Submitted by Chuck Reider, Executive Director of the Reno Jazz Orchestra
With the help of our sponsors, the Reno Jazz Orchestra’s (RJO) Earth, Wind, and Fire (EWF) recording project is underway. Last month I provided an overview of the project and here is an update.
We are slated to record thirteen songs, some you know and some might be surprises (I like surprises!). Two weekends ago the rhythm section laid down their parts for seven of the songs. Prior to last weekend’s session I met with the rhythm section at our rehearsal space, The Good Luck Macbeth theater, with masks on and socially distant to get the “grooves” just right for the recording sessions.
On Aug. 23 I met with the horn section leaders remotely to go over articulations. OK, what is that? Think of putting the accent on the right syllable. We wanted to make sure that all the horns agree on what notes to play short or long or with an accent.
Two days later was a visit with the saxophone section where they played their parts to proofread them and ask questions about each chart. Next were the trumpets and finally the trombones. The saxes recorded the first seven songs Sept. 1 and 4. The trumpets and trombones will record in two separate rooms at Tanglewood Studios three weeks later, Sept. 19 and 20.
I had some challenges of my own while arranging several of the songs we are recording.
Sheltering at home during these times gave me the opportunity to learn and use two pieces of music software I have had, but never had time to learn. Finale software is used to write or arrange compositions very similar to writing a score on paper. You can write your chart and it will play you what you wrote, very handy. Plus, as in Word you can copy and paste repeated parts as well as move them to other instruments. Nice, but it comes with a price.
I will use a term first used in multi-track recording studios: “ghost in the machine,” where something sounds wrong, maybe a hum or a recorded part not sounding as intended and no one can figure out how to fix it. One ghost in Finale was the phantom dynamic changes. The trombones section sounds great until, for some ghosty reason, for three measures the volume drops by a bunch. Not even the helpdesk at Finale figured that out.
No problem. I move the parts from Finale to my digital audio workstation (DAW). Think of the DAW as a way to polish up what was composed in Finale so it was no problem to bring the volume back up on the trombones.
But the DAW has ghosts of its own. I was confounded by the next song I brought over to my DAW from Finale. For some crazy reason several of the instruments were way out of tune turning an EWF tune into space odyssey of gruesome proportions. After much stress and strain I finally figured out the problem and I will spare you the details. Some may say learning curve, but I am sure there is a ghost in my computer.
At the end, the charts came out pretty good and were printed ready for the band.
If the above has piqued your curiosity and an interest in experiencing the recording process, you can join us. We have put together a sponsorship for every budget and your support will help us complete the project. From coming to the studio during a session, a virtual experience of a recording session curated by yours truly, an exclusive album release party, to signed copies of the finished CD. Hey maybe even adding your voice to one of the songs! For more info visit http://renojazzorchestra.org/ewf/
A quick shout out to Washoe County and all the folks performing the COVID testing at the Livestock Events Center. We asked all our musicians to get tested and my experience was quite positive. Well organized and took me no more than forty minutes after arrival. Thank you all!
For more information visit: www.renojazzorchestra.org
Check out our three virtual Earth Wind and Fire performances http://renojazzorchestra.org/media/video/index.html
Chuck has been a professional trombonist for over 45 years. He moved to the Reno-Tahoe area in 1978 where he played his first casino gig at the Cal-Neva and performed as a showroom musician with all the great entertainers from Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. to Diana Ross and Willie Nelson. He performed with the Reno Philharmonic for over 30 years, retiring in 2018. He is a founding member of the Reno Jazz Orchestra and has been the Music Director since 2006. Chuck also worked as an engineer at NDOT for 18 years, has been married to his wife Candy for 33 years and they have two sons, Charlie and Matt.
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