Rifftides is delighted that Jeff Sultanof has agreed to contribute another piece. A distinguished expert on arrangers and arranging, Mr. Sultanof is the author of the invaluable book Experiencing Big Band Jazz: A Listener’s Companion. One of the book’s running themes is the essential role of arrangers. Jeff’s current project involves scores written for Nat “King” Cole. A great jazz pianist who became one of the most popular singers in the world, Cole (1919-1965) worked with some of the best arrangers of his time. An educator and an experienced arranger himself, Jeff specializes in finding valuable scores and correcting them. As you will see in his essay, for a variety of reasons errors crop up even in the work of the most skilled orchestrators. Identifying and correcting the oversights and mistakes can be, to say the least, a challenge. As always, I am extremely grateful to Mr. Sultanof for his contribution. The essay is long, detailed and fascinating. We are presenting it in two parts.
Exploring Buried Treasure in Plain Sight, Part 1
By Jeff Sultanof
The subject stems from preparing, for publication, scores written for Nat Cole. The originals are housed at the Schomburg Center in the Harlem section of New York City. Since it has become clear recently that several <em>Rifftides</em> readers are musicians, I am including some detail for their information and enlightenment.
I have been spending a lot of time at the Schomburg Center, a beautiful facility that has many collections of the papers of such artists as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Don Redman, and the reason for my visits, Nathaniel Adams (King) Cole. Rob DuBoff, Dylan Canterbury and I are preparing editions of some of Cole’s music. Rob sees to getting proper licensing for print editions.
This year marks Cole’s 100th birthday. Last year was Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial, and tribute concerts were given all over the world. Thanks to the cooperation of Fran Morris Rosman and Richard Rosman of the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, many Fitzgerald arrangements were prepared for sale. Their writers included Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Marty Paich, Frank DeVol and Ralph Carmichael. Copies of these arrangements were to be found on the desks of several major symphony orchestral musicians and interpreted by many artists. Monies from their sale went to the Fitzgerald Foundation, which was established to provide educational opportunities for children and medical care for people in need.
Every research facility with historic materials has its policies and restrictions. Users of the Schomburg Center (pictured above) are not allowed to photocopy or take photos of music here, so I am hand-copying new scores of several arrangements in the Cole collection, editing and correcting them as I go. Copying music poses no issues for me; when I began this work forty-five years ago, most scores were not available or no longer existed. So, the parts that I could find needed to be copied out, creating new full scores. This is the only way to look at each part against all the other parts, and find errors. It was this background that helped me get a job as an editor at Warner Bros. Publications, where I studied everything I edited and proofread for two years, the minimum time it takes to become an experienced music editor.
Rob DuBoff (pictured) has been editing music for twenty-five years, and has also worked on projects that had a variety of issues not easily solved (he and Dylan Canterbury just completed Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige,” and Rob has plenty of stories about that). In addition, he is a master at computer engraving. Although I am still learning Finale, for this project I use my own shorthand and I can write fairly quickly, proofreading against the parts as a final check. There is indeed something wonderful about seeing each part added and watching the music be re-created. My routine is to write out the music, bring it home and look at it, then proof it the next time I am at Schomburg. I specialize in finding valuable scores and correcting them; in many cases Rob goes to various archives and sends them to me, and works on many of these scores himself.
Examining a collection of music like this is like opening a treasure chest. I have edited concert music as well as pop and jazz (among the most notable historical collections are the orchestral scores of George Gershwin, Charlie Parker with Strings, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Gil Evans, Robert Farnon, Claude Thornhill, Ella Fitzgerald, and the music for the Miles Davis Nonet, for which most scores did not exist). Many scores have their share of revelations. There are a few instances where history can be updated or changed entirely. One such instance was discovering that Parker’s version of “Autumn in New York” was not by Joe Lipman, as long thought. I am fairly sure that Glenn Osser wrote the arrangement.
Scores that you think exist may not be where you’d hoped they were; perhaps they are in another collection, were given to someone, or were stolen or lost. For some odd reason, few scores written by Gene Roland are in the Stan Kenton collection at the University of North Texas. Sometimes, individual parts as well as the score are missing, but enough can be found to allow reconstruction. Sometimes, the parts are filled with so many markings that they are difficult to read.
Very few of us do this sort of work, and when we discuss our experiences, we are sad about the libraries that are missing or nearly extinct. Still, I always celebrate what does exist. It includes Kenton (extensively catalogued by composer Terry Vosbein (pictured), who has also created excellent editions of this music for his own study). Other collections include Duke Ellington, Billy May, Mary Lou Williams, Artie Shaw, Axel Stordahl and the Capitol Records Collection, to name a few.
