Why I Hate Big Band Music

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band is one of the best-known big bands in the country. The band is comprised of the most successful studio musicians in Los Angeles. Their albums regularly get nominated for Grammy Awards, Goodwin’s arrangements are purchased by many college big bands, and their albums all feature high profile guests artists. Yet, not a single “serious” jazz musician with whom I am acquainted considers this music “serious” jazz, and neither do I.  I have always been totally underwhelmed by Goodwin’s music, regarding it boring, clichéd, technically-proficient pablum. Thus, I was reasonably surprised to hear the man himself, in a radio interview, clearly articulate the very source of this feeling:

“That is something that is very important to us in the Big Phat Band.  The concept of being a member of the ensemble, and a love for that, because what it means is – you lose your ego.  If the lead trumpet, or the lead instrument in whatever section, is playing a note with no vibrato, neither do I.  If he’s holding it, and cutting it, that’s where I cut off the note.  If it’s really short… If he starts his crescendo right here, I wait and I go with him.  And there are a lot of bands that I hear, and even in bands on this list that I have there of big influences, I hear a violation of that concept.  And it’s either because, maybe they didn’t have the training to understand about that…or maybe it’s a case of ego.”

The goal expressed in the comment above is one of the most common aspirations heard among big band leaders and musicians.  It’s the goal of complete “precision,” a word that pops up with disturbing frequency in reviews of big band performances and recordings. My question is this: if precision is the standard by which big bands are measured, than what is the ideal?  I imagine that a band with complete precision and zero egos would sound an awful lot like the Big Phat Band – and that is a sound I hate.

While big bands are praised for their uniformity and precision, most of the jazz we love reaches us because it is deeply individual.  The history of jazz is a history of great men and women who made uniquely personal contributions to the music.[1] Miles Davis and John Coltrane did not have outsized “egos.”  Okay, maybe Miles did.  But his unflinching musical vision was not hindered by his personality – it was enhanced.  The same is true of every improvising musician whose work is still listened to, enjoyed, and studied today, from Armstrong to Zappa.

Improvised jazz is a celebration of the staunch individualist, but big band music elevates the egoless ensemble player.  This is the conflict inherent in large ensemble jazz.  How can these contrary impulses be reconciled?  Perhaps they do not need to be; perhaps big band music should be considered a genre completely separate from jazz, with its own standards and aesthetic criteria.  But if this is the case, than why are big bands the central focus of so many academic jazz programs?  And why are there certain large ensembles that are revered by jazz musicians, while so much other big band music is dismissed as unfulfilling and clichéd? I am not ready to sever ties between the two quite yet.  Instead, I humbly offer a few suggestions for the salvation of big band music.

1. The band must be completely filled by soloists. And I do not use the term “soloist” lightly.  A soloist is more than a musician who can successfully navigate a set of chord changes, or plug in appropriate jazz licks.  A soloist is a musician with a unique sonic identity – someone who has devoted their time and energy to develop a personal language of melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and timbral ideas.  The classic example of a band filled with soloist is the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Rather than choosing players who could all blend together, Ellington filled his bands with individual sounds.  This resulted in an individual sound for the entire ensemble, an “Ellingtonian” sound.  It must have also been incredibly inspiring to compose for such a diverse group.[2]

Presently, there are very few bands following this model, but I believe that Maria Schneider comes closest.  Her rhythm section is filled with great soloists; every member of her sax section has a solo feature, all of her trumpet players are fine improvisers.  Her trombone section is really the only section in her orchestra that seems to have less identifiable players.  But who really wants to hear a trombone solo anyway? All kidding aside, the Mingus Big Band is also filled with great soloists, as is the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.  It is unusual for the Maria Schneider Orchestra and the LCJO to be grouped together; they are more often played off of each other, used as representatives of two extremes.  But this is one lesson that I think Maria and Wynton have both taken to heart – a band composed of strong individual voices establishes a unique voice of its own.

