Visit any metropolitan area and you are sure to find at least one rehearsal band – a group of jazz musicians that get together on a regular basis to play big-band arrangements of popular jazz tunes. Some places like New York City boast dozens of such groups. Usually, one individual, someone who has accumulated some music, often copied from another band’s book or transcribed from a commercial recording, organizes a rehearsal band. Occasionally the organizer is a composer/arranger whose sole desire is to play the music that they themselves write.
For players who are also writers, joining a typical rehearsal band can be a frustrating experience. Most bands play what the leader wants while the other players are apt to prefer their old favorites. Player/writers who bring new music to a rehearsal are often given a chilly reception. The leader may agree to read through a new work, but will rarely spend rehearsal time trying to polish the performance.
So it was that in October 2005 three frustrated player-writers from the New York metro area, Larry Puentes, Richard Reiter, and Mike Treni, got together to discuss the formation of a new kind of rehearsal band, one created specifically to meet the needs of player/writers. Appropriately the group was named “Jazz Composers’ Workshop Orchestra.”