Preparing for next seasons National Concert Band Festival, I wanted to draw your attention to Big Band charts that have been added to the 2020/21 Repertoire List. At the same time I would like to introduce you to some brilliant composers and arrangers, who you may, or may not have come across. YouTube clips feature ‘Score and Sound’ or live performances worth listening to.
To launch this series we start with Rick Hirsch, who has two new entries this year.
Rick has a knack of composing quirky pieces that appeal to both players and audiences alike. I’ve featured ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ with my own bands and they’ve gone down a storm.
Grade 1 - Midnight Snack (Medium Swing) 3:17
A very clever chart for a younger band featuring a few band sound effects. An easy swing played around 132 BPM with written solos cued for all saxes and trumpets. Trumpet 1 range is to written E-flat top space, optional flute, clarinet, and vibes parts too. A hit for sure at every performance!
Space to think about what comes next; great for developing practical understanding of swing.
Grade 4.5 - Catch Me If You Can (Upbeat Swing) 5:30+
A one-of-a-kind groovy chart. It has meaty lines for your sax section, an infectious groove for your rhythm section, and fun pedal tones and tight clusters for your brass players.
It is a fast, vamp-like solo vehicle for alto and tenor sax. The whole piece is capped off with a soaring shout chorus and a thrilling surprise ending.
Used by numerous collegiate and advanced high school jazz bands, as well as many all-state jazz bands in America, it also makes a fantastic programme closer.
In Case You Missed Them
Grade 2 Chili Today, Hot Tamale (Samba) - 3:20
A samba groove in cut time around 90 BPM. Written solos for trombone 1 and tenor sax 1, and trumpet 1 range goes to written A above the staff with optional lower notes. This chart is fun to play and loaded with energy!
Grade 3.5 Pocono Git-Down (New Orleans Street Beat) 6:07
This 24-bar blues is a party from beginning to end. Its New Orleans beat creates a festive atmosphere, and the catchy hook will stick with your audiences.
The front line is trumpet, bari sax, and optional guitar. Any soloist can be featured over the F blues choruses.
Bonus: Pocono Git-Down happens to the be the title track of the 2017 album by Rick Hirsch's Big Ol' Band.
Grade 3.5 The Old Chief’s Lookout (Concert Jazz) 7:55
"The Old Chief's Lookout" portrays Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania's Chimney Rocks a few hundred years ago, when the land was occupied by the Susquehannock Indians. A great introduction to the Concert Jazz format for bands not having quite the resources to tackle higher level charts.
It's a contemporary-sounding piece with strong melodies and modest brass ranges, and a good solo vehicle for your top 2 trombone players and lead saxophone.
Grade 4 Tonight We Tango (Tango!) 4:30
Don't worry if your band doesn't have an accordion player, although wonderful if you can find one, this chart can feature a range of alternatives in duet with your tenor soloist. The set includes Bb, Eb, C, and Bass Clef solo parts.
You can't help but smile when you play and hear "Tonight..."; it has a melody that just won't go away and a groove that your audience will insist on dancing to.
Grade 5 Bohemian Rhapsody (!) 10:00
Featuring Rick as an arranger, Queen’s magnum opus, is orchestrated in jazz language for big band. Your band will want to put in the work for this chart.
This is the big band tune your "I don't get jazz" audiences have been waiting for, and they won't know what hit them. Look out for complex sax parts, tempo changes, and mature brass figures. Video from 8:40
For those not published by Alfred, you can access perusal scores and downloadable pdf files of Rick’s pieces on www.hirschmusic.com