I don't know how I do that. That was the case when I was a college professorI could always make the students play above themselves. I know that the music I write is fun to play. I write stuff that's challenging, but it's eminently playable. I learned to play trumpet and trombone in high school, and that's given me an insight into what those guys have to do. I don't try to make every part interestingthat can be a real trap. It is very important that the lead parts (1st trumpet, 1st saxophone, 1st trombone) are interesting and playable....also the bottom parts (baritone saxophone and bass trombone), but inner parts are what they are. As long as they do a good job of following the lead parts and/or have the right notes of the chord to play, everybody should be happy. Rhythm players like me because I give them a lot of liberty. Occasionally I write out bass lines, but usually it's just chord symbols, and I tell them to play a style. They have freedom within that. The bassist knows how to come up with a bass line a lot better than I do. I wasn't a very good conducting student at Ohio State, and I still make mistakes, particularly on odd meter pieces. My conducting style is just being into the musicthat seems to inspire them.Film orchestration
Thirteen years ago, Bruce Fowler (former Frank Zappa sideman, and head orchestrator for Oscar and Golden Globe winner Hans Zimmer) approached me to orchestrate some of the music Zimmer had scored for A League of Their Own
(1992). Since then, Bruce has employed me on over 85 films including many box-office hits such as Shrek
, Shrek 2
, Pirates of the Caribbean
, Something's Gotta Give
, The Last Samurai
, Pearl Harbor
, The Rock
, The Lion King
, The Italian Job
, and Spanglish
. Orchestrating for films is very satisfying work. I get to work on a lot of important films for some very talented composers. I enjoy the challenge of the work; the fact that each film presents different scoring problems to be solved; as well as knowing that I am making a small contribution to something which impacts so very many people. Working for Bruce is very comfortable and seeing my name in the end-credits is also rewardingUpcoming big band recordings
We just recorded a new CD the end of December, and it will be released later this year. It was with all the same guys. It's both originals and standards. There's a medley of Ellington tunes I arranged in the 1970's I'd like to record. Cat Anderson said it was the best medley of Ellington tunes he'd ever heard. About 12 years ago we had a 20-year reunion at Westminister College with two nights of concerts. People came from New York and Seattle, and a lot of us came up from LA. I resurrected my big band, and we played "The Fallen Warrior," another piece from that period but without the strings. I'd like to record that.Upcoming recordings with strings
I'd like to do some things for strings using a full string section instead of just a small one, but that gets into a lot more money. There is a piece called "September 5, 1972 Pain, Death, and Sadness" written after the Olympic athletes were assassinated, a very dramatic orchestral piece. Another one is "A Truly Inspired Piece of Whimsey" for big band, French horns, and string section with improvised stuff in it. In 1977 I wrote it and performed it with the Columbus Jazz Arts Group and a chamber orchestra. Ray Eubanks, the director, brought me back to conduct it in 1990. It was especially wonderful the second time because it was with a real string section used to playing together. There are some 16th note lines that really get around. Afterwards some of the string players came up to me and told me they really enjoyed their parts. I've been thinking about trying to get it played at the Mancini thing, but it's too long, and it would have to be shortened. "The Avenging Angel and Icabod Crane" is one of the pieces you heard at the Kennedy Center. When I look back at that it's over the topjust too much. One of the projects I'd like to do is to take some really great standards and arrange them for a lush string background with some different instruments soloing. I originally envisioned just trumpet, but now I'm thinking more about trombone and tenor sax as wellnothing too fancy, but with a good rhythm section. I've also written some original tunes in the classic style of Gershwin and Porter. I'd like to get someone to write lyrics then record them with a singer.
Visit Ladd McIntosh on the web.