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Tower of Power horn section is well known for creating parts on the fly, in expensive high-dollar recording sessions. Just sayin'...

To the OP - this kind of thing, especially on the songs you mentioned, is really just a matter of riffing and harmonizing. I used to go to jam sessions where multiple horn players (more than 4) would on the spot make up all kinds of backup riffs, even on complicated bebop tunes. If some of the players have experience with the band, there may already be arrangements worked out, or at least a "library" of riffs, so keep your ears open and have fun, and most importantly... don't worry about it :)
 

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For me, it depends on the songlist. R&B standards/blues/discos I think most working horn pro's can easily fake or at least create something that works well, as long as the bandleader isn't expecting "precision". For example, take any four horn players and say "play September". Sit back and watch the differences.

Modern pop/rock songlist? Less is more. Choose your locations, designate a horn leader and DON'T NOODLE. Great for ear training and can be a blast with the right group of people, but this can also be very frustrating/amateur if you've got a rogue player who'd rather he/she be the only horn player.
 

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Tower of Power horn section is well known for creating parts on the fly, in expensive high-dollar recording sessions. Just sayin'...
Well.....there it is. If all 4 horn players are TOP caliber, then no biggie......
It's also no biggie for many pro (or semi pro or amatueur) players, no need to be TOP caliber.

I'd say making it up on the fly is often standard for any horn section. I'm certainly not TOP caliber, but back in the day (not that long ago) when I was a young nipper, some sessions required being able to read an arrangement, and some required making it up on the spot.

In fact one of the top horn sections in London who were getting a lot of work at the time could barely read at all. Obviously they didn't do the big film sessions.

I found that often it was expected of any horn section to be able to come up with an arrangement on the spot in the studio. A horn section was sometimes as one instrument. Just as they might expect a guitarist to listen to the song and add a guitar part, it would be common for a horn player or section to turn up on a session and the only direction from the producer was "we want some horns on this one."

No biggie...

Ironically another part of that job (after the session) might be transcribing the arrangement so that the artist could then get go on TV and have the studio house band read what you had made up on the fly.
 

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A thing to keep in mind about sheet music, is that if you get into the habit of relying upon it, you'll find memorizing tunes much harder than if you picked them up by ear. Of course I recognize countless situations where sheet music is required, but there are also countless situations where it isn't. The more you have to rely upon sheet music as a player, the less opportunities you'll find to play.
 

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Modern pop/rock songlist? Less is more. Choose your locations, designate a horn leader and DON'T NOODLE. Great for ear training and can be a blast with the right group of people, but this can also be very frustrating/amateur if you've got a rogue player who'd rather he/she be the only horn player.
Very good advice here. I play solo horn with a funk band and had three other horn players from another group I'm in join us on stage for a couple songs for a show. It wasn't anything too difficult and I told them to watch me. Play parts only when I was playing them. Only had to corral one of them.
 

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For some people it’s right in their wheelhouse to come up with good lines on the fly in live (and studio) situations...because it’s something we do all the time. For others not so much. Just a different skill set; we all find comfort and thrive in different areas. The OP has to understand this and decide if they’re the kind of player who can make that scenario work, and that it’s harder with multiple horns, especially four and all saxes.

Since little information was given about the actual gig (all I saw was four horns, no charts, one rehearsal, rock/ pop/ soul/ funk), it has to be taken on the assumption that the band leader isn’t expecting neatly stacked harmonies and intricate multi-part arrangements, or they’d have provided charts. Hopefully more details and directions will come out of the rehearsal. If not, something you can do is play a lot of follow the leader and call/ response lines where one person establishes a line over a section and when it repeats the others join in, hopefully someone can stack a harmony or two. The bari player can always fatten the sound by doubling or adding a counter line to the bass in addition to joining the section (Doc from ToP is great at this).

All kinds of fun things you can do, but if you’re not a good ear player, active listener, and can’t figure out lines quickly without a lot of noodles: it’s going to be hard...particularly if this isn’t a style of music you’ve played a lot of, which sounds like the case from your original post. Hopefully at the rehearsal a call/ set list will be established. Make a playlist and internalize the tunes. Divide and conquer: have different players (one alto and one tenor) take charge and be the section leader.

