Starting A New Big Band Chart

I was commissioned to write a big band chart for Martin Saunders‘ Jazz 1  ensemble at Marshall University and said I’d have it to him by the beginning of the spring semester. Now that Christmas has come and gone, I figure it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get this new piece of music written. There’s nothing quite like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing. To add some extra pressure on myself, I programmed the piece with the Massachusetts All-State High School Jazz band, which I will conduct in March. They’re already asking for the music, so I’d better get rolling.My plan is to document my process and progress on this blog over the next few weeks. I’m sure it won’t always be pretty, but I will try to be both honest and consistent in my posts, sharing updates at least once per week.

Instrument ranges as specified by Belwin Music PublishersEven though the Jazz I ensemble at Marshall is a strong band, I’ve decided not to write them a Herculean tour de force. Instead, this will be an F blues written at about the grade 3 level (adhering to the range limitations specified by most publishers), so it can also be performed by both college bands and strong high school groups, without requiring Wayne Bergeron to sit-in on lead trumpet.

Does the big band repertoire need another 12-bar blues chart? Maybe; maybe not… but I typically program a blues in the concerts I conduct, so why shouldn’t it be mine? I imagine other directors might be on the lookout for a fresh blues chart to features their budding soloists… so maybe there will be be a market for this piece in the edu-jazz world.  We’ll see, I suppose.

A while back I did a 30-day blogging challenge where I wrote a blues every day for month and posted it. I recently went through these pieces and chose Cow Tippin’ as one that I’d be interested in developing into a full-blown arrangement. Here it is:

The sheet music for "Cow Tippin," a piece of music composed by jazzman, Earl MacDonald.

Cow Tippin’ is a simple riff-type blues in C major with an AAB form. When transposed to F, the melody sits nicely within the mid-register of the trumpet and alto sax. The song’s relaxed, loping “cowboy feel” gives it a distinctive, memorable flavor.

In my next post, I will outline my formal plan (road map) for the arrangement.

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