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  • Score Analysis: "Settle"

    Settle is on the Paul Dietrich Quintet's new album, Focus, which will be released on May 19, 2017. You can hear this track at, where you can also pre-order the album!

    Settle PDF

    "Settle" was one of the first tunes that was written for the new album, but it didn't exist in this form originally. It existed first as a big band chart that I wrote about three years ago.

    Now, I need to talk for a minute about big band writing vs. small group writing. I'm typically actually against using the same tunes for big band and small group. One of the things that bugs me the most is lazy big band arrangements of small group tunes in which the arranger simply takes a small group tune, orchestrates the melody for three horns, adds some hits at the end of every phrase, maybe a 32-bar ensemble section, and calls it a day. Seriously - it drives me nuts. There is so much at your disposal when writing for large ensemble, to use it as a glorified combo insults me. So, a long time ago, I determined that I would avoid doing that; when I write for small group I write for small group, and when I write for big band, I write for big band. 

    (A side note, here, so people don't get mad: I'm not saying that there aren't worthwhile arrangements of small group tunes for big band. Many of them are very creatively done, and I'm sure any of you reading this could come up with a thousand examples to throw in my face. I mostly only mean this in reference to my own original tunes.)

    So, I wrote settle in 2014 for big band. And I liked it! (You can see the score for the big band version over on my scores page.) The solo on that chart is in Alto Sax, but I had the opportunity to play it once as a guest soloist and had such a good time doing it that I wanted to do it more often. So, I went about adapting the piece for small group. IN MY OPINION, this is a much better direction to work in this regard, from big band to small group. Instead of trying to make something small sound big, you are making something big sound smaller, and the result is much more satisfying.

    Anyway, to the music. I gave Dustin a bit more of the lead in this tune; the original melody is carried by alto sax. I actually really like the result - this melody is in a higher range on tenor than it is on alto, and that higher, delicate tenor sound really worked. It's also a nice break from the fact that trumpet carries the melody throughout most of album.

    The place where "Settle" started was the four-chord progression that takes place first at m. 13. You'll notice that the beginning of the tune (which is a sort of odd 12+6 measure form) is built off of that four-chord progression, but instead of resolving to the G minor chord, pivots to Db major.

    (A quick, nerdy aside: I knew that I had heard the original D - Gmi/Bb - C - Gmi progression somewhere, but for months, I couldn't remember where. Honestly, I thought that it had come from some random atmospheric music from the video game Skyrim, but eventually I did discover that the place I must have gotten it from was a spot from an Arve Henriksen song - 1:09 in this link, which is not quite the same progression but is very similar.)

    From there, we stay in Db for a bit, with a superimposed 3/4 over 4/4 (I've considered, many times, actually changing this to 4 bars of 3/4 instead of 3 of 4/4, and I still might in the big band version), before pivoting again to move back to the D major we started in (that comes back in m. 13). 

    The A/C# and Amaj7 chords in m. 10-11 and, more specifically, 32-33 were one of the bigger struggles I had with the transition from big band to small group. You can see why when you look at the big band score - there's a lot going on right there:

    I decided to cut back on most of the busier stuff happening in the head, which was, definitely, the right decision. It gives it a little bit of a different mood than the big band chart, but there's nothing happening that seemed forced in their from the big band version. The two part counterpoint thing, at 19, also worked really well in the smaller group.

    The solo section is actually more or less the same, minus, obviously, most of the backgrounds, with a simple saxophone background in the small group version. How the section comes to a close is quite a bit different, though. In the big band version, the solo keeps building and the band builds steadily louder, before hitting the loudest point in the piece, at measure 68-69. The small group version follows the same path, but as you can hear on the recording, doesn't exactly build to quite the same frenzy, which is totally understandable from an orchestrational standpoint.

    The final major difference here is the end A-major section. The general feel remains the same; the idea is for it to be a big wash of A major. I always imagined it like a feather bed, which the piece just kind of falls into. The big band version has a bunch of repeated, out of rhythm notes, followed by a thickly-harmonized line that all the saxes and trumpets play together:

    (That's trumpets 1 and 2, a half step apart on the first note.)

    The small group version obviously didn't have the whole group to deal with, and since I trust the members of the band to understand what I meant, I just gave general instructions to everyone:

    All in all, I'm really pleased with how BOTH versions turned out, and how they are similar and different. The small group version is undoubtedly more chill, and that manifests itself in tempo - the small group version on the record is quite a bit slower than we usually play the big band version. The big version, while still pretty low-key, definitely gets pretty amped up for a minute, so the vibe is a bit different.

    "Settle" is one of my favorite tunes off the new record - I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know if you have any further questions.