A Brief History

A standard 17-piece instrumentation evolved in the big bands, for which many commercial arrangements are available. This instrumentation consists of five saxophones (most often two altos, two tenors, and one baritone), four trumpets, four trombones (often including one bass trombone) and a four-piece rhythm section (composed of drums, acoustic bass or electric bass, piano and guitar). However, variants to this instrumentation are common.


Composers, arrangers, and bandleaders have used sections with more or fewer players, and additional instruments, such as valve trombone, baritone horn/euphonium (both of which are usually used in place of or with trombones), vibes, bass clarinet, French horn, tuba, banjo, accordion and strings (violin, viola, cello).


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Male and female vocalists have also joined big bands to perform particular arrangements. In recent years synthesizers and / or electronic keyboards have been added, often replacing the piano. Some arrangements call for saxophone players to double on other woodwind instruments, such as flute, clarinet, soprano sax, or bass clarinet.


Trumpet and trombone players are sometimes called upon to use various sound-changing mutes, and trumpet players sometimes need to play flugelhorn. In some rhythm sections, a guitar player is omitted. Players in the rhythm section may be called upon to play acoustic or electric instruments. Latin or other auxiliary percussion instruments may be added, such as cowbells, congas, tambourines, or triangles



ambassadors name image

  • The 5 piece Saxophone section
  • The Rythm Section
  • The trumpet section
  • The trombone section

Distinctive sound of the Big Band

The distinctive sound from a Big Band comes from the individual instrument sections. Each section has 4 or 5 members. The musical arrangement is key to a bands distinctive sound. For example the Saxophone section has has altos, tenors and a baritone saxophone, each one playing different notes that form part of the overall sound.

 It is the unique arrangement that gives the full warm sound that only a Big Band can create.


Sample Tracks

These can be played via the embedded player below or via links on right.

Autumn Leaves - Kosma ArrCollins


"Autumn Leaves" is a much-recorded popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves") with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, and the Hungarian title is "Hulló levelek" (Falling Leaves). Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced "Les feuilles mortes" in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la nuit.

Performance copyright 2014 The Ambassadors Big Band


American Patrol


"American Patrol" is a popular march written by Frank White (F.W.) Meacham in 1885. It incorporates both original musical themes by Meacham and melodies from American patriotic songs of the era such as "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean" and "Dixie." Composed for piano, it was then arranged for wind band and published by Carl Fischer in 1891. Copyright was assigned to Meacham's widow, Cora, in 1912 and renewed in 1919.
Jerry Gray arranged a swing version of the march for Glenn Miller's orchestra in 1941, and Morton Gould later composed his own unusual and often dissonant "American Patrol for 3 Bands.
" The "patrol" format was popular in the second half of the 19th century, and other compositions bear titles such as "Turkish Patrol," "Ethiopian Patrol," "Owl's Patrol," "Welsh Patrol" and "Arab Patrol." The format was intended to represent a military band approaching, passing, and fading into the distance. It typically included an introduction played p or pp, in imitation of bugle calls or drums, then themes played progressively louder until a recapitulation of the first theme(s), gradually dying away and finishing pp, ppp, or even pppp. The original piano version of "American Patrol" follows this scheme.

Performance copyright 2014 The Ambassadors Big Band

Basie Straight Ahead


This album was first recorded at TTG Studios, Hollywood, California in October 1968 featuring Count Basie and his orchestra. The tunes were all composed, arranged and conducted by Sammy Nestico. The engineers were Ami Hadani and Thorne Nogar, and the producers were Tom Mack and Teddy Reig. The disc was issued in 1968 on Dot label and on English EMI.

Performance copyright 2014 The Ambassadors Big Band



"Splanky" was composed by jazz great Neal Hefti for the legendary Count Basie band. .Neal Hefti (October 29, 1922 – October 11, 2008) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, songwriter, and arranger. He composed the theme music for the Batman television series of the 1960s, and scored the 1968 film The Odd Couple and the subsequent TV series also titled The Odd Couple. He began arranging professionally in his teens, when he wrote charts for Nat Towles. He became a prominent composer and arranger while playing trumpet for Woody Herman; while working for Herman he provided new arrangements for "Woodchopper's Ball" and "Blowin' Up a Storm," and composed "The Good Earth" and "Wild Root." After leaving Herman's band in 1946, Hefti concentrated on arranging and composing, although he occasionally led his own bands. He is especially known for his charts for Count Basie such as "Li'l Darlin'" and "Cute".

Performance copyright 2014 The Ambassadors Big Band



The band has recently cut a demonstration CD of some of the more popular tracks.

It will be my great pleasure to share them right here on this page

Bryan Johnson band leader


Links to Tracks