Composing for a 12 Piece Jazz band

And so another major project begins.

Over the course of the winter break I will be attempting to write the beginnings of three hours of music for a 12 piece jazz band. It has long been my ambition to be a band leader and play in large ensembles, and so this is my first crack at doing it personally.

This is by no means jazz “the way I wanted it” or my attempt to contribute something to the cannon or body of work that is jazz, but rather the first step in many towards mastering a language and an idiom. I’m prepared, once this project is through, for all of the music to suck provided that I at least learn something in the process.

The band is a fairly typical small jazz ensemble:
1 Alto Sax
2 Tenor Saxs
1 Baritone Sax
2 Bb Trumpets
1 Trombone
1 Bass Trombone
1 Euphonium
and a rhythm section consisting of
1 Piano
1 Upright Bass
1 Set of drums

This, I feel, is a pretty manageable group of instruments to deal with. There’s enough in each family that they can act as distinct units the way we’re used to hearing in jazz bands, but not so many that I have to use up a lot of trying crying over Trumpet 5 parts. There’s lots of flexibility in register and if I really need to stretch out ranges and timbers I can (and will) always have the saxes double on Bb clarinets and flutes. Also I know that at the least I don’t need to find a bass player. The odd instrument is the Euphonium. To me it’s like a trombone, but blends more readily with woodwinds and trombones than the second and third choices did (french horns, baritone horns and so on), and I also have experience writing for the damn thing.

The rep. is all going to be pretty inside, and I’m going to try to contain the composerly undertakings for the details and execution. I feel like, as a writer I am constantly shoot my self in the feet by taking on way too much, writing pieces that are well beyond the scope of what I can reasonably accomplish in the time frame allotted and over all just overly optimistic. This is lead to a lot of valuable lessons, but this time I want to end up with a finished product that I can start drawing audiences with. As a result I’m going to be drawing mostly on standard style song forms. This way the ambition isn’t in the musical approach as such, just the quantity. Write a lot of good swinging tunes!

I’ll let you know how it’s going. Let me know if you have any requests.