NCBF Big Band Repertoire Review 2024-25

A new season - new Repertoire Lists.

There are 47 new pieces added to the Wind Band list and 38 added to the Big Band list. Which also means that a similar number of pieces have been deleted.

Please use the appropriate Repertoire List for the current season (2024-25) and, especially with Big Bands, please make sure that you are using the named arrangement, not just looking at the title!

The reason the Big Band list is larger is that, to help in effective programme construction, a balance is kept across the different genres - Swing, Funk, Ballad, Latin, etc.

 For Big Bands at GRADE 1, Zachary Smith’s 13 O’Clock Jump is a swingin’ blues with a twist - it’s a  13-bar blues! Agent Under Cover (Bryce Newton) contains accessible blues licks disguised as a fun rock chart. Want to show off your drummer? Then Doug Beach’s Filling In For Buddy is the chart for you!

At GRADE 1.5 A Warm Summer’s Night (Terry White) is a fresh sounding Rock chart full of fun. Written in the style of early rock ’n’ roll pioneers ‘The Ventures’, Hot Rod Harry (Paul Murtha) should have your audience dancing in the aisles! Peter Sciaino’s swing original, The Vibe, captures the mysterious noir sound of classic TV and the big screen crime dramas. Steve Wiest never ceases to come up with something highly original, even at this level. We Need To Talk is the 3rd chart in his ‘smartphone’ series - a hip funk chart with great horn licks.

Master composer/arranger Mark Taylor provides GRADE 2 bands with Beach Time - a great sounding Bossa original, easy to learn and fun to play. George Shutak continues to provide great charts at this level. In Hip Monk Funk repetitive 2-bar phrases are used to help the rhythm section create an irresistible groove to drive the rest of the band.

A great introduction to the soca (soul calypso) emphasising connections to African-American and Trinidadian music is provided in Pass The Hot Sauce (Brad Ciechomski) while Ferde Grofé’s ‘On The Trail’ from the ‘Grand Canyon Suite’ is the inspiration for Kris Berg’s latest swing number, Take A Hike. Doug Beach also continues to challenge and inspire with another swing chart - Ulterior Motive.

Influenced by the modal tunes of Herbie Hancock, like ‘Maiden Voyage’, Modal Citizen (Pete Sciaino) is a great chart at GRADE 2.5. Another wonderful funk chart, at an easier level, from master of the style Jeff Jarvis is Power It Up! For a touch of Gospel Soul you could not do better than feature Nat Adderley’s Sweet Emma (arr Mike Kamuf). Starting with a brief chorale, the piece develops into a foot-tapping moderate paced gospel groove.

 Looking for something completely different at GRADE 3 level?  Imagine a group of hippopotami marching? Got the picture? Then Steve Wiest’s Swing/Blues March A Bloat Of Hippopotami is the one for you! Dreamin’ In Swing Time (Paul Baker) is the chart for you if you want to help your band master swing. It’s a tour de force featuring slow swing, medium swing and a combination of both.

Want to feature an alto sax soloist, then Rick Hirsch’s take on the classic My Funny Valentine (Richard Rodgers) is a wonderful combination of ballad and bossa. Talking of classics, Bryan Kidd has revised his brilliant Side Door Shuffle - a Basie style blues shuffle favourite re-released with a revised shout chorus and expanded ‘All Of Me’ ending. Classic music plus master arranger brings us a stunning fast swing version of Strike Up The Band (George Gershwin arr Mark Taylor), inspired by the classic Count Basie up-tempo version. Hot, hot, hot!

At GRADE 3.5 Callum Au has been busy providing ‘easier’ music for his Big Band Toolkit Volume 2. All very well written and providing an excellent resource, swing funk number Critical Mass and bossa Disorganised Crime are well supported with exemplar performances on YouTube and other resources available from his own website.

Gordon Goodwin continues to write excellent charts at this level. El Alma De La Banda (The Soul Of The Band) is soulful, latin and full of energy. Another GG winner! In the ‘Birth Of The Cool’ style of Gil Evans and Miles Davis, Neon Green (Paul Baker) is Retro at its be-bop sounding best.

If you have access to flugel horns in your trumpet section, then Anthem (Cam McAllister) is a a beautiful, evocative straight 8s ballad at GRADE 4 level that has solo changes for alto sax. However, if you want to feature your trombone section, Attack Of The Killer Trombones (Chris Sharp) is a brilliant fast swing piece in ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ style.

Want to improve your band’s counting ability? Then look no further than Don’t Grow Up …. It’s A Trap (Denis DiBlasio) - a 7/4 Jazz Rock challenge from another master arranger. Originally recorded by the Jazz Messengers in 1960 Mark Taylor’s arrangement of Wayne Shorter’s classic Lester Left Town swings fast and hard from beginning to end.

Michele Fernández Latin takes on jazz standards are impressive. Here she turns her hand to My Favourite Things (Richard Rodgers) and comes up with a highly original and attractive outcome. Funk chart Power Of The Tower and Samba Brittania are two more brilliant charts from Callum Au’s Big Band Toolkit Volume 2.

At GRADE 4.5 Azurine (Debbie Stempien & Greg Turner) is an attractive Jazz Waltz. Neal Hefti’s legendary drum feature Cute takes on a new life in a creative fast swing arrangement by sax legend, Bob Mintzer. From Steely Dan’s album ‘AJA’, Bob Curnow’s fresh shuffle rock take on Home At Last (Walter Becker/Donald Fagan) has obvious mass appeal.

Written as a tribute to Bob Curnow, On The Wing (Patty Darling) is a delightful and powerful 3/4 Latin chart featuring Soprano Sax. Our Man Dan (Mike Tomaro) is a creative original from yet another  master arranger combining swing with a half-time rock groove. Brilliant!

GRADE 5 only has one piece …… but what a chart! Furioso! (Michele Fernández) is a Merengue ….. and the title says it all. Fast and exciting …. if you have the chops?!

Finally, at Grade 5.5, Bob Curnow has taken fragments of a piece written in grad school days to develop this unique 6/8 in 2 chart Hymn To The Gods (Philip Raskey arr Bob Curnow). Typically imaginative and challenging, it is well worth a look for more advanced bands and will prove hugely rewarding.