Building a Dream Big Band Part IV: The Rhythm Section

Well if you’ve read the previous “Building a Dream Big Band” posts, you’ve noticed that all of the horns are in place. I’m pretty proud of my band so far, although I did catch some flack via email and Facebook for placing Michael Brecker in the “1” chair above John Coltrane in the sax section. The good news is that I completely encourage your feedback to my dream big band. No doubt everyone will fill their sections based on their own tastes, and that is what I am simply doing with mine. I encourage you to post your feedback on the blog, so that others can see and share their opinion not only on what I think, but to what you think as well. There are no wrong answers. We all enjoy different musicians for different reasons, and remember, this is not a “best of” or “top 10” list. It is simply based off what musicians I would dream to see together.

When finished, the band will be 21 pieces, with 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxes, guitar, bass, drums, piano, a male and female singer, and a bandleader (by the way, if Michael Brecker as first tenor was a shocker, wait until you see who I picked to be the bandleader). Here is how the band looks so far:


Lead: Arturo Sandoval

2nd Chair: Wynton Marsalis

Third Chair: Freddie Hubbard

Fourth Chair: Miles Davis

Fifth Chair: Thad Jones

Trombones (selected by former KPLU host Troy Oppie):

Lead: Bob Burgess

Second Chair: Frank Rosilino

Third Chair: Al Grey

Bass Trombone: Bill Hughes


First Alto: Charlie Parker

Second Alto: Cannonball Adderley

First Tenor: Michael Brecker

Second Tenor: John Coltrane

Baritone Saxophone: Cecil Payne

And now, its time to introduce you to my rhythm section.

The Rhythm Section:

Guitar: Charlie Christian

How does someone have a career that lasted, at best, five years, manage to leave such a permanent mark on jazz guitarists? Simple – your name is Charlie Christian. Sadly, Christian died at the age of 25 from tuberculosis, but still remains the fundamental influence on all jazz guitarists. Christian spend time with Benny Goodman, followed by a run at the cradle of bebop, Minton’s Playhouse, where he would perform with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. Christian is rarely any lower that number three on anyones “top guitarist” list.

I struggled to find video of Charlie Christian, but you can see a slide show and hear him play Swing to Bop below:

Piano: Herbie Hancock

There were about 10 million pianists to choose from, but I just had to choose Herbie. He has done virtually everything, and continues to become more popular. While there are dozens of pianists who have spent way more time in big bands, I find Herbie more diverse, and blessed with the ability to entertain crowds of all varieties. over through four decades.

Watch Herbie Hancock play his classic Cantaloupe Island:

Bass: Jaco Pastorius

So what if my dream big band features an electric bass player? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially when he happens to be the best electric bass player ever. Emotionally Jaco was his own worst enemy, but again, this band just simply cannot be without his bass.

Watch Jaco Pastorius play The Chicken:

Drums: Jack DeJohnette

Like other musicians in this band, I chose DeJohnette because of his ability to excel at playing all forms of music, not just one style. He plays with such fluidity and adds so much to the sound of a group that it would be insulting to suggest that Jack is just there to “keep time”. Again, the jazz purists make come after me for not putting a more “famous” drummer like Blakey or Roach or Buddy Rich in this spot, but Jack’s versatility was the deciding factor for me.

Watch JackDeJohnette play Thieves in the Temple with Herbie Hancock:

So with 18 instrumental members of the band in, next time I select a male a female vocalist to be featured. Expect a couple of surprises. And, as always, I encourage your thoughts!

0 Replies to “Building a Dream Big Band Part IV: The Rhythm Section”

  1. Kevin,
    I was sort of with you until you threw Jaco in the line up, but since it’s your line up it’s cool.
    I would have prefered an acoustic bass player. Don’ sleep on JJ Johnson, but I guess there’s always other bands.

    Ricky Gordon

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