This month the spotlight is on Paul Baker’s funky jazz ensemble piece Arnge Drank (which is, of course, in SmartMusic). Rather than tell you how fun this grade 3 chart is, take a quick listen to this video of the All-American College Band playing it (with added tuba and French horns):
To help us provide performance suggestions for the piece, we went right to the source, Paul Baker, composer of Arnge Drank and owner of Baker’s Jazz And More Music Publishing. But first, we asked Paul what he could tell us about the title.
It’s not Swedish, or German, or Danish, or Dutch. In South Texas, folks can have quite a drawl or accent. One day, a band director friend of mine from that part of the country popped up on Facebook with a picture of a bottle of Fanta Orange Soda and the post “All y’all remember Arnge Drank?” For those who live north of Texas’ Red River that translates to “Do all of you good people remember Orange Drink?” Anyway, the term Arnge Drank struck me as being a good title for a big band chart. Several months later, I came across the opening keyboard riff and a bell went off in my head – and that’s where it all began.
Below Paul shares his insight on preparing and performing Arnge Drank.
Intro and Melody
The action begins with the keyboard riff and a driving high hat rhythm. As this is essentially a hip-hop groove, it is essential that the eighth notes swing! In its most basic form, hip-hop is a swing groove played on top of a big half-time feel. Instead of hitting on 2 and 4 in a single measure, Hip-hop hits on beat 3 in both measures of a two bar pattern.
The other two things going on in the intro are the electric bass and the kick drum. Both of these should be aggressive and need to set the tone – attitude – for the rest of the chart.
The altos and trumpets have to maintain that energy and attitude when they enter in m. 16. Allow room for some greasy interpretation to happen with the players. This is a spot for some personal leeway in performance. When the trombones and lower saxes enter in m. 20, they need to support but not overpower. Measure 25 has some “call and response” shouts that should be equivalent in force up through m. 32.
The groove changes slightly at m. 33 where it shifts to more of a half-time feel. Note the sparser bass part and the slightly stiffer melody rhythms in the trombones and lower saxes. Again, we have more “call and response” in the brass at m38 and let the players have fun with those bends – within the realm of good taste, though!
The bass gliss at m. 48 is often a point of confusion for many directors and young bass players. I can only describe the effect as a 70’s Nile Rodgers bass lick that starts with a hard thumb slap with the right hand as the left hand slides up and back down the neck to land at the low G on the downbeat of m. 49. There will probably have to be some experimentation to achieve the desired result, but once you’ve got, you’ve got it!
Measure 49 is also the start of the “a capella” section. Ideally, no additional help keeping the tempo is needed here, but a high hat click would be acceptable if necessary. This is one of those sections where tight section and ensemble playing is required. Think more of a Tower of Power horn section approach through this passage.
The drum entrance in m. 64 has to be really solid and authoritative and the brass hit in 65 has to be ginormous with the fall lasting well into, or even through, the next measure.
First, let’s address the soloists. Trumpet and trombone are written although guitar and keys are viable options, either in addition to or in place of the brass players.
Improvisers would typically use the concert G Mixolydian scale (C major from G to G) or a G Blues scale. The background harmonies will be a little more sophisticated in some places and the soloist can embrace or ignore those options.
It’s also not uncommon for one of the soloists to use a plunger for a more brash effect. Go for it! Particularly if that helps to bring out the personality of the soloist.
Now for the ensemble backgrounds. Saxes should be light but present and emphatic. Keep the attitude and swagger and dial down the volume some. When the brass enter in m. 93 they should crescendo through the end of m. 94 to push the energy all the way to the end of the phrase. This sets up the expectation for the hits in mm. 97-98 which should be STRONG. The last portion of the solo section should be high energy and volume. This will need to drop back down again for the second soloist so that there is room to build again and launch into the drum solo at m. 113.
The drum solo can be kept at 8 bars or opened up to feature a strong soloist – whatever works best for the performing group. The only thing that HAS to happen is that the end of the solo must decrescendo to make way for the bari, bass trombone, and rhythm section entrance at m. 121. Better yet, if the soloist can “set up” that entrance, the transition is even smoother.
As a composer, I try to make sure that every member of the ensemble has something to look forward to in every chart I write. The bari sax and bass trombone get the spotlight, along with the rhythm section, at m. 121. This is the spot they live for. Take no prisoners and give them all the leash they need – within the realm of good taste of course.
The brass chords in mm. 127-128 should be really short and bitten off with hard accents. Again, think Tower of Power.
Measure 137 is a full-on shout section – blowin’ and goin’ as we say here in Texas. It’s essentially a sax soli with intermittent comments by the brass so the sax section needs to be the star, occasionally giving way to the brass punctuations.
The “call and response” continues on at m. 153 as the spotlight moves around the ensemble from section to section.
Possibly the most challenging section to rehearse is mm. 167-168. It looks strange on paper, but there is method behind the madness. I made the decision that it would be unlikely for younger players to successfully manage two measure of triplet eighth notes so I broke up the pattern across the sections in hopes that the younger players could be more accurate with fewer notes, and that they would be less psychologically freaked out by all those notes!
Another side benefit of this technique is that the sound moves around the section as each player picks up their triplets and that creates a neat sonic effect out front for the audience. The drummer should be playing triplet eighths on the snare to help keep everyone together. It’s a great effect when done correctly.
Recap and Tag
At m. 169 the chart calls back the intro and first melody sections before moving on to the tag and final ending. The brass should crescendo on the extended chords, always pushing the energy forward into the sax section flourish and final brass statement.
Finish big and finish strong!
So – that’s Arnge Drank. The overriding rule for this chart is to HAVE FUN! It’s more important to be energetic and in the moment with the music than it is to be mathematically precise and perfect. If those are your goals (precision and perfection) then you’re missing the point of this experience.
One last point. So many groups get excited or they think a faster tempo is always better because it shows off technique – wrong! Too often, musicality is sacrificed for tempo and the music suffers for it. Arnge Drank is happiest where it grooves the best and playing it too fast kills that groove.
I’d like to thank Paul for the great tune and for taking the time to share with thoughts on it with us. He’s incredibly open to talking about the music and any aspect of Baker’s Jazz and More, and encourages anyone with questions to reach out to him at [email protected].