2. Jazz composers must focus on counterpoint. Now that we have band filled with soloists, we have to give them melodies to play.  Counterpoint is a compositional tool that is paid a lot of lip service by jazz composers, but actually used rarely.  The stock big band chord-voicing techniques mostly hang notes under a single melody line, without much concern for how one note moves to the next.  All of the inner voices become subservient to the lead line of each section, which means that that all but a few musicians in the band have little say in the interpretation of the music.  When we do encounter jazz counterpoint, it usually serves to merely decorate the underlying harmony.  But counterpoint can be the generator of harmony – with individual voices following their own development and logic.  This is a more classical conception of counterpoint, but it also has roots in the New Orleans counterpoint of early jazz.

Historically, Gil Evans was perhaps the best large ensemble jazz composer of counterpoint.  Every voice, from the soloist on top of the ensemble to the tuba on the bottom, had its own melody to play.  Additionally, he chose instrumental combinations that brought the counterpoint to the fore through contrasting timbres.  Thad Jones also wrote great counterpoint, between sections of the band as well as individual voices.

Today, Maria Schneider is again leading the way. While she used to favor more traditionally blocky chord voicings, there are early examples of her experiments with counterpoint, such as “Last Season.”  Her most recent works are driven by counterpoint; “Aires de Lando” and “Choro Dancado” are great examples.  Vince Mendoza is another jazz composer whose music is filled with meaty counterpoint, but which might be overlooked because so much of his output is for orchestra rather than big band.

3. Composers must intend to write music for individuals. It ain’t gonna happen by accident.  Big band composers will have to release some of the control they have over the music, ceding it to the ensemble players in the same way that a composer for a jazz trio does. The cautionary example is Bob Brookmeyer’s New Art Orchestra.  I would not dispute that Brookmeyer is one of the greatest jazz composers; his control of harmony and form are unparalleled.  But he has repeatedly expressed frustration at the fact that his recordings with the NAO are passed over for awards and recognition, and I suspect that this is due to the lack of individual freedom in a lot of his works. I do not know whether many of the NAO musicians are great soloists, but if so, Brookmeyer does not allow them much room to add their personal stamp to the music.  His control as composer is often so absolute that it can actually sterilize the music.  This demand, that band express the composer’s vision to the exclusion of the players’, reveals where the real problem with ego in a big band lies. When every band member buries his or her own ego, it is, in fact, the composer’s ego being narcissistically served.

The fault for big band music’s sorry state of affairs does not lie solely with composers, of course.  The traditional style of big band performance, the attitude of follow-the-leader that Gordon Goodwin praised in his quote at the top, is going to be a difficult habit to break.  High school and college big bands all over the world indoctrinate students into this mindset.  If composers ask more of their performers, then performers will have to rise to the challenge.

In the end, we have two possibilities for the future of big band music.  One follows the model of the Big Phat Band – increasing precision, where a sort of generic, “ego-less,” playing supplants an individual’s musical identity.  It occurs to me that the ideal performers for this type of music are not human beings, but synthesizers, only slightly more advanced than those available today.

On the other hand, we have the model I’ve described above.  It’s been tried before – think about the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations.  They resulted in some of the most beloved, enduring, and inspiring jazz of all time. Gil’s writing was never more elegant than his works for Miles, and Miles never inhabited the music in a deeper way than he did within Gil’s settings.   And this is why, as much as I hate big bands, but I am not ready to give up on them.  At their finest, big bands can pull off a little feat of magic: they can express a composer completely, and an individual player completely, at the very same time.



[1] I admit that there is also a need for a history of jazz ensemble interaction.  Ethan Iverson has written eloquently on this point, but I am unfortunately not able to find the appropriate link.  If anyone could help out, please post it in the comments.

[2] Goodwin actually goes on to talk about Duke Ellington in the interview, mentioning the sounds of Duke’s players “ebbing and flowing, and that’s great”.  But he makes clear that this is not a sound he is interested in pursuing.

