Showing posts with label Big Band. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Big Band. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Role of the TRUMPET Within a Big Band

English: National Symphonic Band Trumpet secti...
National Symphonic Band Trumpet section rehearsing in the Asociacion Rosalia de Castro.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The trumpet has always been an integral part of the traditional big band, both as a lead instrument and as a soloist.  The section consists of four players, with the first chair being labeled the "lead" chair and the second part generally considered the "jazz" chair.  Although improvised solos can be played by any of the four players, the second trumpet is usually depended upon to cover the solos within the section when needed.

It is the "lead" trumpet that carries the melody over all other musicians during full band sections.   This important position carries quite a large responsibility, mainly because it is he/she who is called upon to play the highest notes within the ensemble sections.

Melodic and Harmonic Roles

In traditional big band repertoire, the trumpet section provides both melodic and harmonic roles.  Melodies can be played by one or up to all four players at one time. Melodic roles are often coupled with instruments of similar timbres, such as the alto saxophone.  As a melodic instrument, the trumpet is generally in the middle range when matched with other instruments.  The upper register is used for full ensemble sections where the lead player must carry the melody over the rest of the band.

When fulfilling a harmonic role, the section is usually voiced in either three or four distinct parts.  Since the trumpets are set in the upper register of the ensemble, they have the responsibility of covering the upper extensions of the given chord.  In harmonic roles, the section often extends the basic chord tones (i.e. root, 3rd, seventh) that are played by the trombone and saxophone sections.  These upper extensions often take the form of a simple triad when played alone, but create sophisticated extended chords when playing with saxophone and trombones.

Mutes and Utility Instruments

Modern trumpeters today are expected to own and carry a variety of mutes to alter the sound of the instrument.  In every trumpeter's bag are a straight mute, a cup mute, a harmon mute and plunger.  Each of these "tools" is designed to alter the color and sound of the instrument by bringing out low (cup and plunger) or high (straight and harmon) overtones.  The use of mutes can significantly alter the overall sound of the section with a wide variety of colors.  Gil Evans was one famous arranger that used muted trumpets extensively in his arrangements and compositions.

In addition, most professional trumpeters today own a flugelhorn.  This instrument looks like a large trumpet but sounds much more mellow and with a limited high range.  Flugelhorns are used primarily for melody, but can also be used as harmonic pads with the big band.  Modern writers such as Maria Schneider utilize flugelhorns in this role quite often

Famous Big Band Trumpeters and Sections

Trumpet players and big band trumpet sections can be found throughout the history of jazz.  Maynard Ferguson, for example, made his debut with the Stan Kenton Orchestra during the 1950s.  Maynard played lead trumpet and was featured as a high note virtuoso at a young age.  He later went on to lead his own big and small bands for more than half a century.  High note artists such as Stan Mark and Lynn Nicholson were members of famous Maynard Ferguson trumpet sections.

Bill Chase led one of the more famous trumpet sections in the 1960s with the Woody Herman orchestra.  Known for his high range, Bill Chase provided the high note excitement for the band. In 1974, Chase met an untimely death in a plane crash near a small airport in Minnesota, Among the most famous trumpet sections of all time might have been in the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson filled soloist and high note roles, respectively, for Duke's band for many years.  Duke often wrote entire compositions to feature Cootie (Concerto for Cootie) on trumpet.

The trumpet will always play an integral role within the realm of big band jazz ensemble music.   Because of this, skilled lead players and gifted soloists will always be in demand in the jazz and commercial music industry.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


This photo from a US Government website (http:...
 Glen Miller during his service in the US Army Air Corps. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Glenn Miller Museum at the Historic RAF Twinwood Airfield near the quaint town of Bedford, England, is the only permanent memorial to the popular Big Band era leader. No tribute to his influence on American culture exists in this country other than a stone plaque in Arlington National Cemetery, Section H, Number 464-A.

A native of Clarinda, Iowa, Miller topped the charts in the late 1930s and won the first-ever Gold record for his recording of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." While devotees of American pop music regard him as an icon and his hometown has hosted a Glenn Miller Festival since 1965, the British hold him in even greater esteem.

In 1942, as Captain and Commander of the U.S. Army Air Force Band, he was attached to the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) and quartered at Milton Ernest near Bedford. For the next two years, he and his band entertained American and British servicemen.

On December 15, 1944, he flew from Twinwood to entertain the soldiers who had liberated Paris. He never arrived. Researchers believe that his plane was downed by friendly fire: unused bombs dumped in the English Channel by B-17 pilots before returning to their base.

British nostalgia for Big Band music continues unabated. Fans eager to experience their adoration of Miller firsthand board the Bedford train at London's Kings Cross Thameslink Station. After a short taxi ride from Bedford to nearby Clapham, they reach Twinwood Airfield and are quickly swept into the time warp that materializes every summer weekend.

It is 1944 once more. RAF pilots and women and children in vintage attire stroll along the now-crumbling airstrip. Between reenactments, camouflaged troops are encamped throughout the adjacent thick woods to protect the planes and armored vehicles. Many boil coffee over campfires and gnaw on K-rations. Miller's recordings reverberate everywhere over loudspeakers.

The Glenn Miller Museum sits at the top of a rise in the World War II Control Tower. Restored in 2002 to its original specification, it houses an audio and visual exhibition of Miller's instruments, his Air Force uniforms, a jukebox, records, sheet music, and movie posters, as well as a gallery of photos of his band performing throughout England during the war.

The annual spectacular, the family-oriented Glenn Miller Festival of Swing, Jazz, and Jive, is held the last weekend of August. Big bands and vocalists from around the world congregate to perform non-stop before adoring crowds. When audience members cannot resist the urge to leap to their feet and jitterbug, those needing instruction are invited to learn the popular World War II dance steps from teachers posted around the airfield complex. The Festival is sold out well in advance every year, proof that great music improves with age.

    By Emily Cary
    Emily Cary is a prize-winning teacher and novelist whose articles about entertainers appear regularly in the DC Examiner. She is a genealogist, an avid traveler, and a researcher who incorporates landscapes, cultures and the power of music in her books and articles.

    Article Source: EzineArticles