02.04.2010 – BOSTON – A new organization, dedicated to promoting big band music, is hunting national treasure to save a dying art for future generations.
The American Big Band Preservation Society (ABBPS) has launched a campaign to track down and preserve old big band musical arrangements, in order to educate and inspire new generations of big band listeners, players and arrangers.
The ABBPS is the brainchild of jazz singer Amanda Carr, a second-generation big band artist and fan. Carr and her colleagues in the ABBPS want to ensure that the American big band tradition isn’t lost, as the generation that gave rise to it continues to age.
“I was lucky to inherit big band music directly, from my Mom and Dad,” said ABBPS founder and CEO, Amanda Carr, a jazz vocalist and daughter of jazz trumpeter Nick Capezuto and big band singer Nancy Carr.
“My parents showed me that big band music is timeless, and that its appeal reaches across generations,” said Carr. “Shortly before my dad died, in late 2008, I promised him I’d do all I can to keep big band music alive.”
Carr formed the ABBPS in 2009, enlisting the support of big band luminaries such as Grammy®-winning composer/arranger/educator Bob Freedman; bandleader/educator Kenny Hadley, and arranger/educators Richard Lowell and Adi Yeshaya. The IRS approved 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status for the ABBPS in January, allowing the group to collect tax-deductible contributions.
The ABBPS mission encompasses the past and the future. It aims to locate and acquire musical arrangements – the sheet-music “charts” used by the many big bands that were active from the 1920s-1950s, so they can be cataloged and digitized for use by scholars and performers. In addition, by educating young people about big band music, the ABBPS hopes to inspire a new generation of players, composers, arrangers and fans who value the big band tradition, and will take it in exciting new directions.
The ABBPS places special emphasis on the art of musical arrangement for big bands – the process of breaking songs into parts for each instrument featured in the band, and assigning them to the individual players in the group. This musical specialty is in danger of becoming a lost art, because the original generation of big band arrangers is aging, and few music-education programs have the staff or budget to teach it.
“The Great American Songbook is in good hands, as new generations continually revive historic pop tunes in the recording studio and onstage,” said Carr. “But while CDs and cabaret performances are terrific, many of those songs were developed for big band settings, and nothing beats hearing them, or performing them, as they were originally intended.”
America’s Big Band Heritage
Large dance orchestras known as “big bands” dominated popular music from the 1930s through the early 1950s, an era that encompassed the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean Conflict. During much of that time, numerous local and regional big bands worked steadily in ballrooms and on the radio, boosting morale in the U.S. and on military bases across the globe.
While journeyman big bands created some original music, the focus for most was performing their own versions of the day’s popular hits. Arrangers who could learn new songs quickly adapt them for their fellow players were critical to the success of every big band. Arrangers’ charts – typically handwritten sheet music– are a living record of the big band tradition, but few of them have been captured or stored. Many languish, unused and underappreciated, in libraries, historical-society collections, and even in the attics and basements of arrangers or their heirs. The ABBPS seeks to acquire these arrangements so they can be catalogued and, more importantly, so they may be used again by new generations of big band players and scholars.