to speak, I do not feel I learned as much from this course as I did in Philosophy & History, Psychology & Sociology, or Introduction to Music Education Research. I am curious what the Orchestration elective will be like next summer, based on my experiences in this course and Analytic Techniques.