The often underestimated art form of arranging and presenting is very important to Ed Partyka: “‘The art of arranging’ is a subject very close to my heart. I compose music, but I see myself primarily as an arranger. Arranging is the part of writing music that I enjoy the most and find the most interesting, whereas composing has always been extremely tedious, hard work for me. When I write new music, I often get through the composing part only by thinking of the reward I’ll get when I can finally arrange that new music for jazz orchestra.”

In music diction, “arranging” means the design and presentation of a composition. The arranger decides on the orchestration, instrumentation, soloists, harmony, rhythm, groove, meter, tempo, form, and dramatic arc of the arrangement. In principle, the arranger can change any element of a composition – except the melody. If an arranger changes the melody significantly (to the point that the original is no longer recognizable), an arrangement becomes a new composition.

The extent to which an arranger changes a composition and adds musical elements can vary greatly. If little is changed from the original composition, an arrangement is more like a cover version, with the arranger working as a skilled technician (craftsman). However, when an arrangement moves further away from the original, with greater changes and more original material, arranging becomes a creative art form. This is also why copyright societies keep a separate category for “arranger.”

Some of the great creative arrangers who have influenced Ed Partyka include Duke Ellington, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim McNeely, George Russell, Carla Bley and Gil Evans.

For more insight, check out our podcast Zurich Jazz Talks Episode #20 – Ed Partyka: The Art of Arranging.