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Published in: on July 2, 2009 at 12:17 pm  Comments (36)  

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36 Comments

  1. nice article matt…i’ve been enjoying this blog in general and the things
    you and vikram have to say.
    while i’d love to talk with you sometime about big band music, i’ve got
    to say anyone who has the fortitude, drive, and conviction to organize
    and lead one deserves some serious props. i’d probably shoot myself
    before being able to successfully organize even the first rehearsal.

    • Thanks Ross. I agree that it takes a phenomenal amount of dedication (and resources) to run a big band in the way that I’m suggesting. But I think it’s worth a shot – it’s gotta be better than the alternatives. Keep a look out for Matt Rubin’s Twenty Dollar Orchestra in 2010!

  2. Well written Matt. I do get the point you make about the Phat Band, but I ask you to consider the fact that he is having a impact on young jazz musicians and people that wouldnt listen to Jazz at all. His music is “easy” to listen to which can be frustrating to trained musicians. Thanks for you insite!
    Alex

    • Thanks Alex. I hear what you’re saying, but I’m not convinced that his music is any “easier” to listen to than the Miles/Gil records, or Maria Schneider’s. Easier to play, perhaps, and easier to write. Personally, I know far more non-musicians who are moved by Maria’s “Concert in the Garden” or by Miles playing “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” than by the Phat Band.

  3. I don’t think the Phat Band can be held up as any kind of model for today’s more forward thinking big band composers. For every more well-known ‘slick’, studio band like Phat, there are those with a bit of an edge like Carla Bley’s.

    Now I don’t know any of the younger (or younger in spirit), up-and-coming big band composers who worry about “precision” as you are defining it. Certainly as composers, we want our music performed the way we wrote it but that doesn’t mean we want automatons. Especially those of us with a regular set of players in our bands, we want those musicians because of what they bring to our group. We don’t want their indidivdual voices and abilities to be subsumed for some Borg-like whole. Those composers who are reaching (and often succeeding) in achieving that magic balance of indivdual and group, don’t think contemporary big band music “elevates the egoless ensemble player” as much as it elevates the music/vision of the composer, which at best also includes (actually can not really be divorced from) the individual voices that play the music. Like Ellington, we often do write for the individuals of our ensemble and ask any one of us composers what our group sounds like with a substitute and we immediately notice a difference (depending on the sub it can be for good or not, but it is different).

    As far as your three elements to ‘save’ big band music, again I don’t know any composer in my circle (mostly graduates of the BMI Jazz Workshop) that doesn’t have them to varying degrees. So the future of big bands/large ensembles seems bright to me. I do agree that “at their finest, big bands can pull off a little feat of magic: they can express a composer completely, and an individual player completely, at the very same time”, but I think you will find that magic balance not with Phat and their ilk, but with Maria, Carla, and some that are under (or just breaking through) the radar.

    • Hi Joe, thanks for reading. Maybe it’s just a function of being out in LA, but in my experience, there are FAR more bands following the slick studio model than the edgier Maria/Carla model. I wish that weren’t the case.

      I’m envious that you have a circle of forward-thinking composers around you. I know many composers doing exciting work out here, but I can count on one hand the number who are doing it for large ensemble.

      • Matt, sadly I do know that things can be different out West (one reason I moved to NY). I lived in Seattle for a few years and the jazz scene, while quite active and impressive to a degree, was (at least the big bands and especially in the schools) more straight-ahead, Lincoln Center than edgy Carla Bley. The number of creative professional (and student) large jazz ensembles/big bands were few, although like LA there were always some, just not many. It has been many years since then so maybe things are different now.

        Looking forward to reading your blog more in the future…

  4. A god article about a subject which has been my concern for many years, both as a composer and as an observer and writer on jazz. My mantra is that jazz happens in real time, once, a philosophy that militates against the precision style big bands – who, I feel, are a separate branch of jazz. There’s much more on my website about how I achieve this practically – with some audio and MSS of what the musicians were give to start with.
    There’s also a lot more about the subject overall in my new book the jazz composer, moving music off the paper, which has its own website http://www.thejazzcomposer.com which contains some extracts and some of the early reviews and comments.

