Fred Sturm: History and Clinic on “All of Me” for Big Band

I first came across the arranging and composition talents of Fred Sturm when I was in college back in the 1980s. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the Notre Dame Jazz Festival and the Eastman Studio Orchestra performed a multi-movement orchestral piece written by Fred based on a series of paintings by a well-known artist.

Writing for orchestra is extremely challenging (partly because there are WAY TOO many options to decide on), and Fred’s piece blew me away to say the least.  I do remember talking with him briefly after the performance and he was very down to earth, cordial and humble too. (From my experience, the most talented people are usually good human beings.)

My friend Frank Mantooth had an interesting definition of arranging……He said:  “arranging is where you take someone else’s music and you “trash it”.   Vintage Mantooth….but what I believe he really meant was that good arrangers take what is given to them and add their own experience and “take” on how they interpret the original music. A good arranger is a good “recomposer”.

This video tutorial is a fantastic look into not only the history of arrangements on the classic standard on All of Me, but also contains a detailed look into Fred’s version of how he “recomposed” the tune into a brand new big band chart.

Other than the excellent look into previous charts on All of Me by a handful of great arranging masters, main points to consider in Fred’s chart are:

1) Analyzing and reducing a tune down to its key elements for “recomposition” material (even down to core pitches)
2) Composing jazz lines based on key elements
3) Use of pedal point for solo sections
4) Identifying melodic “cells” from the melody to create line mutations based on them
5) Varying chord changes to avoid the predictability of 4 and 8 bar phrases

This is a classic example of how detailed analysis and come creativity can turn any musical material into a new composition.  Strap yourself in for this one!  Hope you like it. Visit Fred’s Website Here

12 Replies to “Fred Sturm: History and Clinic on “All of Me” for Big Band”

  1. Eric Schultz

    Thanks Jim for sharing this: it’s full of information that requires several listenings. I already studied ‘Chnages Over Time” 10 years ago when it came out – but after watching this video I’m definitely going back to check it out again.

  2. Martin Townshend

    Very interesting take on big band writing, moving far away from dance band roots to a true jazz orchestra. Requires players of extraordinary sophistication, not widely available in my experience.

  3. Jim Martin

    Yes, that is one of the things I thought of too. Writing charts along these lines is great when you have a group of really good players that will take the time to rehearse. These days, that’s really a luxury unless you are in a college setting where students are practicing all day and chomping at the bit to rehearse. You’ll notice that Fred does alot of Residency gigs at colleges, so he basically never runs out of bands that will rehearse the hell out of his stuff.

  4. Len Phillips

    Hi Jim, Excellent writing , but where could this be played? I have a big band and a 7 piece. But the audience is still locked in straight ahead big band numbers with strong melodies the they, the audience, know.

    Maria Schneider came to England twice with a superb orchestra , but the audience was thinning on her second visit.
    This arrangement will remain on my computer but only for extending my knowledge .

  5. Jim Martin

    Len, I know what you are saying. That’s why I mentioned the college scene where these types of charts can be rehearsed and worked on extensively. Charts like these, Maria Schneider, etc. are terrific, but tough to pull it off at the local pub where half the guys are sight reading and where you play for 10 bucks and beer. I think the concepts he presents though can be applied to any type of arranging, straight ahead stuff or complex charts like this.

  6. Bill Riley

    I lived briefly in Appleton WI in the late 70s and got to hear the Lawrence U. band under Fred’s direction. Very glad to hear this!
    At first blush this chart didn’t strike me as complex so much as disjointed. There are enough compositional ideas for a dozen different arrangements and they all come rushing at you one after the other: good demonstration, but not a crowd-pleaser. Folks seem to like it when you take one or two novel ideas and spin them out. At least I do. Makes me feel smart if I can figure out what’s going on and know why I like it.
    There you have it. We don’t use pennies any longer here in Canada so I had to round up to 5 cents worth.

  7. Gaby

    I’d be inclined to be of the same mind with you one this sujbect. Which is not something I typically do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to speak my mind!

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