MY REHEARSAL BIG BAND

In 1964, with the help of some musicians I knew, I put together a rehearsal Big Band in New York City. It was comprised of jazz, studio and show musicians, including Lew Soloff, Alan Rubin, Jimmy Owens, Bill Watrous, Noah Brandmark, Bobby Porcelli, Lew Delgatto, Alan Schwartzberg, Herb Mickman plus high school friends Larry Willis and Eddie Gomez, who came by to sit in. I wrote the charts, led the band and played some alto and piano solos. We rehearsed every Saturday afternoon at Lynn Oliver Studios for about two months. At that point, I decided to end the band, but out of the ten or so charts I wrote for the band, I recorded six of the charts to have as a memory for myself.

"Blue Funk" (an original blues in the Count Basie style) and "Dancing in the Dark" I had previously written as dance charts while playing with the Ron Metcalf Orchestra in Canada. Arranging for this Canadian band was probably where the “commercial” side of me began to blossom.

Click below to hear a snippet of my chart for "Blue Funk":


"Somewhere" (from the West Side Story) is a slow, moody arrangement, which has the melody constantly moving around the band, with lots of counter lines. I used a variety of instrument combinations to get unusual “colors” or musical expressions. I also tried to achieve more of an ‘orchestral’ rather than typical big band, sound.

Click below to hear a snippet of my chart for "Somewhere":


The "My Romance" chart was an experiment, written when I was about nineteen. Since I loved both "My Romance" and "My Foolish Heart", I decided to use the two tunes together, but "My Romance" would be the main melody and harmony for the chart. The melody is played by oboe, clarinet and muted trumpet, while two flutes in unison play "My Foolish Heart" up in a higher range. The trombones play Bill Evans type close position voicings in the mid-range with hand over the bell (HOB) to sound like french horns. The overall effect, quite different from anything I’ve heard before, sounds like some kind of slow organ grinder music, but very soulful, from the constant weaving of melodies and harmonies. Since "My Romance" and "My Foolish Heart" both begin as a pickup on beat four, I needed to “rhythmically displace” "My Foolish Heart" – begin it in a different place so its melody didn’t move at the same time as, and distract from, the melody of "My Romance". I wrote out the melody for each of these tunes and cut and scotch taped the music so each tune read straight across for thirty-two bars from left to right. I scotched "My Romance" up on my apartment wall. Then placing "My Foolish Heart" right above it, I moved that around until I found the best beat to line it up with "My Romance" – so the two melodies worked best with each other.

Click below to hear a snippet of my chart for "My Romance":


On my up-tempo "Wonderful! Wonderful!" chart, I featured myself on alto. The chart was a tribute to Johnny Mathis - my favorite singer when I was growing up. The unusual ending chord is Bb+Maj7 with an ‘A’ triad on top. F&L (my initials) is an original tune I arranged while attending Berklee School of Music. Herb Pomeroy, one of my teachers (and a great one at that!) was considering recording this chart on the upcoming Berklee “Jazz in the Classroom” album. But it never happened because I left the college before that materialized.

Click below to hear a snippet of my chart for "Wonderful! Wonderful!":

I remember something pretty amusing during the recording of my rehearsal Big Band. Harry Hirsch, the owner/engineer of the recording studio, called me into his office to ask me if I wanted to record the music in stereo or mono. Not really understanding these terms in a technical sense, I asked, “What’s the difference?” He said, “It’s eighty dollars for mono and ninety for stereo.” My reply: “I’ll take mono.” In those days, money was tight! Sometime later, Gary Wadsworth, an arranger/saxophonist friend who attended Berklee with me and later called me to join the Ron Metcalfe Orchestra in Canada, asked if I could send him some arrangements. Foolishly, I sent him most of my rehearsal band ‘original’ scores and parts. The music must have gotten lost on the way because he never received any of it. Live and learn!