I found these on one of my hard drives today. Not sure of the source, but the words are pure gold:

Billy Strayhorn – 1962

” I have a general rule about arranging. Rimsky-Korsakov is the one who said it: All parts should lie easily under the fingers. That’s my first rule: to write something a guy can play. Otherwise, it will never be as natural, or as wonderful, as something that does lie easily under the fingers.

Duke and I approach everything for what It ls. You have the instruments. You have to find the right thing · not too little, not too much. It’s like getting the right color. That’s it! Color Is what it Is, and you know when you get It.”

Thad Jones – 1977

“I have never formally studied arranging. The things that I have written I have acquired through experience, but talent is not all. You have to work at it. Having somebody like Ellington as a guideline certainly didn’t hurt. Unconsciously, I guess, I have patterned myself after him, but at the same time I know I must express certain thlngs for myself. That is the area I try to focus my attention on, trying to bring out the best that’s in me.

I spent a lot of time listening to European music as well as jazz. I study music of European composers, their technique and their creativity. It gives me a flow and balance, effect, harmonics, a sense of the dramatic. Now when I sit down to write a composition, I have an idea of the form the piece will take. I believe that when you write something that you should write fully wherever the line takes you. “

Recently, I was very happy to come across this excellent performance of my composition, “Birdsong” by the TN 2013 All-State Women’s Choir.
Originally written for treble voices (children’s choir) and piano, this composition was a 1993 commission by Bill and Eva Bettger, directors of the Colborne Street United Church in London, Ontario CANADA. It is published by Boosey and Hawkes. The text comes from a collection of poems written by children who, while incarcerated in the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia during WW II, wrote of their experiences and dreams. This young author writes of the beauty of the world rather than of the horrors and destruction of his or her present circumstances. The text’s positive and uplifting message is all the more striking when placed against the backdrop of war and the loss of personal freedom.

I made some changes to the original poem for musical purposes. Repeated some lines, and added or changed a word. Can’t remember what the specific changes were. Long time ago! The hyphens are there, as this is a copy of the poem in the form I needed to use to fit the music. They weren’t in the original.

He does-n’t know the world at all
Who stays in his nest and does-n’t go out.
He does-n’t know what birds know best
Nor what I sing a-bout, Nor what I sing a-bout, Nor what sing a-bout:
That the world is full of love-li-ness.

When dew-drops spar-kle in the grass
And earth is a-flood with mor-ning light. light
A black-bird sings up-on a bush
To greet the dawn-ing af-ter night,
the dawn-ing af-ter night,
the dawn-ing af-ter night.
Then I know how fine it is to live.

Hey, try to o-pen your heart to beau-ty;
Go to the woods some-day
And weave a wreath of me-mory there.
Then if tears ob-scure your way
You’ll know how won-der-ful it is
To be a-live.

ISJAC, the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers (www.isjac.org) is a new organization worth checking out. Membership in the organization is free. Just go to the site and sign up!!

The Mission of the International Society of Jazz Arrangers and Composers is threefold:

  1. To unite and serve the international community of jazz arrangers and composers
  2. To advance the understanding and appreciation of jazz composition
  3. To stimulate the creation, performance, and dissemination of new works and research

I have been invited to be curator of the blog for ISJAC and would love to have you visit the site and check out what is there already. We have two posts by jazz composer and arranger, John La Barbera, and an additional post by Adam Benjamin who is a composer and is the keyboardist with the exciting band, Kneebody.

New articles are posted on the 1st day of every month and will be written by a wide variety of notable arrangers and composers. In addition, there will be additional posts going up mid month as they become available. I think you will find all these and future posts both interesting and inspiring. Occasionally there will be video posts on the blog.

Also, in another section of the site, there are video interviews with prominent composer/arrangers. One video you can view right away is composer Omar Thomas interviewing Darcy James Argue.

Lots more to come. Stay tuned and visit the site often.


Tonight (June 19, 2015) Trish and I went to the Jazz Bistro in Toronto to hear the artistry of Renee Rosnes and her quartet. Renee on piano (of course), Peter Washington on bass, Steve Nelson on vibes and Lewis Nash on drums. This is a fabulous group. Total interaction, superb compositions and arrangements and an over arching sense of connection and artistic unity. Hear this group if you can at your local jazz festival or club if possible. We heard WONDERFUL music.

