dick grove, rob birdwell, composing, arranging, program, CAP, studio city Audio from Rob Birdwell's time as a Dick Grove School of Music Composing and Arranging Program (CAP) student at the age of 20-21.

September in the Rain

Track Cover Art for September in the Rain

This was the second chart we were assigned. Two-part writing - trumpet and sax (with guitar, piano, bass, drums). I like the intro - it sounds “modern” (like something from a Miles Davis album) and it was probably something Dick demonstrated on piano in class as a possibility (harmonizing in 4ths). The rideout and ending on this chart seem well done to my ear today. Not perfect but I was learning so much about what works and what maybe doesn’t work so well. Hearing the playback later in my apartment I’d make mental notes of how the players on the session (all very good musicians) were able to execute the parts I put in front of them. If they did it well then that was good, but if not then I had to consider first and foremost that the reason was likely due to the way I wrote the lines or copied the parts. How to write music that works on multiple levels; again, this is what Dick was teaching us - ways to extend our musical ideas, use of pedal points, correct stylistic phrasing, correct chords/rhythms, keeping the thematic aspects in mind, and more. All of these techniques are part of any arranger’s toolkit. But Dick helped us by putting names to some of these concepts and helped dispel the “mystery” of what an arranger does, providing us with toolkits for making an arrangement work pretty much the first time it gets read down.

All of the recordings in this collection are the final takes (usually the second). We often only had 10 minutes total for our chart playdown sessions. If we wrote our chart correctly it was time enough to read down the chart, talk about a couple details and possibly make corrections with Dick’s guidance, and then get a final take. We were graded on the merits of this entire process, not just how our chart sounded. You had to do well on your communication, conducting, score and part prep. Everything was observed and critiqued. If you voiced a G7(b9) incorrectly or were phrasing your lines in awkward ways, Dick would let you know in a firm but constructive way.

Preparation for these playdowns was brutal. I’ve said this before but keep in mind we wrote everything with pencil to paper and copied our parts by hand. In other words, you needed to work fast on writing the score so that you’d have enough time to copy the parts - and the parts had to look good! Dick would notice and so would the players if they didn’t - and of course sloppy parts might lead to “clams” (wrong notes) in the playback. You hear some clams on this recording - but with practice my handwritten calligraphy parts would improve and I’d be even more aware of how important the readability of the parts would be, especially as the ensembles we were writing for grew.