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  • Nick Drozdoff

Experience Never Gets Old

I wanted to put a provocative title on this one as this is a topic of some interest to me. When I watch and hear great bands that seem to be able to just play anything (think the original David Letterman band with Paul Schaffer and crew), I contemplate how much music is just IN them. Great bands like that just know so much that they can just play anything at the drop of a hat. Yes, they rehearse and play from charts, but when required to do so, they can shoot from the hip and never miss the mark.

One of my favorite teachers, the late great Neal Dunlap, once told me a story of working a big band gig at CSO Hall down on Michigan Avenue. The band members were downstairs hanging out in the locker-room for the CSO legends - Herseth, Jacobs, et al. Some of the guys were thinking how cool it was to be able to play in the CSO. Neal commented on the fact that, as fantastic as the CSO folks were, the folks in the big band were also wonderful and the the CSO musicians couldn't do what the big band could do, which included knowing so much music by heart that the entire big band could just fake full blown arrangements on the spot when demanded to do so. So the folks in the big band should take heart.

This is how I was brought up as a commercial musician. I love the fact that the ladies and gents I work with can just play tons of music and create full blown art at moments notice. When I was a young musician, I worked with those people Neal was referring to. I was fortunate enough to hang with the last bastion of truly experienced free lance commercial musicians. I shall forever be grateful for the chance to learn from those artists - Don Sohan, Warren Kime, Dom Geraci, Doc Marshack, Bill Porter, Byron Baxter, Joe Daley, Rich Corpolongo, Norm Krone, Joe Vito, to name only a very few. In my podcast "Duets From The Trenches: Musicians You Should Know," I interviewed Dave Frolichstein and Joe Lill and our parallel experiences were discussed there. It would be worth listening to those shows in addition to reading this blog. Here are the links.

As we march on further into the 21st century, I have to ponder how the music and musicians have changed. I am slightly saddened at the notion that so much talent from more "seasoned" musicians could get wasted or tossed aside. That just doesn't seem right to me. So, this blog is about considering what it once took to do this job and that most of us "baby boomers" can most certainly still do. I hope that putting my personal lists below, some of the brilliant next gen and millennial musicians can at least consider the worth of doing something like this on their own.

As a result of yet another podcast interview, I took a swipe at applying for a job with a jobbing band that has an interesting business model. They don't have a set "band". They have a deep roster of musicians and the front office assembles bands for prospective clients with the understanding that when the musicians get assigned to a gig, they are expected to go through the tune list provided and learn the music. I would submit to you that virtually every baby boomer musician I work with ALREADY knows most of the music on the lists, INCLUDING more current music. How? EXPERIENCE! This isn't intended to diminish the younger musicians in any way. They'll gain the experience as naturally as the rest of us did. Just don't forget about those who already have it.

I am going to include a list of the tunes that I KNOW - tunes I can play without a fake book or mobile device app, in virtually any key. I'm also going to include a list of pop/rock/R&B tune horn lines I can fake. The latter will include some big band charts that I can play without a chart. These lists are partial and I will add to them as things come to me.

Jobbing Tunes, Standards and Jazz Tunes - typical dinner music and background music fare:

These are in no particular order.

