Jazz legend Bob James in concert, with a little help from Sibelius

Corrections being made live backstage while the orchestra rehearses

Bob James is a jazz pianist, composer and arranger whose career has spanned five decades. Having been discovered by Quincy Jones in 1963, he has recorded 37 solo albums to date and played on countless more by other artists. Perhaps best known for Angela, the theme tune to 1970s US sitcom Taxi, an example of the smooth jazz style he played a major role in establishing, he has also indirectly played a major role in the history of hip hop, with several of his tracks (notably Nautilus and Take Me to Mardi Gras, which have together appeared on more than 70 different hip hop tracks).

Now in his early 70s, Bob James still performs regularly, and one such concert took place two weeks ago at the Fox Riverside Performing Arts Center in Riverside, CA, where he performed with the Corona Symphony Pops Orchestra. Sibelius, in the capable hands of Jenny Amaya, played a small role in ensuring the concert went off without a hitch. Read on for more details.

Jenny Amaya is an experienced Sibelius user and clinician, and is responsible for Lynda.com’s new Essential Sibelius 6 Training, and she got a call from the Corona Symphony Pop Orchestra’s director, Walt Straiton, just one week before the concert. Many of the charts for the concert were in bad shape: could Jenny help?

“These were old hand-written charts and parts,” Jenny says, “and they were quite a mess, after being used for so many years, in so many different capacities. We had to make the charts work for the orchestra, we had to correct or change many of the forms, create endings on pieces that originally faded out on the albums, and more besides. It turned into a lot of copy work, a bit of horn arranging, and working directly with Walt, Bob, and the orchestra, backstage at rehearsals.”

It was an intense week, and Jenny was more than once grateful for the speed with which Sibelius allows you to make big changes. “At 5pm the night of the concert (the concert was at 8pm), we discovered a few big mistakes in one of the pieces, and we literally had less than one hour to figure it out. It involved an incorrect key signature on the original manuscript, an ending that was added and transposed to match the incorrect key signature, and a form issue on the ending that just wasn’t working. So, one hour before the end of the last rehearsal, and just three hours before the downbeat of the concert, I was backstage on Sibelius, hooked up to a printer, fixing the issues. I had Bob James standing behind me, directing me how to fix the ending/form, and what notes to put in what parts for the new ending. And then I printed a new score and all of the parts. It literally happened in a matter of minutes. It was absolutely incredible.”

Conductor Walt Straiton is full of praise for Jenny’s work. “Jenny’s gifts were vital to the success of this venture. Indeed, we were working with original manuscripts and studio scores, long since retired to personal archives, that were almost 40 years old! Board fade endings work real well in the studio, but not necessarily live, and there was a lot of Peyton Manning-ish ‘audible calling’ as we worked together with the orchestra. Jenny’s skill with Sibelius, coupled with both her unique musical insights, allowed for efficiencies of workflow that were absolutely essential for what was the ultimate resounding success of this project!”

Needless to say, the concert was a great success, and Jenny hopes to stay involved with the orchestra as they plan to resurrect more of Bob James’s incredible arrangements.

I leave the last word to Jenny, who sums up the experience of working on the concert, and how Sibelius helped her get the job done on time:

“I never could have gotten through this in the amount of time I had, without all of the great features in the program, specifically dynamic parts and house styles… I really don’t think it would have been possible without them! And I had so many compliments on my scores and parts –- even the orchestra members were remarking about how great everything looked.”

Thanks for sharing the story, Jenny! Check out her Essential Sibelius 6 online training course at Lynda.com, and find out more about Bob James at his web site.


  1. John D

    Love Bob James !

    Looking forward to seeing it

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