Don’t forget to have fun.
 

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It's also no biggie for many pro (or semi pro or amatueur) players, no need to be TOP caliber.

I'd say making it up on the fly is often standard for any horn section. I'm certainly not TOP caliber, but back in the day (not that long ago) when I was a young nipper, some sessions required being able to read an arrangement, and some required making it up on the spot.

In fact one of the top horn sections in London who were getting a lot of work at the time could barely read at all. Obviously they didn't do the big film sessions.
As Steve comments also, it’s about having a vocabulary that meets the moment. If you’ve never done this kind of gig, you’re less likely to be prepared for it - not good to learn a library of riffs on your first gig with a handful of other players that you’ve not worked with.
 
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Great discussion. As Pete and others have said, players of a reasonable skill level will know the horn lines to standard R&B/Soul/Funk tunes and be able to play them in most keys, they're usually based on basic blues scales and easy to pick out. In other cases they'll be able to listen to each other, hear when someone has a good riff and duplicate it on the spot. If there are parts of a tune you can't get, have the sense to lay out for those portions. If you can't manage most of the tunes you probably shouldn't take the gig. If most of the players are not at that level you've got a jam session, and that's what it will sound like.

Question to the OP: you state that you're the singer, and that there are already enough horns, why do you need to play sax? No offense, but you sound like you're not well versed enough in this kind of playing to go without a chart, and scrambling around like this before a gig doesn't bode well.
 

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For a suicide mission.
There does seems to be a lot of negativity around this whole topic.

It would only be a suicide mission if someone accepts the gig not realising what is involved, and expecting written arrangements when there are none. But that isn't the case here - we know it is a gig that involves rock and soul standards but without written arrangemnts. A very common situation and anyone working frequently in those genres would know - or at least be able to ear very quickly. If you don't normally play those types and gigs and are not comfortable without charts for those tunes, then the best advice really is to not do the gig.

I do get it and understand a lot of people do rely on sheet music. But there are also lot of gigs out there where it is expected you don't read arrangements, and it is not appropriate to expect them. A lot of these gigs are in pubs or bars with small stages, you don't want to be futzing with music stands.

Someone earlier mentioned that you can't do sophisticated harmonies on the spot. That may well be true (and when appropraite I love sophisticated harmonies), but how sophisticated do you want Sea Cruise to be? If I look back on gigs I've done, I wouldn't mind betting the majority did not involve reading.

So the way I see it:

  • Is it possible to do this kind of gig without charts? - Yes it is.
  • Is it advisable if you (think) you aren't (yet) up to it? No it isn't.

If most of the players are not at that level you've got a jam session, and that's what it will sound like.
And very often, the looseness and spontaneity of a jam session can be enjoyed by audiences, but it's all down to context. In fact learning the skills (or the sheer audacity) to take on these gigs is often learned at jam sessions where you can sit in or sit out.
 

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It's also no biggie for many pro (or semi pro or amatueur) players, no need to be TOP caliber.

I'd say making it up on the fly is often standard for any horn section. I'm certainly not TOP caliber, but back in the day (not that long ago) when I was a young nipper, some sessions required being able to read an arrangement, and some required making it up on the spot.

In fact one of the top horn sections in London who were getting a lot of work at the time could barely read at all. Obviously they didn't do the big film sessions.

I found that often it was expected of any horn section to be able to come up with an arrangement on the spot in the studio. A horn section was sometimes as one instrument. Just as they might expect a guitarist to listen to the song and add a guitar part, it would be common for a horn player or section to turn up on a session and the only direction from the producer was "we want some horns on this one."

No biggie...

Ironically another part of that job (after the session) might be transcribing the arrangement so that the artist could then get go on TV and have the studio house band read what you had made up on the fly.
I've been there too. Coming up with parts in the studio, especially for a full section, is a whole different animal, as I'm sure you'll agree. If you try a pass at something, only to find it doesn't work so great, there's that magic rewind (or undo) button and you have another go. You also get to discuss what you're going to do while the tune is NOT playing back. On the gig, in the heat of the moment, probably on a stage loud enough to preclude a lot of discussion (which you really can't have anyway, if we're taking stage presence into account) it's a whole other deal.....
 

