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Big Band Charts

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Big Band Charts!

These are original songs for which I have written big band charts. Most of the audio tracks are from the Sibelius software playback engine, so they are essentially MIDI tracks. As I make better recordings of live big band performance, I will replace them with real music.
There are no solos in the sequenced tracks, nor actual drum parts, but space has been left for the soloists.

Big Bamd Reference


  • For Jimmy by David Kempton
  • Kinder Gentler Groove by David Kempton
  • Kinder Gentler Groove (Sibelius) by David Kempton
  • Big Greasy Elephant (Sibelius) by David Kempton

About Big Band Arranging

I have played with a number of big bands over the years. in the Air Force from 61-63 I was with the 502nd Air Force Band in Biloxi, Mississippi. In Baltimore in the late sixties, I played (actually subbed) with a big band led by Hank Levy that acted as a rehearsal band for Don Ellis charts. Hank had us play them to audition before sending out to Don. I also have played with several Monterey area big bands: the Monterey Peninsula Jazz Orchestra, Todd Clickard’s Cliktrax Orchestra and the CSUMB and MPC big bands.


About the Arrangements

These arrangements are for full 16-piece band, with four trumpets, five saxes and four trombones or three bones and bass trombone, plus rhythm section – piano, bass drums and optional guitar. They have all been played by our local big band, but are not yet tight enough to record – as soon as possible, I will put up live examples.in the meanwhile, the MP3 reference files may contain large solo spaces, with just rhythm background – feel free to solo over these for practice. Also, the drum parts are completely unrealized – only a basic swing pattern, no solos or embellishment.


About the Songs

Big Greasy Elephant

In Baltimore one afternoon, Hank Levy (thank you, Brian McCarthy, for the refresher) brought in a song in 11/8, divided 4+4+3. This was a fun tune, but that night, on my B3 gig, I was playing our version of Jimmy Smith’s Walk on the Wild Side in 12/8, when I realized that an 11/8 based on 3+3+3+2 could cook fiercely, the ‘missing’ beat at the end serving to propel the rhythm into the next bar.

So I wrote a song to exemplify the groove, the entire melodic structure stays very close to the primary rhythm. At the time, the film Ocean’s Eleven was recent, with it’s theme song E-O-Eleven, so I named the piece Ye Old Eleven. Later, having moved to San Francisco (and in a nod to the Sexual Revolution of the Seventies)I renamed it Wham, Bam, Excuse me Sir! Still later, moving to Big Sur and playing with Zytron, a Mahavishnu-inspired band, and playing the piece primarily on Hammond organ, I renamed it Big Greasy Elephant.

For Jimmy

This is a song i wrote upon learning of the passing of organist Jimmy Smith. Originally written as an organ quintet (B3, fluegelhorn, tenor, guitar and drums) I expanded the song to full big band just for the fun of it. I am especially happy with the sax section solis.

Kinder Gentler Groove-Sibelius
Kinder Gentler Groove-live band

When I moved to Monterey, I started playing with the Monterey Peninsula Jazz Orchestra. This inspired me to write a big band arrangement of Big Greasy Elephant. My handwriting (and music copying) is virtually illegible, so I used a Mac Plus to write the score. At the time, the software was very primitive, and the only printer available to me was an Applewriter dot-matrix printer. So even if the score were perfect (and it definitely wasn’t, being my first big band chart) the dot matrix printer made it difficult to read, and the 11/8 threw the entire band. After three attempts, I gave up, and wrote a song especially to ‘honor’ the event. In a nod to the then-president – and to the non-score that was responsible, I called it The Kinder Gentler Groove. It is very much a 1930’s-sounding tune, with a sort-of-Basie arrangement. I have changed the key several times to make it more comfortable for the players, the live arrangement is in a different key than the final version.