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Color, Imagination and More Than the Cigar

April 22, 2013

By Andrew Summat
Via Aesthetic, Not Anesthetic

Even within the limits of a 78rpm record, notable jazz arrangers like Duke Ellington, Don Redman and Bill Challis were allowed to indulge their compositional chops as well as soloists’ imaginations. Technology and audience expectations now allow contemporary arrangers to make long form works as long as they want or to open them up for solo after solo.

Phil Napoleon and his  original" Memphis Five

Phil Napoleon and his
original” Memphis Five

On the other hand, the arranger of “Take Your Finger Out Of Your Mouth” for Phil Napoleon’s band had to work within “dance record” conventions: no fancy reharmonizations, extended improvisations or instrumental combinations to distract from the song (in this case a tune that invites warmed over Freudian analysis rather than deep musical development).  Their chart still displays ample color and imagination. (See for Gordon Delamont: Modern Arranging Techniques.)

The sound of soprano sax choir, bright, metallic and rarely utilized today, pops us as both harmonic cushion and melodic lead. It’s a nice foil for the murmuring trombones as well as the leader’s typically clear-toned trumpet, heard both muted behind the vocalist as well as open and brilliant in front of the band. Whoever came up with this chart (maybe Napoleon’s Boston associate and second trumpeter Warren Hookaway?) did their job without feeling inhibited by it.


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