I am in the midst of assembling a pair of thematic shows for a smaller group, what is called a 'six horn' band in the vernacular. For those not lapped into this aspect of the musical world, "six horns" means parts for the alto, tenor and baritone saxophones, along with a pair of trumpets and a solitary trombone, all combined with the usual rhythm combo of bass, guitar, percussion and piano/keyboards.
Once you cross the boundary from the seventeen piece "big band" into six horn territory, the usual selection of music changes profoundly. While there are written arrangements available, the quality thereof is, to put it mildly, "variable".
For some reason, the arrangers of this stuff have fallen in love with the "common rhythm" part, whereby all four folks are reading off of the same part. Then too, not all are comfortable with setting up a lead sheet part, with the piano part accompanied by chord symbols. So, I am often presented with a bass part and little else. With that, we might as well work from a lead sheet or a fake book.
The vocals are (with one or two exceptions out of forty arrangements) presented in the form of a list of lyrics, usually without any indication as to intros, outros and bridges. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
Most of the arrangers are using Finale these days, so at least the parts are more or less legible. However, most are devoid of dynamic markings and all of those notations on the parts that we "horn" players are so used to. Again, a sloppy way to approach the problem.
Out of the universe of tunes that I have assembled to date, most are of the Blues Brothers persuasion. I would estimate that out of the forty involved, only one rises to what I consider to be "normal", with scoring, a real vocal part and properly annotated charts. The rest spread across a continuum, with the ultimate bottom being a bass part for the rhythm, no lyrics at all, and horn parts consisting of a single Bb chart, a single Eb chart, and a trombone part.
(To be completely honest, there was one more part listed - a valve trombone chart that was (you guessed it) a duplicate of the Bb chart. Trouble is, I don't know anyone who will admit to playing one.)
For your average rock or R&B player, this is probably not a problem. They're used to playing by ear and off of a lead sheet. However, I've got a couple of horn guys who are great players, but who require a decent, legible part to produce consistent results. So, we're spending part of every rehearsal putting in all of the stuff that the arrangers left out.
With this Blues Brothers show, which we are producing in conjunction with a local theater group, we are working with their rhythm folks. Therein lies another problem, for the guitar and bass playing seems to involve playing at twelve on the amps' gain knob. Thus far I've been the embodiment of tact regarding this issue, but (push comes to shove), they're just too loud.
The facility where this is to be presented is a very small one, but they are playing out enough to fill a huge theater. I could mike all of the horn folks easily enough, but it would be a lot simpler to tone them down three or four notches instead. We'll see about that.
Along with the purchase of new charts comes all of the administrative headaches. I knock out a numbered "fair use" copy as soon as I get them, but backing them up and fitting them all into a logical book setup takes a bit of effort. At least now that I've got all of the pop stuff (for the Blues Brothers show) in hand, I have a bit more leisure with the Sinatra stuff.
We've got a regular gig on offer for a six horn group (with my rhythm folks and vocalists) that could do Sinatra, and I think that they'll also jump at a Blues Brothers operation as well. Small is big right now, and while I hate to set a bunch of folks aside, if it's the only way to get the job, it will have to do. And, Spencer has a pile of Sinatra stuff already done (and in classic arranger style, not a "lead sheet" mishmash. Plus, I can at least rotate trumpet players through the two spots.
(Sometimes, size reductions come spontaneously. I lost two of my regular bass trombone players over the past six months. One - Leon Young, the guy who used to play tennis with Emperor Showa of Japan - died a few months ago, and the other just moved up to Dallas. The third guy I know has vanished in plain sight - I don't know if the disconnect is intentional or not, but he is sure one hard guy to contact.)