This...Is...The Anatomy of a Big Band!!!!!
Of all my childhood memories, listening to Stan Kenton’s “This Is An Orchestra!” from Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm with my father has to be one of the most consistently warm and joyous. The composition, a big-band epic by any standard, is as inflated and formidable as one may expect from a declamatory title with hyperbolic punctuation, and, at that early age I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the trademark Kenton wall of sound.
But, as I grew older, “TIAO!” continued to fascinate me, not purely with bombast but because it made me think about the many unique musical personalities that went into making that particular band. Over time, I was less moved by the hurricane of emotion that confronted me whenever Kenton introduced, the then very young, Maynard Ferguson for his pyrotechnic turn near the end of the piece, and became more deeply invested in understanding what Kenton thought the less obviously “exciting” players added to his vision.
In the spirit of following up on this idea of understanding the integral members of a band, Sound American presents a slightly more subdued, but perhaps more psychologically rooted, vision of Kenton’s “This Is An Orchestra!” called, inventively, “Anatomy of a Big Band!” (punctuation added for effect).
In this series of interviews and writings, SA proposes to go deeper into the modern big-band experience by featuring some of the people that are integral to the big-band sound and asking them what it is, exactly, that makes the big band a source of their musical gratification.
In order to articulate the big band’s “parts,” we’re lucky enough to have members from Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society as our subject. The Secret Society is a modern cultural wonder, a large modern band doing large modern music on an international stage, and without government funding.
While it will be very clear that the drive and musical vision of Argue is the primary engine of the band’s success, its head and heart, we are pleased to present the opinions, ideas, and histories of the Secret Society’s big toes, thumbs, navels, and backs of knees: “professional 4th trumpet player” Nadje Noordhuis, center of the rhythm section and bassist Matt Clohesy, and one of the most sought after jazz and big-band trombonists in New York, Ryan Keberle.
We throw our arms wide and smile at the camera….
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