  5. Matt,

    I think you are confusing the North Texas State University’s concept of the “precision unit” with ordinary ensemble concepts. In any musical ensemble the members listen to each other, and when somebody plays the same musical gesture as you do, you try to play it the same way to achieve fusion. A section leader controls that phrasing by convention, otherwise getting 17 musicians to play coherently is too large a job. When you have a different musical gesture to play, and you are playing it alone, you have a certain amount of freedom to phrase and inflect it as you think best fits the musical situation. Some musicians have larger personalities than others, and it is perfectly logical to assume that in a town where studio players dominate, they “get” the concept of fusing with their section. All the small-group players you mention fall into the second category most of the time.

    The famed individuality of the members of Duke Ellington’s orchestra mostly applied to solo roles. Listen carefully to the Blanton-Webster version of the band; they are INCREDIBLY precise as an ensemble. Nobody is sticking out of the group sound any more than their role requires. Particularly listen to the trombone section, whose three players sounded so little like each other that it was hard to believe it was the same instrument, yet their section sound was seamless. Count Basie’s band of the same period was probably swinging more loosely, but they were playing more concerted ensemble passages, which is presumably what you are opposed to.

    What I hear in the big bands you liked is not so much that every seat is filled with a soloist (though that DOES give the writer a more flexible palette to draw on) but that they are dividing the band into mixed pastel groups and solo lines rather than the traditional primary colour sections. Trumpet, trombones and saxes are the red, blue and yellow of the big band. Some writers like the primaries more; some like mixed colours more. Everyone uses tuttis and everyone uses solos; it’s just a matter of how much and how they do it.

  6. I guess what I would like to see with big bands these days is more inclusion of instruments that are unconventional for the idiom, and yet which could add a lot in terms of coloristic qualities. For example, I think there are more ways to employ a Hammond organ besides Jimmy Smith or McGriff just riffing with horn blasts behind them. The Rhodes has been heard before with big bands, but mainly in cop movie soundtracks from the 70s…”funky Rhodes”. The Rhodes has amazing coloristic qualities to be mined and is well-suited to contemporary writing that has a lot of chromaticism. I’ve never quite understood why big bands have persisted with the piano since the advent of electric keys to be honest. Keyboard instruments are “orchestras” in their own right but the piano can’t really cut through unless the pianist is playing really grandiose stuff or there are sections in a chart that have been designed for it to be heard. An electric like the Rhodes or a Hammond organ has the resonance, volume, and sustain qualities to both cut through and be integrated directly into horn arrangements. Think how a sustained arpeggio on Rhodes could be timed with a horn crescendo. That could be pretty epic. Maybe people in the big band idiom want to adhere to some kind of acoustic purism though, I don’t know.

  7. I’ve led a “little” big band – 11 pieces, 1930s style – so my opinion may be prejudiced or even irrelevant. But I both love and hate big bands.

    The ones I hate are those in the tired mold of the past 30+ years, where it’s all about zowie-wowie trumpets and block ensemble chords with every note in the scale, followed by a string of solos. It seems to me that most such material relies on the soloists for the creativity and excitement, and the rest is often pro forma, happy just to not sound like swing riffs for dancing. The tones of the instruments, and the sections, are standardized from band to band, to the point where no one even realizes it any longer. Dynamics range basically from f to fff. There’s no room for experimenting with instrumentation. The score is everything, and a lot of the time, it isn’t even that great.

    The big bands I love are those that care about section interplay, dynamics, phrasing – that are crisp and flowing and have varied colors and somehow manage to give at least a flavor of spontaneity. A lot of these are not jazz big bands – some were out and out commercial in their day, although they sound very pure and classic now.

    The thing about the really excellent big bands is that they either had the same personnel for years on end – eg: Ellington – or else they had loads of time to rehearse, develop head arrangements, edit charts, and bring in all sorts of subtleties of blend and dynamics.

    Sadly, the bigger the group anymore, the less you can rehearse. Jazz and studio players’ time is too valuable to really experiment with 17, or even 11, pieces on the stand. Yet classical musicians are used to committing to longer rehearsals at less, sometimes even no, pay. What’s the difference? Respectability and status of the music? The age of the tradition?