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Working for years in a band with great horn charts, it's a drag when I gig with a band with terrible or no charts. It's just so much better musically when a bandleader is respectful enough for the music to take care of this.
A lot depends on who you are and what you prefer. I'm in the opposite camp; I think it's a drag to use charts. Some years back I played a relatively brief stint in a band with 4 horns (2 trumpets, 2 saxes) covering a bunch of TOP tunes and the like and we used charts. With the wide variety of tunes/genres, I think we needed the charts, but I didn't enjoy using them. Eventually I learned most of the lines and didn't really need the charts, but there they were on the music stands in front of us. It was a huge relief when I joined a blues band without using charts, playing either 'signature' lines or riffs made up on the spot.

The type of tunes the OP mentioned shouldn't be a problem to play without charts, but obviously the horn players would have to be familiar with the tunes to some extent. If I was in the OP's situation, I'd simply attend the rehearsal and then decide if the gig is doable.
 

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Great thread.
Take the gig.
If you don’t know what to play - play nothing. You don’t get paid by the note and there’s three other players.
Someone probably knows the tunes.
Make sure what you play sounds good with whoever the strongest player is.
it’ll all be over in a couple of hours and you’re bound to learn something and have some fun.
…and it’s one more gig s worth of experience points
 

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I still believe playing written/memorized parts in a tight band is musically very satisfying.
A lot depends on who you are and what you prefer. I'm in the opposite camp; I think it's a drag to use charts. Some years back I played a relatively brief stint in a band with 4 horns (2 trumpets, 2 saxes) covering a bunch of TOP tunes and the like and we used charts. With the wide variety of tunes/genres, I think we needed the charts, but I didn't enjoy using them. Eventually I learned most of the lines and didn't really need the charts, but there they were on the music stands in front of us. It was a huge relief when I joined a blues band without using charts, playing either 'signature' lines or riffs made up on the spot.

The type of tunes the OP mentioned shouldn't be a problem to play without charts, but obviously the horn players would have to be familiar with the tunes to some extent. If I was in the OP's situation, I'd simply attend the rehearsal and then decide if the gig is doable.
We memorize all the charts.
 

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I still believe playing written/memorized parts in a tight band is musically very satisfying.

We memorize all the charts.
Of course it’s satisfying. Certainly glad we’re not all satisfied by the same thing and that we each have it within us to be satisfied by, or at least appreciate, all the things if we have open minds.
 

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I still believe playing written/memorized parts in a tight band is musically very satisfying.
Me too. It's also very satisfying as an arranger to hear your written work performed and brought to life by great musicians.

But just as that is very satisfying, so is the spontaneity of a section coming up with a head arrangement or inventing riffs on the fly.
 

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I still believe playing written/memorized parts in a tight band is musically very satisfying.
I agree with that and I don't think anything I wrote says otherwise. You mentioned memorizing the charts; in that case you no longer needed them. It's totally doable to have a very tight band without ever looking at a chart if everyone learns and memorizes the head arrangements and lines used. And as Pete says, by listening/communicating with each other, riffs can be composed on the spot. That does take cooperation of course and it's not always possible to pull it off in a jam session with other horn players unless they can take cues and join in. But in a band that plays together on a regular basis it shouldn't be a problem at all.

Obviously for the most part a big band with highly arranged parts will be using charts, but that's a different situation than what we're discussing here, I think. Then again, Count Basie's band was famous for composing riffs on the spot and they were certainly one of the tightest bands in history. Many of those 'riffs' became standards of a sort and are still used today ("One O'clock Jump", etc.).

p.s. I've occasionally used some famous riffs from the great band Pete Thomas played in: Fats Domino.
 

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I've occasionally used some famous riffs from the great band Pete Thomas played in: Fats Domino.
This was a 6 piece horn section with absolutely zero charts no rehearsing

(At that time it was 1 x trumpet, 1 x tpt/tenor 3 x tenors 1 x baritone)
 
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