Today I listened and watched with awe, to a DVD of my York Mills Collegiate Institute (1975) jazz band. I was 27 at the time. We were playing a lift I had done from Woody Herman’s “Giant Steps” album (yes it was vinyl) of Chick Corea’s “La Fiesta”. The arrangement was done by Tony Klatka, as I recall, and I thought it was so cool, I transcribed it and presented to the young guns at YMCI> They killed it. These were teenagers trying to sound like 25-30 year olds. And they did a fine, fine job. Actually a killer job. Piccolo: no problem. Soprano saxophone: no problem: key of E (and A) concert: no problem. Up tempo 3, no problem. They played the drawers off this thing. Names I remember: Gary Boigon (tenor sax and soloist), Doug Buchanan (fender rhodes), Harry Blount (piccolo and baritone saxophone), Cathy Erwin (flugelhorn and trumpet), Janice (Jan) Dique (trumpet), Tom Cross (alto saxophone) John Johnson (alto saxophone and soprano solo), Steve Dick (drums), Marilyn Zeldin (trumpet). And then my memory fails. It was 40 years ago. In the event that anyone reads this blog and can add names, please drop me a line at paul@paulread.ca.


Thanks to Sheila Anderson-Massé, I can add a few more names to those listed above:

trumpets: Richard Haberman, Joe Lin
trombones: Fred Lehner, Bill Meeker, Colleen Sheppard,Bryan Sher, Steve Vogler (did we have 5 trombones? Is one of these a tuba player or French horn?)
guitar: Ken Bassman
bass: Richard Stark


Today, May 28, 2015,  I was named the recipient of the 2015 Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music by the Toronto Arts Foundation. I am excited to receive this honour, particularly because I had zero expectations of winning the award. Thanks to all those who have called or sent messages of congratulations! For more information on the event please visit http://www.torontoartsfoundation.org/home.

Toronto Arts Foundation, a charitable organization, provides the opportunity for individuals, private and public foundations, corporations and government agencies to invest in and strengthen the arts in Toronto. They invite you to join in strengthening the City of Toronto through investment in the arts, enhancing and enlivening our city and enriching the lives of those within it.

Photo of me was taken by Denise Grant.

As one of the finalists, I had my name posted on a page today:


Honored to be considered!!

Last night (May 6, 2015) I attended a wonderful party put on by the TAF (Toronto Arts Foundation). I am proud to say that I am one of three finalists for this year’s Muriel Sherrin Award for International Achievement in Music. The other finalists are David Buchbinder and Vineet Vyas and I am very proud to be in such wonderful company. This is a career recognition for me and I have really been reflecting on all the years teaching and making music and all the rich experiences. How lucky I have been!!

From “An Autobiography” by Igor Stravinsky (1936)

The book wasn’t THAT well written but I did find some gems. (PR)

“It is very doubtful whether Rimsky-Korsakov [his teacher} would ever have accepted Le Sacre, or even Petroushka. Is it any wonder, then, that the hypercritics of today should be dumfounded by a language in which all the characteristics of their aesthetic seem to be violated? What, however, is less justifiable is that they nearly always blame the author for what is in fact due to their own lack of comprehension, a lack made all the more conspicuous because in their inability to state their grievance clearly they cautiously try to conceal their incompetence in the looseness and vagueness of their phraseology.”

Stravinsky, Igor (2011-05-24). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 2190-2195). . Kindle Edition.

And when Stravinsky refers to “the hypercritics of today” remember this book was published in 1936.

THE BOOK IS IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN and is free to read on a Kindle.

From “An Autobiography” by Igor Stravinsky (1936)

“For me, as a creative musician, composition is a daily function that I feel compelled to discharge. I compose because I am made for that and cannot do otherwise. Just as any organ atrophies unless kept in a state of constant activity, so the faculty of composition becomes enfeebled and dulled unless kept up by effort and practice. The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work. Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning. But it is not simply inspiration that counts; it is the result of inspiration—that is, the composition.”

Stravinsky, Igor (2011-05-24). An Autobiography (Kindle Locations 2169-2175). . Kindle Edition.