New Zealand Big Band Arranging Project

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

I undertook the New Zealand Big Band Arranging Project as part of a Summer Research Scholarship through the University of Auckland. The project involved arranging compositions by New Zealand Jazz composers for a 16-piece large jazz ensemble. To fully capture the "sound" of contemporary New Zealand jazz, it was important to me that I arrange a variety of different compositions by both established New Zealand jazz composers and up-and-coming student composers. Within the 10-week project, I was able to complete arrangements of Kevin Field’s Good Friday, Hugo Middeldorp’s Prologue and Michael Gianan’s Two’ead. These arrangements each went through vigorous critical self- reflection and re-writes so that I could explore many different creative possibilities with each arrangement. Usually, due to time constraints, an arranger might only have the chance to explore one or two different creative directions to take a given musical idea. Over the course of preparing the New Zealand Big Band Arranging Project, I have experimented with and ultimately rejected nearly an hour’s worth of different interpretations of the original compositions. The project was a deeply introspective process for me, as I now have a much stronger understanding of how I can compose and arrange for large jazz ensembles in a style which I am most interested in exploring.

Some of these arrangements will be premiered at the Creative Jazz Club by the Ben Gailer Jazz Orchestra.

An extract from Two'ead by Michael Gianan, arr. Ben Gailer