The ACTO project is based on the 39+ years Ted
Unseth has pursued one specific goal:
Note-for-note transcriptions of classic Americana/Jazz Orchestra
recordings performed Live! and in concert.
Titled the ACJO (Americana Classic Jazz Orchestra; formerly the Wolverines CJO), it began in 1973
with a group of inexperienced but highly motivated young players attempting to re-create the performances as close to
the originals as possible. We didn't have the exact instrumentation, but we had (most) all of the notes.
There have been many changes over the years, but the Philosophy
has remained constant throughout: note-for-note accuracy, including (most importantly) the Original Solos.
In the beginning, this 'classical approach' was frowned
upon by certain Jazz critics ("it ain't Jazz if it ain't improvised."). But we've proven the efficacy of the project
many times over (see: http://tedeboy.tripod.com/acjo). We eventually became accurate in every regard, including all original instrumentation. Times changed,
however (players emigrated, etc.) and allowance was made for Bass rather than Tuba and Guitar rather than Banjo (the band
was now a Jobbing band), but with all original notes intact.
Transcribing can mean two different things:
01. recording something in a different medium (scoring a
recording); but also
02. Adapting the original to different instrumentation.
The great J.S. Bach had no objection to transcribing his
works to different instruments, even in different keys; because the genius of the composing is not lost, just transmogrified.
After 38 years pursuing success with the ACJO, it has become
obvious that there simply aren't many (any, at this point) paying jobs for this unwieldy (12-14 players) and esoteric (rare
selections, no 'standards') group--the quality is high; saleability low (as 1920's Jazzman Mezz Mezzrow would say: "lower
than whale poop and that's at the bottom of the sea").
So, my attention has turned, for the first time, to
and adapting some of my Classic Transcriptions for
a Classical Orchestra.
Thus, in a matter of a few months, I have compiled a group
of these Transcriptions. And the results via my computerized Virtual Orchestra tell me this is absolutely viable and
an exciting addition to Classical Orchestra performances.
My premise for this working well is:
I assume Classical Players rarely make mistakes, at least
not glaring ones.
Do I assume too much? I'd like to be proven right
by Classical Players taking up the considerable challenges (esp. the note-for-note Solos: doable, but requires extra
With the ACJO, much was 'hit and miss', esp. re: solos.
Most were not played exactly as written (modified, improvised), which may have been fine in some instances (especially if
the player was a real artist at improvisation), but not my druthers.
After scoring AJCO material and hearing it back, I
am hearing the original solos exactly as written; sometimes for the first time ever and I'm well pleased.
I have one Classical Orchestra interested already (the Minnesota
Sinfonia) and am posting this website to alert all Classical Orchestras:
I am available as a Special Guest:
Orchestrator and Narrator
presenting this special
Details need to be worked out but, essentially, I bring
my suitcase full of scores and parts, we rehearse (parts may be available for study prior to rehearsals, also) and we present a
fascinating panoply of Great American Music that has been all but forgotten (one press reviewer described me as a person
who finds gems rummaging through America's Musical Wastebaskets--I'll accept that). I suggest a 30-minute (perhaps
longer) Presentation inserted into a concert program schedule: "a unique perspective on popular music of the 1920's-1930's--The
Can a Harry Carney (legendary Duke Ellington bandmember) Baritone
Sax Solo be rendered effectively by a Bassoon? Check out the MP3 below for:
"Stevedore Stomp" 1929
Duke Ellington Orchestra
Ted Unseth, Transcriber/Orchestrator