1.) There'll Never Be Another You

2.) Joy Spring

3.) A Night In Tunisia

4.) Moten Swing

5.) Jada

6.) Cherokee

7.) Someday My Prince Will Come

8.) Four

9.) With A Song In My Heart

10.) Footprints

11.) Bye Bye Blackbird

12.) Blue 'N Boogie

13.) Dizzy Atmosphere

14.) St. Thomas

15.) Now's The Time

16.) Billie's Bounce

17.) Au Privave

18.) Scrapple For The Apple

19.) Song For My Father

20.) And I Love Her

21.) Something

22.) Cheek to Cheek

23.) S 'Wonderful

24.) Tangerine

25.) Good Bait

26.) Blueswalk

27.) Caravan

28.) I Love Paris

29.) He's That Rainy Day

30.) Softly As The Morning Sunrise

31.) Close Your Eyes

32.) I Can't Get Started

33.) Round Midnight

34.) Work Song

35.) Five Foot Two

36.) Blue Bossa

37.) But Beautiful

38.) Chameleon

39.) Sandu

40.) My Little Suede Shoes

41.) What Is This Thing Called Love

42.) Paper Moon

43.) Tenor Madness

44.) Stella By Starlight

45.) Stolen Moments

46.) A Child is Born

47.) Broadway

49.) All The Things You Are

50.) Nuttville

51.) Little Sunflower

52.) Night And Day

53.) Stardust

54.) Tenderly

55.) It Might As Well Be Spring

56.) Perdido

57.) Love For Sale

58.) Alone Together

59.) Almost Like Being Love

60.) Sister Sadie

61. ) Up Jumped Spring

62.) They Can't Take That Away From Me

63.) Blue Skies

64.) Fly Me To The Moon

65.) Georgia On My Mine

66.) Hackensack

67.) Honeysuckle Rose

68.) If I Were A Bell

69.) in Walked Bud

70.) It's All Right With Me

71.) Jumpin With Symphony Sid

72.) Just In Time

73.) Mercy Mercy

74.) All Of Me

75.) Hello Young Lovers

76.) OnThe Sunny Side Of The Street

77.) Speak Low

78.) All Blues

79.) How High The Moon

80.) Lullaby Of Birdland

81.) Mood Indigo

82.) My Favorite Things

83.) My Romance

84.) Nardis

85.) Out Of Nowhere

86.) So What

87.) A Train

88.) Wave

89.) When I Fall In Love

90.) Green Dolphin Street

91.) The Nearness of You

92.) Makin' Whoopee

93.) Ain't Misbehavin'

94.) Pent Up House

95.) Days of Wine And Roses

96.) HaveYou Met Miss Jones

97.) Star Eyes

98.) I Can't Stop Loving You

99.) Corcovado

100.) Our Love Is Here To Stay

101.) I Have Dreamed

102.) A Nightingale Sang Berkeley Square

103.) Just Friends

104.) Bernie's Tune

105.) A Secret Love

106.) It's You Or No one

107.) There Is No Greater Love

108.) I'm Old Fashioned

109.) Yesterday's

110.) Nica's Dream

111.) When The Saints

112.) Doxy

113.) Meditation

114.) Watch What Happens

115.) Poinciana

116.) Lester Leaps

117.) Surrey With The Fringe On Top

118.) Don't Worry Be Happy

119.) Summer Time

120.) On A Clear Day

121.) Solar

122.) Someone to Watch Over Me

123.) I'm Beginning To See The Light

124.) Somewhere Over The Rainbow

125.) If I Only Had A Brain

126.) Cissy Strut

127.) Back Home In Indiana

128.) In A Mellow Tone

129.) The Lady Is A Tramp

131.) Rhythm-a-Ning

132.) A Foggy Day

133.) Hey Jude

134.) As time Goes By

135.) Misty

136.) Emily

137.) I Could Have Danced All Night

138.) Edelweiss

139.) Fascination

140.) Willow Weep For Me

141.) Things Ain't What They Used To Be

141.) Satin Doll

142.) Straight No Chaser

143.) Taking A Chance On Love

145.) Ornithology

146.) Forest Green

147.) Turkey In The Straw

148.) Londonderry Air

149.) For All Her Endearing Young Charms

150.) Dinah

161.) Amazing Grace

162.) Fungi Mama

163.) Black Orpheus

164.) Norwegian Wood

165.) Well You Needn't

166.) Never On Sunday

167.) That's All

168.) Moan-in'

