Category Archives: Classes

11/11/16 – Thad, Duke, and some College Chords

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-12-30-25-pmOn Friday we will dive back into large ensemble voicing, first by revisiting “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” by Duke Ellington. Duke’s work in the mid 1930’s predicted and influenced the “modern” big band arrangers.


Then…it’s Thad, Thad and More Thad (Jones, that is)…this time with an emphasis on jazz theory and harmony. His style fulfillment of the Old Testament Swing Era prophecy. This new sound is rich with thick harmony and intense harmonic movement…and impeccable voicing and balancing technique. We’re going to see lots of “college chords” and some challenging jazz theory – we will refer to examples from “Inside the Score” by Rayburn Wright.
Cover charge: $12 includes continental breakfast
Vitello’s E-Spot Lounge – 4349 Tujunga Ave Studio City, CA 91604

9/23/2016 – More Gil, more Thad

miles-aheadAt the September 23rd meeting we will start off by taking a quick listen to “Maids of Cadiz” by Gil Evans and Miles Davis. We’ll talk about some of the broad strokes: form, pace, and how Gil shapes this evocative and powerful piece. Then we’ll dive back into large ensemble voicing technique, continuing with the antiphonal style of Sammy Nestico, and introducing the chromatic, cross-doubled method of Thad Jones. We’ll refer to Ray Wright’s “Inside the Score” and Don Sebesky’s “The Contemporary Arranger”, and talk about strategies that might make your writing clearer, more transparent, expressive and powerful…and get us away from the screen and onto the score paper, away from the keyboard and back into your “inner” ear. See you then!

6/24/16 – Clear and Transparent Voicing Technique (that still grooves!)

On the 24th we’ll delve in to Ellington’s “Such Sweet Thunder”. This piece is a great example of the use of riffs, space, harmony, layering, groove, and economical jazz writing. There’s so much to say, I bet it takes an hour at least. Then we will begin a detailed study of large ensemble voicing, the way it’s officially “taught” in the textbooks…using as reference excerpts from Ray Wright’s “Inside the Score” and Don Sebesky’s “Contemporary Arranger”. We’ll discuss the different ways to stack and meld big band horns, particularly in the antiphonal style of Sammy Nestico, and if we have time, we will begin the melded, cross-doubled style of Thad Jones. This will be a great way to get us off the computer, away from the MIDI/sample grind, and address true, clear, powerful and artistic jazz orchestration. Please bring analog staff paper and writing implements, there will be handouts. Be there or be square!  –Scott

Last class was “Ko-Ko” and “Moten Swing”, we talked about form, voicing, and particularly orchestrating for a smaller horn section. Good stuff!

3/25/16: From “Ko-Ko” to KC

On March 25th we will start an in-depth analysis of the iconic “Ko-Ko” by Duke Ellington, using as a reference an excellent transcription by David Berger. This is another great Ellington piece from 1940 that looks both to the past and to the future, with great soloists, and featuring the young bassist Jimmy Blanton. We will hear Duke’s “jungle period” roots mixed with a New Orleans and Swing vibe, and we’ll see how he squeezes everything into a compact and relatively short recording–accomplished as always with profoundly modern orchestration techniques.

I also want to take a look at “Moten Swing” by Bennie Moten–a little change of pace–we’ll talk about riffs and Kansas City swing, but also talk about horn voicings and mixed doubling for a smaller ensemble. If we have time (we ran out last time) we’ll listen to some more “modern” (late 50’s, early 60’s) music by Bob Brookmeyer and maybe even some free jazz from Sun Ra. That’s a lot of material, so put on your thinking caps and sharpen your pencils. See you there!

Agenda for 12/18/15: Cootie, Gil and Russell..

BLUES FOR PABLO M 13-17 COLORListening to the classic “Concerto for Cootie” I’m hearing so many cool devices and trademark Duke sounds. I think we’re going to delve into that a little – maybe look at a few things from “Dimenuendo and Crescendo in Blue”, maybe not…I have a feeling “Cootie” might stimulate some discussion.

Then I want to continue with “Blues for Pablo” by Gil Evans. Not only because I think it’s a monumental piece, but cause I have a detailed analysis of a few passages and I want to look at how Gil moves his arrangements forward by changing orchestration. Gil shows us three dimensions in writing:

1) vertical (voicing, harmony), 2) horizontal (melody, the flow of time, the timeline of the music), and 3) the Z axis that we feel from the push and pull of everything grinding and coalescing, moving and shaking. Think of an energy flow that starts behind the band and pushes out into the audience. It’s not just volume and intensity, but a constant ebb and flow of tension and release within the timeline. In improvised music the third dimension (as I sometimes hear it) comes from the forces generated from the musicians improvising, and the various artistic sparks that spontaneously occur.

These pockets of energy flow are harder to achieve in a written ensemble setting, but cats like Gil Evans and George Russell knew how to do it. Russell was able to expand his sound to include more improv, in a controlled way, in a way that made something “out” sound like it could have been written…anyway we’ll touch on him a bit if there’s time. There is some serious George Russell and Sun Ra listening to be done (without scores), we’ll start in on something in that realm. See you there!

October Surprise: “St. Louis Blues” at 10/23 Class

I was looking around for scores on the interwebs and happened upon, which among other great artists, features the recent Gil Evans project of composer and arranger Ryan Truesdale. At the August class we listened to Gil’s “St. Louis Blues” from Old Wine, New Bottles, and low and behold, Ryan has published, with the consent of the Evans family, an accurate score of this very arrangement. So we spent most of the time taking apart this great work.

We also touched on Gil’s “Blues for Pablo” from Miles Ahead. We’re going to get back to this piece next class, and again and again, cause it’s a monumental work. A real ‘teachable’ piece…it’s like a Gil handbook, or a primer, or perhaps the Rosetta Stone of his work. Pure genius.

I can’t publish on this site Ryan’s Gil Evans scores without permission (which I don’t have yet), but here you will find PDF’s of the handouts from “Blues for Pablo”. Get the CD, read up on the history of this record (Miles Ahead), and dig upon some of the voicings and textures within.

See you next class!


update: the next class is Friday, December 18th at 10 AM, again at VItello’s in Studio City.