Tyler Hornby’s – Dig In Buddy

These next few blog posts will require some imagination on your part. I’ll be describing and providing some background information on the pieces recorded on my forthcoming album, “Open Borders.” However, I won’t be sharing the newly recorded tracks just yet. If your interest is piqued after reading the article, I hope you will consider purchasing your copy of  the album in advance of it’s release. By doing so, I can put your money to work now, when it is most needed. Several expenses loom, including cover art fees, manufacturing costs and hiring a publicist.  Copies can be ordered through the following link: ffnd.me/at/762/1275/#/story


Tyler Hornby, a drummer based in Calgary, Alberta, hired me to write a big band arrangement of his composition, “Dig In Buddy.” When it was completed, I decided to adapt it to perform with my 10tet. It will be the opening track on my coming album, “Open Borders.” Tyler tells me the title is a play on words, with two meanings. The first interpretation is something a musician might say on stage, to “egg on” and encourage his band mate to really “go for it.” The second meaning is a reference to the legendary, bootleg recordings of Buddy Rich, on the tour bus, berating his band (although musically the piece is not connected to the Buddy Rich Big Band, or the music they played).

As I listen back to this arrangement, I can hear and am reminded of ideas I adopted from Bob Brookmeyer, albeit indirectly (from interviews, conversations with his students, etc.), as I never had the opportunity to study with him. I deliberately refrained from “turning over the reigns” to the soloist(s) immediately after the initial melody statement. As Bob preached, I introduced an improvised solo only when it was the sole plausible musical event that could happen next, and all other ideas have been exhausted. Once solos were introduced, I also did my best to retain some directional control, by guiding the soloists with “solo enhancements” (a much better term than backgrounds).

The trading of musical phrases by the trombone and tenor sax was inspired by knowing two of my close friends, Jim and Craig Brenan reside in the same Canadian province as Tyler, and they would be likely choices to play in his big band. I reveled in the idea of pitting these identical twins against one another in a battle of sorts.

The other guiding notion was keeping the drums actively interacting with the band throughout the piece, to serve as a reminder that the drummer was the composer. Occasionally, one might hear some musical references to Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, a band that had a considerable impact upon me as a young musician.

Here’s a video of Tyler Horby’s original version of the tune, before I arranged it:

And here’s a video I made when I was arranging the piece and blogging about the process:

At this early stage in the arranging process, I was trying to reinforcing the Art Blakey-esque quality of the piece.  The question soon became “How?”  I experimented with 3-horn “crunch” voicings (for a lack of a better label), that I have seen in many of the Jazz Messenger charts I have transcribed over the years.  These voicings typically have a major third and a minor second below the melody. Often they are used over a pedal point.  I applied these to Tyler’s progression and came up with a little vamp that could be used within the intro, to underpin the melody, and as a background figure behind soloists.

If you’re curious to hear how the piece developed, I hope you’ll order your advanced copy of “Open Borders” today. Again, by doing so, I can put your money to work now, when it is most needed. Copies can be ordered through the following link: ffnd.me/at/762/1275/#/story

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