Is anyone here experienced in big band orchestration? From frequenting this forum I've seen that there are lots of resources for those into traditional orchestration. But can someone recommend resources for big band orchestration? Here's a bit of an explanation of what I need:
For many years I've been writing for a five piece horn section, consisting of 2 Trumpets, Trombone, Tenor and Bari Sax, (and rhythm section). In that context, the horns sort of function as "jacks of all trades"; meaning that sometimes they'll be playing in a sax section style, and other times they'll playing more Trumpet section-like fashion. Lately, I've been considering taking it to the next level, and learning to write for full big band; meaning 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 5 saxes and full rhythm section. (This is where something like the upcoming Garritan Big band Collection will come in VERY handy.)
I recently recorded a cd with this 5 horn band, and for the most part it was very successful, in terms of what I was able to achieve artistically with only the 5 horns. But here's where my knowledge and experience failed me:
I wrote a chart where the two trumpets and trombone were using harmon mutes, and of course, the saxes were not. (This was the first time I'd ever tried writing for muted horns.) These were 4 or 5 note voicings. Unfortunately in that configuration, I was not able to get the section to blend properly. The saxes sounded too different from the muted brass, and the muted bone was not able to "bridge the sonic gap" between the brass and reeds. Ultimately the only solution was to lose all the mutes, and just play everything open; which luckily worked in the context of this piece.
So when I hear a harmon-muted big band chart, what am I hearing? All 4 Trumpets with harmon mutes? Also, I'd like to begin to incorporate flutes and clarinets into my writing as well, in conjunction with the muted brass. This is the kind of info that I'm looking for.
For further clarity: Ego aside, note selection and voicings are not an issue for me. It's NOT about, "how do I get get a nice fat voicing for a C7 #9". I've already got that knowledge. At this point it's more about what instruments that I assign the notes to in order to achieve various big band colors. My tastes tend to lean in the direction of Mintzer, Buddy Rich, Thad & Mel, etc. And while I'm not crazy about the "Muzak-y" nature of Natalie Cole recordings, I'm drawn to the woodwind and muted brass colors on them. The same thing with Dave Grusin's horn charts; love the colors, but a bit over-commercialized for my taste.
So how do I go about learning this stuff? I wish I was in NY or Boston to access one of the music colleges, but that's not an option.