Anatomy of a Horn Arrangement [Part 2]
Phil Johari - Slow Burn (Part 2)
The first track I wrote horns for on this album was 'What You Talkin' 'Bout''. It proved to be the most collaborative arrangement I've ever done in fact. The original brief from Phil was "plenty of hooks and a big Paul Simon/Graceland vibe". You can hear the Graceland influence in the rhythm section quite clearly so the first port of call was to double the intro lick (beautifully played by Jonathan Towers) in unison with the horns. It's a really hard line to get your fingers around for lead trumpet but Matt Clare did a fab job on the final version.
When the original backing track came into my inbox, there was a lot of space that Phil wanted filling with horns. I sent him some ideas and he liked them all; resulting in them all being used in different places.
It was important that the horns stayed out of the way during the chorus. They mostly double the bassline with some crescendo chords thrown in for good measure. Writing supportive parts for horns can be tricky - especially if you want the players to enjoy blowing them. If I am writing chords or pads, I always try to sneak some dynamic markings in to add a little something.
Phil was insistent that he wanted the horns to double the guitar part after the first chorus and I had the idea to use a sextuplet chromatic run into the intro lick. This is a trick I learned from transcribing Jerry Hey (an absolute master of horn arranging).
Phil also wanted a horn feature so I wrote him a soli section that was eventually halved because he also wanted a sax solo. Not wanting to give either idea up, Phil simply had both! There's heavy use of the major pentatonic and major scale used throughout this arrangement. Normally I'd let the harmony inform the scale choice but for that quasi-African vibe, I thought it best to stick to a scale that is used extensively in soukous and Congo music.
To take the track home, the horns play a highly syncopated figure around the main groove. It breaks into punchy harmony in some spots with the top voices in fourths. It is supposed continue where the soli passage left off.
I hope you've found these blog pieces on Phil's album interesting. I plan to do more of these if there's a demand for it.
Please consider buying the album HERE - the physical format is so much better in my book.
Anyway, stay safe!