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Cal Poly Jazz Band

From 1981 to 1982 I played Guitar in the Cal Poly Jazz Band. This was a great experience for me because I was getting to play a lot Jazz (one of my early areas of interest), and I improved my sight reading skills. The Poly Jazz Band was big band Jazz. Listening and being in a big band right in the middle all these brass and wind instruments was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. Certainly nothing like the rock and acoustic music that I'd been playing.

The band played gigs like dances for retirees, and in the spring we went on "Tour". When I first heard about tour I imagined playing in clubs, or for wild all night retiree parties. In reality "Tour" turned out to be a tour of schools in Salinas, Wattsonville and Monterey. None the less, it was a blast.

During the same two year period (1981-1983) I was wrapping up my Physics course work, and I started the course work for a Music minor. I loved the music classes. I recall taking a year of classical harmony, 2 quarters of classical composition, 2 quarters of big band arranging, as well as the various performance classes.

In the big band arranging class we learned a great deal about Jazz Harmony, and we did a full arrangement for the Jazz Band. The first year I arranged "Night by Night", Steely Dan. The second year I arranged "Birdland", Weather Report. Keep in mind, this is pre-MIDI, pre notation programs. Doing these arrangements was time consuming and tedious. I loved arranging but decided to not pursue it again until computer programs would become available.

Here is my Arrangement for "Night By Night" Steely Dan. Here is a recording of the Cal Poly Jazz Band playing the arrangement (recovered from a nearly dead cassette)

There was an interesting dynamic happening in the Jazz band that you can hear reflected in the recording. The Brass section was mostly Natural Resources Management majors, and they were pretty granola, and laid back. They tended to be all over the place when playing a new piece of music. The Sax section was mostly Business majors, and they were pretty driven students. They tended to be really tight when they played a new piece of music. In this recording the brass section misses a few notes (really noticeable), and the sax section is totally tight. I'm not playing on this since I was the "arranger". Note that I tended to hang with the rhythm section and the brass section.

Here is my Arrangement for "Birdland", Weather Report. Sadly I don't seem to have a recording of the Cal Poly Jazz Band playing Birdland.

Revision History

01/16/2003 (gps) Initially written

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