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Transcribing A Score for Big Band

Sooner or later, a jazz composition student will be asked to transcribe a solo from an album as a way of honing and improving listening and writing skills. Despite two degrees in classical composition, I was never tasked, as a student, with this kind of assignment. Since graduating with an M.A. (composition) from Hunter College in 2001, I have produced six CDs of original jazz and classical compositions, and have collectively written over 200 pieces. Never once, though, have I had to face the “transcription” monster.

Then, one late afternoon a couple of years ago, good friend and colleague multi-Grammy nominee Bobby Sanabria called to tell me he needed a transcription of a big band piece for a concert about two weeks later. Not just the conductor’s score, but the parts, as well, for the 19-piece Afro-Cuban jazz orchestra at the Manhattan School of Music, no less! This band had already performed a few of my original pieces, so I was familiar with the players, but a transcription of a five-minute big band piece

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