    I don’t know if I want to let that stand unquestioned. Some big band music – some, ok? – is worth as much as any classical music. In any case, the tradition of the big band itself ought to be as worthy of respect as that of the chamber orchestra.

    Maybe the stain of commercialism, never far away from jazz, is still holding back the big band, which used to play for the dancing hoi polloi and still suffers by association with the likes of Lawrence Welk. Perhaps we just need centuries to elapse, until the fox trot is as dead and canonical as Händel’s bourrées. I don’t want to wait that long.

  8. I compare big band music to any other group-efforts. In business, there are large boring corporations that are uninventive but which serve the needs of the masses, and spry individual companies to innovate, improve and provide for the unique needs of the few.

    And both types of businesses can be very well done.

    All wine can’t be 100 points, all movies can’t be brilliant, all TV shows need not be innovative, all books need not be masterpieces. Big Bands must not be anything, but some can be individualistic. And there will be an audience for all, and it’s not a bad thing. I like Taco Bell, Will & Grace, Titanic, Michael Crichton novels, and Glenn Miller sometimes…and it doesn’t make me boring, dumb, or in need of improvement.

    The reason each individual can be proud of their unique skills, talents and abilities is due to how few people exhibit those same talents. Thank the heavens that soloist talent isn’t so common that dozens of big bands can be formed in your town…or you’d just raise your expectations and write the same opinion piece again.

    If lots of people (insert skill) are as good as (insert artist) you wouldn’t consider that person desireably better. You would group them together as the ‘pablum’ and seek individuality again.

    Our appreciation of talent is that it IS rare.

    If you want a better Big Band, create it! Your effort will hopefully increase your appreciation of why it doesn’t commonly happen, and help you relate better to those who create bands less optimal to you.

  9. […] please.  I’m layin’ this out for you, people, because Matt Rubin at Twenty Dollars hates big band music (h/t Darcy James Argue).  Now Matt can hate all he wants, it’s nothing I would argue with.  […]

  10. Very interesting thoughts. I am so glad somebody else brought up counterpoint. I am so tired of pretty block chords, for any ensemble; when will people catch on about how trivially easy it is to write music like that?

    I think all your points are very valid, but I’d also like to venture an additional and very important reason people like us don’t like the Phat Band. It’s that, apart from the precision, it’s just not as musically interesting as Duke, Basie, etc.

    The writing and playing in the Phat Band don’t swing in the way that we’re looking for. The drum and bass sounds are always wrong, the band is square in the middle of the beat. There are no harmonic, rhythmic, or particularly melodic surprises (except for contrived ones that beat you over the head). No rhythmic aggression or push. I guess your point is that these musical flaws arise from Goodwin’s philosophy. Perhaps it does, but I’m not sure if that connection is necessary. Any time you’re playing in a section you’re trying to subsume your individual identity to some degree. The difference is that the guys in the Phat Band can or will do it more completely than jazz players.

    Gordon Goodwin did write a few great charts in the day. The E.J. Express and Mama Llama Samba come to mind. And I have respect for the musicianship of the players, etc.

    • Thanks for reading Adam. I’m glad you hear what I’m saying about Counterpoint. I’m gonna try to clarify that point in a follow-up post. When are we gonna hear the Bravo Big Band?

  11. […] Band Follow-up It seems that my last posting has generated quite a bit of traffic to our fledgling blog – thanks to Darcy James Argue and the […]

  12. The Miles/Gil collaboration was a vehicle for Miles. The big band itself does not have very individual voices to my ear, it’s more about colors.

  13. I am guessing big band is the favored educational vehicle because it is less labor intensive. That is, the paid-staff/student ratio is lower than with small ensembles.

