Anatomy of a Horn Arrangement [Part 1]

Phil Johari - Slow Burn (Part 1)

In the autumn of 2019, I became involved in the debut album project of Lancashire-based guitarist Phil Johari. Phil is a versatile writer and player and takes real care over his creative process and when I was drafted in as an arranger, he oversaw every bar of music I wrote for the two tracks I worked on.

The album was released just before the UK’s lockdown and so the promotional shows and radio appearances had to be postponed.

The track “Run” is a B minor blues with an interesting turnaround that I’ll discuss later. It features a fantastic solo from Snarky Puppy’s Mark Lettieri and a tastefully supportive organ part from Christian Madden.

Phil didn’t want any horns for the first half of the song which I liked from an arrangement perspective - it meant that their entry would have more impact when it arrived. They first appear under the second half of Lettieri’s solo playing a very quiet, James Brown-esque figure on the backbeat. They’re mixed quite low to stay out of the way of the featured guitarist.

The turnaround features some nice chord substitution courtesy of bass player Jonathan Towers. His root note choice implies F#m, D9, E7 & C7. The last chord functions as a tritone substitution to take us back into the Bm7 groove.

Because the rhythm parts (drums, bass & guide guitar) had been tracked already, I could use Mike Partridge’s drums fills to inspire horn lines such as that found going into the final refrain. I doubled the drum fill rhythmically with a pentatonic line for the horns. I sometimes use this cheeky technique to make the arrangement sound more cohesive and rehearsed. Beware though - over using this idea can upset drummers who want to keep their fills sounding live and spontaneous.

There’s some more backbeat action (harking back to the solo accompaniment and a stab played by the drums) before a funky, swung semiquaver line takes the track out. I tried to write a line that was 90s era Quincy inspired.

I hope this was interesting to some of you. If you are in a position to do so, please consider purchasing the album and supporting independent creators during these difficult times.

You can buy the album digitally or on CD here.

Stay safe!

Greg

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