Efficient Arranging II: Nelson Riddle

Responding to my previous post (Holy...Batman), several folks asked more about writing economically.  I suggested checking out Nelson Riddle.  In this post, we'll take a look at a classic Nelson Riddle arrangement (Night and Day, arranged for Ella Fitzgerald).  I'll tell you what I find in this arrangement — perhaps you'll hear other stuff?

Watch this:


Nice, huh?  Let the dissection begin:



VERSE (what some may think of us as the "intro")

CHORUS (the part of the tune we all know & play, begins at about :45)

A (16 bars)

A (16 bars)

B (16 bars)

B (16 bars)

Tag (3 or 4 bars)



The remaining discussion will address the chorus only (from :45 to end)

There are no solos or instrumental sections — the vocals carry the entire arrangement. This release was most likely intended for a general audience — not a jazz-only audience.



Aside from the rhythm section, Riddle uses only four orchestral colors / textures.

1. string pads

2. brass riffs, harmonized — muted, then open

3. sax soli-type lines

4. all winds together, harmonized.  used only at the very end, for more impact, perhaps?



1. Repeated muted brass riff in 1st 8 of A section

2. Repeated open brass riff in 1st 8 of B section

3. In both of these passages, Riddle leaves the 3rd phrase silent.  This removes an element of redundancy and predictability.  Good taste. :-)

4. The A sections are scored identically.  So are the B sections, except for the very end.  This cut his work in half.  It also provides a consistent, unified soundscape for the unfolding of the lyric.  Smart!

5. The sax soli line at the end of both A's also appears at the end of the 1st B.  Clever!



As you're writing your next chart — for any size and type of ensemble — consider this Nelson Riddle arrangement. 

And ask yourself: Is there anything that he did that you can apply to the piece you're writing?



comment below, or send me a note.


Posted on September 1, 2011 and filed under Arranging & Composing.