Makin’ Music: This year’s MJJO Recordings

“Making music together is the best way for two people to become friends.” ~ Hermann Hesse

This year I decided to take my band to a recording studio, TopOfTheHill Music Studio. This is the second time I’ve done this. The first time was so much fun and I love the CD we cut. Upon hearing we were doing this, Al Lowe, a friend of mine suggested I just post the music and forego the CD costs. Checking with my friends, most of the young kids don’t even have a CD player!

Since we had already done the first CD drop on ReverbNation, I decided to release it on that site. In fact, the music is now playing in the background of my office as I pen this post. Click on the link below to hear some of these amazing songs.


Bill Sheehan, our director, picked the songs for both CDs. He chooses the music based on our overall sound, the soloists we have that year and to optimize the vocalist’s range and style. Both times I wasn’t impressed until we spent the year working on them for the final recording. In hindsight, I should have know it would turn out to be a smashing recording set. I love both of the CDs and listen to them all the time.

Let’s talk about how I placed the music in the list. First I listened to the cuts over and over for about a month. Then I picked the first and last songs. As Bill is fond of saying, “Primacy and Recency, remember that folks. Audiences tend to remember the first and the last thing they heard in songs and solos.” Or words to that effect. I’ve heard that so many times from him that it’s now part of my music patter.


Then I mix vocals with instrumentals with an ear towards the instrumental solos. So, not that complex of a formula all in all.

One of the reasons I love these songs is because they tend to be lyrical representations of the genre. I’m not keen on pure jazz with a soloist who reads changes with the intention mostly being of showing how good of chops they have. Also these are unique songs, and most are not the same songs that are played in every big band out there.

Finally, and this is mostly about me, Bill let me play a very sweet and sometimes loud bari sax to these songs. I do tend to go a little overboard on my bari sax bleatings. But it does my heart good to hear some of the licks I get to share, some of which were NOT written into the part. My adlibs can be credited for the most part to one of my instructors who, after I had spent ~30 years away from music performance, spend years working with me on my sense of timing, vocalizations, and solo interpretations. Thank you Neil Proff! 

For the first CD we had a niece of one of our players do the cover art. She was studying to be a commercial artist. This time I just through some stuff together using a shot of a ‘40s auto that I took at one of our gigs that included a vintage vehicle show.

Here’s hoping you like our little contribution to that vast library of big band music out there. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you at one of our dances or catch you singing with our favorite vocalist, Robin Hilt.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Band Management, Big Band, Guides, Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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