169.) Samba D'Orfeus

170.) Down By The Riverside

171.) The More I See You

172.) Christmas Song

173.) Whispering

174.) Groovin' High

175.) Silver Bells

176.) Let It a Snow

177.) Donna Lee

178.) Dig

179.) Old Devil Moon

180.) Dear Old Stockholm

181.) Hot House

182.) Come Rain or Come Shine

183.) Beer Barrel Polka

184.) Melody of Love

185.) Lichtensteiner Polka

186.) Chicken Dance

187.) Tea For Two

188.) Frenesi

189.) Cherry Pink Apple Blossom White

190.) Blue Bayou

191.) Wunderbar

192.) You Are The Sunshine of My Life

193.) Hey Jude

194.) What A Wonderful World

195.) Lill Darlin'

196.) On The Street Where You Live

197.) String Of Pearls

198.) Moonglow

199.) Tarantella

200.) Laura

There are more, but this is all I could think of off the top of my head.

Horn Parts for Rock/Pop Tunes and Big Band Charts - horn parts

Again, these are in very random order.

1.) In The Mood - big band

2.) String of Pearls - big band

3.) Moten Swing - big band

4.) Superstition - Stevie Wonder

5.) Shake Your Body - Michael Jackson

6.) Play The Funky Music - Wild Cherry

7.) Uptown Funk - Bruno Mars

8.) My Girl - Temps

9.) Dancin' In The Street - Martha and the Vandellas

10.) Ain't To Proud To Beg - Temps

11.) Can't Help Myself - The Four Tops

12.) September - EWF

13.) Respect - Aretha Franklin

14.) Soul Man - Sam and Dave

15.) Sweet Home Chicago - Robert Johnson/Blues Brothers

16.) Hold On, I'm Comin' - Sam and Dave

17.) Soloff Trumpet Solo on Spinnin' Wheel - BS&T

18.) Cissy Strut - The Meters

19.) Vehicle - Ides of March

20.) Get Down Tonight - KC and the Sunshine Band

21.) I Feel Good - James Brown

22.) Higher and Higher - Jackie Wilson

23.) Grapevine - Marvin Gaye

24.) Proud Mary - Ike and Tina Turner

25.) Sweet Caroline - Neil Young

26.) Crazy In Love - Beyonce

27.) Celebrate - Kool and the Gang

28.) Signed, Sealed and Delivered - Stevie Wonder

29.) December 1963 - The Four Seasons

30.) Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley

31.) I Wanna Dance With Somebody - Whitney Houston

32.) I Will Survive - Donna Sommers

33.) Billie Jean - Michael Jackson

34.) Stand By Me - Ben E. King

Again, this is all I can remember from the top of my head. I'll pop back into this blog now and then and add to it as things come to me.

All of the music listed just above are things I can play on a gig with no music. Of course, I can sight read on the job, but, there was a time when jobbing tunes were all done without music. You simply had to know all of this stuff going into the job.

Another skill we had to learn was to think fast on the job and to pick up horn lines by ear on the fly. Often one member of the horn section would hear something on a pop tune and play a lick to the to the rest of the horn section and then we'd deploy it on the spot. This requires good ears and team spirit. Most of us when hearing a lick going down would pick up on it and jump in to fill out the section. Occasionally, one or two members of the horn section might refuse to join in. This was regarded as bad form and a bit of a sleight on the horn players trying to pull the section together. EXPERIENCED players know how to handle scenarios like this.

The last part of this blog is a comment on teamwork and camaraderie. EXPERIENCED players know and support the idea that the horn section is a team and needs to work together for a sense of harmony and joy. They listen to each other and quickly scope out the lay of the land and support the environment du soir. They recognize the difference between playing with confidence and being aggressive. This is hugely important on a jobbing date/casual.

That's it for this blog. As to the band I "applied to": I haven't heard anything back. It has been a week. I was told they have a HUGE roster of players, and they might not get back to me. I did look at their website. Judging from what I saw there, it will be really interesting to see if they ever do.

Those of us who have been at this game of jobbing (playing casuals ) for a very long time and at a top professional level, have volumes of music in us and a great deal to offer, and RIGHT NOW! It seems a shame to let that all just disappear like tears in rain.

Like the title of this blog says: "Experience never gets old."

Respectfully submitted,

Nick Drozdoff

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