We're two days into rehearsals for concerts this Friday and Saturday with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with guest percussionist Cyro Baptista, performing the music of the great Brazilian composer Moacir Santos, aka the “Brazilian Duke.” This concert follows a format that has for the past few years helped to form and identify the orchestra’s sound as of late, one that really utilizes the creativity of this group: all the arrangements are crafted by members of the band.
We have just come off a three-week tour. I'm not going to lie: this was a particularly rough one, with long rides on a bus of suspicious quality and condition. Just before we took possession of this substandard form of transportation it had been used by a sorority, and running along each side of the bus were painted, in large colorful triangles, the words Delta Sigma Theta. When we pulled into town, locals pointed and hung around to get a glimpse of the group of young woman exiting the bus, only to be (certainly) disappointed by the collection of tired, raggedly dressed, unshaven men that piled out, grabbing suitcases and beelining it into the hotel to try to rest for an hour or two before leaving for sound check.
The scene on the bus was quite a sight: at any given time there was a minimum of six to eight laptops out, with mini keyboards, and chords and earphones attached. Cats were on a mission. Wynton, just as the band was leaving town, delegated the arranging responsibilities to the arrangers in the band (there are ten!) for this upcoming concert and we wasted no time getting to work. Even the dressing rooms and green rooms at the venues became temporary computer labs.
What I love about this is that there is a healthy competitive spirit to not only get the arrangements done (in time!) but to come up with something unique, something that challenges the band. Everyone is checking in with each other - "Hey, man, what do you think if I have the first two voices on flutes, and have it doubled by muted bone down an octave?" or "Is one bar enough time to go to cup mute?" or "check this out (handing over noise-canceling earphones); what do you think of this passage?" This sharing of each our particular expertise and ideas helps us create a body of work that is varied in colors and approaches but consistent in it's objective. We still have a bit or work tomorrow to get these charts together but it is going to be a hell of a weekend of music. I hope you can come out to Rose Hall and check it out. IF not, it will be live-streamed both nights!