Joining the BMI Jazz Orchestra
This month will be my start with the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop was founded in the late 80's by Manny Albam and Bob Brookmeyer as a way to preserve and continue the art of writing creative big band music. I auditioned for this group earlier this summer and I'm proud to announce that I've been accepted!
I've been doing a lot of listening recently. My basement flooded this weekend, spurning an epic clean up session. I've taken a bit of a break from listening to large ensemble jazz, and I remedied that this weekend by listening to some Thad Jones, Gil Evans, Charlie Parker with Strings, Wynton Marsalis, Duke Ellington, and tonight I'm checking out some more modern works online by my friend Erica Seguine.
I played a few gigs with her band when she was starting out, and the music went way over my head! I remember mostly treading water and trying to keep afloat with her challenging but rewarding music. Listening to some of her music now I realize what a talented and gifted composer she is. I found this recording online of her piece "...And the Tire Keeps Swinging..." and it's a real gem. Listening to it is like taking a bit of journey through a variety of different moods and forms, from the calm to the angry. The piano introduction makes me think of a cinematic film, the way the chords move so smoothly. Check it out!
This group will test my limits as a composer and arranger. The style is different from what I'm used to, and having an entirely new band with different players is going to be a great challenge!
The more you get to know a band, the more you know what to write and who to write for. Take Diane Moser's Composer's Big Band, for example. You get to know the different strengths of each player and you write for them - like Ben Williams' firey trombone, Mike Spengler's laser-like lead chops, and the fact that their bass clarinetist Barbara Cifelli has a low C key! You get to know the little idiosyncrasies of each band you write for, and soon you're writing more for individual people than writing for a whole band.
I know some of the musicians in the BMI group and I can't wait to get to know them all. Watching some of the different clips online really has me excited for this new opportunity. Now... I just have to get to writing!
P.S. This blog post is essentially useful procrastination for my nebulous big band chart I haven't started yet. About that... see you later! See below for some fun pics of my record collection. Shout out to my Dad and his buddy Paul who gave me a lot of this equipment.
Bonus for making it to the bottom - you'll see in this last picture there's a framed piece of music called "The Chicken". We played that on every gig of my first band, TASTY BACON. Perhaps the best band name of any jazz group in history.