Anatomy of a Horn Arrangement [Part 3]

Scott Whitley - Trust In Me





When Scott messaged me to ask my opinion about putting live horns on one of his old demos, I jumped at the chance. He’s been a friend and mentor to me for the last 15 years and he gave me my first ‘pro’ gigs when I was just a kid. Frankly, it was an honour to be asked.

He was working as the bassist in Big Country at the time and was keen to release something of his own; to establish his own identity and this old funk/rock demo was his start point.

The opening riff was already on the demo and was clearly one of the hooks of the song. It’s a pentatonic/blues scale line that (despite being played on a piccolo bass) is quite ‘guitar-y’. The first note isn’t a C natural or a C# - it’s somewhere in between. Knowing I was recommending good players for the session, I was confident that they would hear what was going on and match it despite the notation falling short of providing the nuanced detail required. A doit symbol seemed to do the trick!



The stabs into the chorus had no harmonic information on the demo as only the bass, drums and vocals had been present. The bass played E notes here and so this gave me room to write an altered V chord into the arrangement to take us back into A minor. It’s an E7#9 and adds drama to the moment.




Knowing that the drums were yet to be finalised, I took the liberty of putting some syncopated horn interjections in the second verse - a D9 to Am7 voicing. I just knew that Scott would get the drums to double these stabs when the final drums were laid down.



Coming out of the solo section, I wanted an even crunchier chord and once again, had the harmonic space to do it thanks to being involved in the process very early - a rare opportunity but it means that some musical moments can be totally transformed. I knew from the bass part that Scott wanted some kind of E7 chord there but I got to choose the actual voicing. The chord is E7#9#5 - jazz man!




The third verse has a very strange harmonic idea that I was certain would be left on the cutting room floor but Scott loved it. It’s an E minor pentatonic lick in three part harmony, harmonised downwards with the lead (top) note doubled an octave below. The inner notes that make up the chords are all taken from notes found in an altered E scale so #9s and b13ths are represented here and there. The last two chords (now over the A minor groove) have an Am11 vibe.



The outro groove features the horns at the front with the bari sax (superbly played by Liz Nightingale) breaking away to play some funky solo lines. It’s an instant TOP feel that was thankfully picked up by several keen-eared listeners. The remaining horns play around the Am7-D7 groove. Once the outro solo starts, I decided to leave the answering unison phrase out to create some room.



This is one of the few arranging gigs I’ve had that fully represents my entire vision for the track. Nothing was left out in the mixdown and Scott used everything, trusting my judgement as the arranger. It was brought to life by Adam Bidgood (trumpet), Joe Martin (trumpet), Paddy Higginson (tenor sax) and Liz Nightingale (baritone sax) who all did a fantastic job of recording these parts at home during the 2020 UK lockdown.


If you want to support Scott, buy the CD copy of his EP HERE.


Hope you found this interesting. If so, please let me know!

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