In his JazzWax, Marc Myers has a fascinating four-part interview with Bill Holman. I’m no enthusiast of transcribed verbatim interviews, but Myers’s introductions, questions and production values make the format work, and in the great arranger he has a subject whose articulateness and wit carry the reader along. Two excerpts:
I used to think that writing a jazz arrangement was like stream of consciousness, the same as a jazz solo. You just started playing and built on what you just played. Then you go on to the next thing and never repeat yourself. After a few years it finally dawned on me that the ear wants to hear something it recognizes, so I started concentrating on the shape of an entire piece, the form, and how it builds to a climax. As a writer, you also want to avoid getting to the climax too soon. If you do, you’ll kill yourself trying to top it in the arrangement. And the result is monotony.
Writing music and arranging never gets easy. I’ve had students ask me, “How long does it take before it gets easy?” I tell them, “Never.” As soon as you get to one point in your development, you’re looking at the next level.
To read the four parts in order, go to JazzWax and scroll down to July 29. Start with part 1 and scroll back up through parts 2, 3, 4 and an addendum.