One of the career paths I’ve taken is arranging music. I arrange my original compositions for various ensembles, but arranging and orchestrating other peoples’ music is a different challenge.
Here’s a variety of writing assignments I’ve had, to give the scope of the variety that occurs.
Symphony - LA based (at the time, now in Denmark) singer/ bassist Kristin Korb asked me to write a chart to feature her with jazz trio including pianist Bill Mays, and symphony orchestra for a concert with South Dakota Symphony. During a walk in California, we spitballed possible tunes. She likes “doubles”, tunes paired with their contrafacts. So we chose “You Stepped Out Of a Dream”, and paired it with Chick Corea’s tune based on it, “Chick’s Tune”.
With any client who is a singer, vocal range and key must be discussed to ensure the range suits them comfortably.
I wrote a swinging jazz arrangement with strings that later morphs into a Latin Jazz Band within the orchestra. There was room for Kristin to scat sing, as this is something else she does well.
The concert in Sioux Falls was great although there were just 2 days of rehearsal.
A friend asked me to write a chart for a singer in Pennsylvania. I never met or heard the male vocalist. But the assignment was clear… A Duke Ellington tune for him with a jazz octet- 3 saxophones,trumpet, trombone, piano, bass drums.
The concert went well, I was told. This chart has worked well for female singers, rangewise and was fine in the key originally written for the male singer.
Kathleen Holeman in Kansas City MO is the next soloist who will perform this chart.It was sung by Hilary Gardner in Portland OR too.
I was honored to be commissioned by Brass Arts Collective in NY City to write a jazz piece for this talented group of 2 trumpets, 3 trombones and rhythm. I was able to rework and expand a piece I had written for George Russell’s class in college, “The Arms Of Crisis”. Upon revisiting it with the Collective in mind, the piece “grew 3 sizes that day” . They played their asses off on it at the NYC Brass Conference.
The piece has stood the test of time, partially due to an alternate orchestration using saxophones.It has been played in KC MO as well, and won an ASCAP Jazz Composition award which was presented at the legendary Village Gate club in NYC.
A surprise: A friend in Boston said, Here’s x amoun of dollars, write me a wedding gift for Steve and Connie. Wow, kind of a tall order, as you want to present a piece with the emotions that accompany such a union.
I wrote “Gifts” on an ancient Korg keyboard in Chelsea, NYC. We previewed the piece at a pre wedding party . They were pleased and I was thrilled.
Later, I arranged the piece to play with Roswell Rudd and John Tchicai at Yoshi’s in Oakland CA.
My dear friend from Sedalia, MO got a gig on a cruise ship. She asked for charts that would feature her with the 5 piece house band on the ship, so the instrumentation was pre-set. She chose the tunes, which were looseley based on Nancy Wilson’s versions. I remember creating these backstage while between pieces performing with the Oregon Symphony.
In NYC, your neighbors can be famous and interesting. On my block lived iconic visual artist and sculptor Louise Bourgeois. We were just neghborhood friends. One day she says,I want you to write the music for a sound collage entitled “Lisotte”, her pet name from childhood. It became a melange of recordings she chose, integrated with original music. A quick trip to Salem, MASS to record the music with pianist / accordionist Eric Goldberg. Zoomed back to NYC, played it for Louise, and she sent the tapes with her son , on his way to fly to Helsinki , Finland where the piece played on a loop as part of an installation created by Louise. An honor and a challenge creating for this exacting but playful giant in the art world.