  14. Matt,
    You obviously have a pre-conceived idea of the “ingredients” needed for a big band to be good enough for your personal taste. Fortunately, for everybody else, JAZZ doesn’t work that way. There are NO rules, despite your desire to establish them. Having played in the bands of Clark Terry, Louie Bellson, Art Farmer, Les Brown, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bill Holman, Bob Florence, Xavier Cugat, Bob Crosby, Nelson Riddle, Jack Sheldon, Les Hooper, Ray Charles, Ralph Carmichael, Ray Anthony (shall I continue?), I can honestly tell you that these bands were all great, and all quite different. These leaders didn’t follow your rules, son. I’m not sure what your qualifications are, but I can tell you from over 40 years in the music business, that the successful band leaders which I had the pleasure of working for, DIDN’T PLAY BY THE RULES. Their fundamental rule was that the music was good.
    Gordon Goodwin’s band just happens to be ridiculously tight. I realize that you have a problem with that. Evidently, you never heard Basie’s band in the 50’s and 60’s. It was an experience to behold. Gordon’s band has great soloists on every chair. Counterpoint is a major factor in his music, and most of the music is written for his specific players. So, I guess that he does comply with your “rules,” even though you fail to comprehend this. I don’t know how many times you’ve heard Gordon’s band live, but there is nothing sterile about it. There is tremendous spontaneity, and the band is extremely well-received -from the International Association of Jazz Educators to the Blue Note in Tokyo. Next time, do a little more homework before you start making the rules, young man.

  15. Matt,

    All three points are right on the money. I must say that I think the rules that I abide by in my own writing and the writing of other composers that I gravitate towards stem more from the world of Stravinsky, Gil Evans and Bartok than the world of the ‘big band industrial complex’ that Goodwin so comfortably inhabits along with the like of Tom Kubis. I think they are the logical conclusion of that lineage of ‘composers’. Hopefully that epoch is on its way out.

    I think more attention should be paid to those people who go outside of the box and write interesting music for the big band counterinsurgency. Some people that immediately come to mind are:

    Frank Carlberg
    Anderw D’Angelo
    Darcy Argue
    Ayn Inserto
    Matthew Hebert
    And the awe inspiring Django Bates

    • Thanks Nick, good to hear from you. I’ll definitely check out the people on that list – I’m not familiar with Ayn Inserto or Matthew Hebert. When are you coming to Cali next?

  16. As a member of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, I respect your right to your opinion, and while I disagree with it, (thats not the point), I will still listen. I will say that I’ve had friends in Maria’s band, and when we get together, we’d laugh at all the talk about, “wow they can’t play in tune” and ” you can’t swing from a rope” and “you guys sound like a TV band” and “you guys sound like a rats ass” etc, and then we talk about the real stuff. We are to busy doing “it” to worry about some guy blogging “it”. Those that can, can. Those that can’t, blog.

    • Hi Mr. Morillas,

      Thanks for reading. I was curious about when this would make its way around to someone in the BPB. I appreciate your taking the time to write a response. I’ve heard you in some other ensembles, including John Daversa’s, and have enjoyed your playing very much.

      However, I think we both know that there are plenty of folks out there who can both play and blog.

      • But do have respect for the craft side of the musician’s ethic – which is where Charlie is (I think) talking from. Part of that ethic is not pretending to any kind of authority over your fellow players except thru your PLAYING. For some in the old school, thus, blogging automatically gives the impression that one is setting oneself up as a big noise.

  17. “It occurs to me that the ideal performers for this type of music are not human beings, but synthesizers, only slightly more advanced than those available today.”

    You do know that with this quote you have dismissed the entire history of western classical music, right? Which is to say that it seems like for you, the point of a musical ensemble is to showcase individual performers. That’s great, but I don’t think you should summarily dismiss the idea of a unified sound. Choral music is the classic example: choirs composed primarily of soloists tend to sound awful (IMHO) because everyone is consciously or unconsciously thinking about their own sound, not THE sound. Medieval choral music is the philosophical and practical opposite; the whole point is to lose the self. That’s not jazz, of course, but why take such a hard line? It sounds to me that what you actually hate about the Big Phat Band (disclaimer: I don’t know their music) is not their unified sound or their precision but their predictable arrangements. Which is another problem altogether.
    Good post; I’m just sayin’.