Going through an arrangement that has been recorded and played a lot doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have mistakes that need correction, and the editor must be on the lookout for them. The more you look at an arranger’s work, the more you discover patterns that he or she uses. As an example, many arrangers will voice the brass first and then write the sax parts, since the brass have to be strong as a unit. Saxophone parts often double the brass exactly; the 1st alto plays the same pitches as the 1st Trumpet; 2nd Alto plays the same pitches as the 2nd trumpet; and so on with various adjustments for instrumental range. Evans did it, Riddle did it, May did it, Hefti did it, not all the time, but this methodology works and when one is pressed for time, it is a simple procedure.
Let’s say that Alto 2 and Trumpet 2 don’t match in a few places on the score. As an obvious start, one can look at the trombone parts to see if they were written with the same pitches, but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Not everything may be straightforward; most times the answer is there or can be deduced. But when one looks at a Thad Jones (pictured) or Gil Evans score, one has to use the clues supplied because answers may not be so obvious. So often in my classes, I tell my students, “Use your clues,” and they find their way. For instance, in many cases when Evans wrote for Claude Thornhill he would write an orchestral sketch in the piano part, so notes can be checked easily, and obvious errors fixed that way.
Often, checking the individual part can help, but just as often the parts may have other mistakes. Some of the errors may have been caught at the recording sessions and are marked; some not. You’d be surprised how some people tell me that I should not be changing notes that are blatantly wrong, because what was played was “historic” and I have nerve to presume what is a mistake. To those people, I’ve told of instances when I worked with Gerry Mulligan, Neal Hefti, Allyn Ferguson and other of my heroes, pointed these things out to them, and they were beyond grateful to know that someone cared enough to get their music right. One arranger wondered why a certain piece he wrote always had a mistake that was obscured when first recorded, but could be heard clearly when it was re-recorded later with more modern equipment.
Robert Farnon (pictured) told me that he knew his music wasn’t prepared carefully when it was published for sale back in the fifties, but he appreciated that it was being looked at and finally fixed. As one arranger told me, “Back then, we were treated with either no respect or just plain ignored until we were desperately needed; sometimes we had to bug people to get paid. We did what we did and forgot about it. That was the way it was. It is so nice to know this music means something to people.” One very famous arranger was truly surprised that his music was still being listened to and written about many years after the fact. “You guys are legends to many people!” I told him. So often, the music is wonderful; sometimes it is extraordinary!
And this is the point rarely touched upon in biographies and/or articles about arranged pop music: this music was usually written very quickly!!! In many cases, arrangers had to write twelve arrangements in a couple of days; Neal Hefti eventually stopped doing those types of jobs, frustrated that he didn’t have the breathing room to do the best he thought he could do. Back in the big band era, Goodman and Miller used excellent copyists. Arrangers sometimes copied out their own parts (Billy Strayhorn wrote out parts to “Take the ‘A’ Train”), and some things were needed in such a hurry for a record date that they were scratched out on a bus. Reportedly, Billy May wrote his now-classic version of “Cherokee” on slips of paper that he handed out as he wrote them; he didn’t even use a score beforehand.
Knowing all of this, many things that the editor/researcher encounters can be puzzling, but ultimately make sense by study of the music, determining what facts you know, what you may know personally based on conversations with those who were on the scene at the time (perhaps the arrangers themselves) and then apply all of this information. Just recently, I told Vincent Pelote at the Institute of Jazz Studies that researchers spend years collecting miscellaneous pieces of seemingly useless information, but under the right circumstances, put them all together and they make sense. I came to know a man named George Vedegis, who copied for many people, from Gil Evans to the arrangers for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (Ernie Wilkins, Neal Hefti, Tadd Dameron). The information and impressions he shared with me often ring true as I look at his handiwork for Thornhill (his thoughts about some of the top television hosts during the live era of TV were often unprintable).
Opening one of the boxes of the Cole treasure chest, we find the beautifully written-out 1946 string score of “The Christmas Song” by Charles Randolph Grean (the music union would provide a rubber stamp for arrangers and copyists which had a date on it; this score is so marked).
We also find scores and parts for other classic arrangements written for Cole. Many of them have a large number stamped on them in red, indicating that they were written for Capitol Records and were numbered for reference (as what you would find at the Capitol Collection at Brigham Young University, but obviously Cole took some of the scores and parts). The parts have many pencil markings and cross-outs and provide a history of use. On many of the parts to “Just One of Those Things,” which Cole recorded for Capitol in 1957, there are correction or ‘goof’ tapes pasted over music in the Alto 2 and Tenor 1 parts. On the recording, these instruments change to flute, and these sections have been pasted over with new music for the Alto and Tenor, indicating that this arrangement was taken on the road, and the local reed players may not have been able to play flute; artists did not travel with their own ensembles except under special conditions. Most of the parts have a held note handwritten by unnamed musicians with “Mona Lisa” next to it.
To come: More from Jeff Sultanof, on “Mona Lisa,” Billy May, and how showroom acts affect singers and conductors…among other matters.