  18. 1.” The band must be completely filled by soloists.”

    Wrong. It must be comprised of musicians who can and do want to perform in whatever role serves the need of the MUSIC.

    2. “Jazz composers must focus on counterpoint.”

    Wrong. Composers must focus on composition. If that is contrapuntal so be it, if not, so be it. Do you like Kind OF Blue? Do you think the compositions suffer for a lack of counterpoint. How about Brookmeyer’s ABC Blues? Any thing there that needs revisiting?

    3. “Composers must intend to write music for individuals.” True in the sense that their list of individuals should include:

    1. Themselves.
    2. The playing musicians (present and future).
    3. The listening audience (present and future).

    One last point on this. I cannot even start to count the times I have heard a stunning musical performance from a big band playing music which was in no way composed with any of the specific musicians in mind. Your position nods towards discounting the possibility that the best performance of a jazz composition can happen with musicians other than those who were present at the time of creation.

    Gordon Goodwin and Tom Kubis may be two reasons you hate big band music, they are also two reasons I was inspired and able to learn how to write it and two reasons I still love it and go hear it.

  19. Hey Matt, glad to have discovered your blog. I wonder how the unorthodox big band you and I play in fits into all this!

  20. Anyone who has followed “Rab Hines’s” obsessive Bruno dirt at Call It Anything has seen that “Hines’s” sole purpose is to spoil the name of a well-known German trumpeter.

    CIA is not about jazz. For “Hines”, it’s about terror, libel, and involving music lovers in his stalking activities. Anyone supporting “Hines” risks a visit from the authorities all-too-soon.

    “Hines” is an unemployed, mentally ill person from New Jersey masquerading himself as a jazz fan. Though nobody knows his real name, his voice can be heard at Bruno’s Alert Blog. Well-known is his IP address under which “Hines” spammed literally hundreds (!) of jazz blogs with pedophile comments.

    For more, simply google “Rab Hines Alert Blog”. It’s the very first Google entry.

    • Thank you for the information. I’ve removed “Bruno’s” comment.

      • Of course, who’s to say a lot of REAL jazz fans aren’t unemployed, mentally ill, and from New Jersey? Maybe most? 😀

  21. I completely agree about a lot of big bands. Why would any player capable of reacting in the moment want to be arranged for ? A smaller jazz unit can create its own arrangements spontaneously with the result that the music sounds truly alive because it is. Big Bands became popular originally so that dancers could hear the beat without amplification. The only reasons I can think of that they continue to exist is to teach kids how to read and swing. They’re also convenient for arrangers and composers too but not so interesting for a performer if you really want to play. In my humble opinion.

  22. god help the future of music if this is the best of our music education. they have played this “tune” tirelessly every day of every year since the 70s, along with a select few other ones by the venerable gordon goodwin, with 4 flutes, clar, bass clar, violin and a harpist with no microphone. they are taught that loud is fast and fast is the only way to play, and that anything longer than an 8th note needs to have an attack, drop to nothing, and come back to a blaring volume. watch the only gesture of the conductor

  23. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Big Band Jazz. To me, the energy and excitement in music comes from the director of the ensemble. Just like each musician plays an instrument, the director of the jazz ensemble has as his or her instrument the entire ensemble. Unfortunately, big band jazz has been high jacked by academia. Because academia analyzes by dissection, they often kill the patient. When the academics try to reassemble what they have dissected, it simply doesn’t work. They have violated the gestalt of the art. Academia generates people more suited to be heads of research labs rather than big band leaders. They are about as interesting as tepid dish water, and that blandness comes through in the music.

  24. […] eminently readable jazz blogger Matt Rubin at Twenty Dollars ignited a bit of fuss with his post, Why I Hate Big Band Music. I advise you to read it and its follow-up, but will give the gist of Rubin’s cri de coeur: […]

  25. […] is a short but multi-reason answer to Why I Hate Big Band Music, over at the fine jazz/etc. blog Twenty […]


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