Tim Davies Big Band
About the Band
Grammy-nominated composer, arranger and band leader Tim Davies first dreamt of leading his own big band when he was twelve, inspired by a cassette of Australia’s Daly-Wilson Big Band – a dream realized in 1998 when he formed his first band in Melbourne, Australia. Its run was cut short by Tim’s move to the US, but it made quite an impact in the time it had. Since 2000, Davies has based his big band in Los Angeles, featuring top session and touring players. The band’s first record, Epic, was released in 2002 and its second album, Dialmentia, came out in May 2009 and the third album The Expensive Train Set was released in 2016. It features both his American and Australian bands and the grand finale is a work featuring them both. Leading the band from the drums, Davies creates arrangements grounded in the traditional, while adding elements of classical, rock, metal, and hip hop to create a sound that is truly unique. Davies’ big band music is now played all over the world and he is often commissioned to write new works. In 2010 Davies’ piece “Counting to Infinity” was recognized with a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Composition. he was nominated again for “The Expensive Train Set, an Epic Sarahnade”.
About The Expensive Train Set
While I have recorded my previous two albums in Los Angeles, the last time I recorded anything with my Melbourne band was my farewell concert in 1998. I had a crazy idea to record this new album with both bands and write a new work that featured both at the same time. So the two bands are featured alone on four tracks each, and together on one.
I actually started working on this album at the end of 2012, but is has taken me quite a while to finish! I do have a good reason though. I have been so busy with my day job orchestrating, arranging and conducting that I just did not have time. Steve Kaplan, who has recorded, mixed, and co-produced all my albums, has also been really busy with his day job recording and mixing scores. But here it is!
Some years ago someone mentioned that having a big band is like having a train set. I did not get it right away, but it turns out there are a lot of parallels. Both involve many hours of work and preparation, and you never really finish. Both are also quite niche things. But the main thing they have in common is that they both cost you a lot of money and will never make you any!
Conceivilization (Los Angeles)
On my last album, Dialmentia, I had a four-movement trilogy based on my recurring nightmares. For this album I was searching for a subject for another centerpiece. When I started writing for this album, I had recently become a father, and decided that the experience could provide enough material for several trilogies!
‘Conceivilization’ is the first movement. Children don’t just appear, you have to make them, and that is what this piece is about! As it takes two, I decided to have two soloists at a time for each of the movements. I will let you decided who is playing what role. One thing I really like in all good music is the climax, and this story is all about that. You will also hear the ‘Oh, what have I just done?’ moment after! ‘Conceivilization’ was commissioned and premiered by Sydney Conservatorium Big Band. See and hear the score.
Every composer father seems to write a really sappy ballad for their new child. I was resisting this cliche, until Andrew O’Connell wanted to commission a ballad for the Blackburn High School Big Band, arguably Australia’s finest high school big band. Of course this is not your usual ballad. It starts with the sweetest, happiest jazz baby ballad tune I could come up with, but then it gets a little more Timified. Being part of the trilogy also meant two soloists at the same time. See and hear the score.
Minor Incidents (Los Angeles)
Looking back, there are a few moments where you think, wow, that could have ended very differently. Like the day I forgot I was supposed to take Sarah to day care. I woke up and went into my studio to work, which luckily was near her room at the time. I came out to make a cup of tea and heard ‘Daddy?’ She was still in her cot, happily standing up and looking at me. Oops. What if I had gone out? Then there was the time I was wheeling her in her stroller to the Farmers Market and misjudged the curb after crossing the street; the stroller stopped, but she kept going. But I am happy to say, despite these Minor Incidents, Sarah is still alive and well. See and hear the score.
The Expensive Train Set: an Epic Sarahnade (Melbourne and Los Angeles)
This piece serves as the fourth movement of the trilogy and the centerpiece of the album. Instead of having two soloists at the same time, I have two whole big bands at the same time. It was actually quite daunting to write. So many options! But I decided to keep it simple and it turned out great. Logistics dictated that I had to record each band in their own country, so I recorded the drums first in LA, then the rhythm and the Melbourne band, followed by the Los Angeles band. One highlight of the process was when I had the ‘Los Angeles stunt double big band’ show up to a rehearsal with the Melbourne band; it was quite a thrill to hear it all come together in the one room.
Since this is the last movement, you will hear a section where the themes from the previous ones come together. This is also somewhat of a sequel to an early piece of mine called ‘Epic.’ ‘Epic’ was one of the first pieces I wrote and remains one of the most popular. It had a catchy drum groove and riff in the rhythm section. For this sequel, I play the same groove and wrote a similar style riff. See and hear the score.
Sing Sing Sing [The T-Mix] (Melbourne)
This is actually quite an old arrangement of mine. My friend David Longden asked me to do an arrangement for Don Burrows, a legendary Australian reed player. I started by transcribing the original, then remixed it. I left Benny Goodman’s classic intro untouched, then treated other elements of the tune to my own take on groove and harmony. Tony Hicks does a great job making the clarinet as hip as possible, for a clarinet…
Let Sleeping Questions Lie (Los Angeles)
I have often had guest singers perform with the band, but for a unique touch, rather than play standards or covers, we play their material, music that has never been heard with a big band before. One of our favorite singer/songwriters is Raya Yarbrough. ‘Let Sleeping Questions Lie’ is a really nice ballad of hers that I am excited to share with you all. Raya is also a great arranger and I based this version off her small band arrangement.
A lot of my pieces start with me jamming on the drums to come up with a groove and then singing, humming, or moaning the other parts. Next I thrash at the piano to work out the musical elements. Then I get it into the computer, fleshing it out. ‘Concievalization,’ ‘Minor Incidents,’ ‘The Expensive Train Set’ and ‘Circadian Rhythms’ were all written this way. I find once you have a good foundation, everything else comes very easily. ‘Circadian Rhythms’ was commissioned by the Australian Army to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Band Corps.
Jazz Vespas (Melbourne)
For many years I had wanted a motor bike. After a few friends of mine bought scooters, I decided that might be a fun thing to do too. It was! Of course, like with any major event in my life, I got asked if I was going to write a piece about it, and at the time I had just started work on a mellow blues tune. The vibe really fit with the Vespa, so I named the piece Jazz Vespas.
As I am not really a trained jazz musician or pianist, my music is often not the easiest to play or solo over. I tend to twist phrases and harmony in ways that the player might not be expecting. So every now and then I try to write something that is ‘normal,’ so that my players don’t have to stress out counting odd-numbered rests or play in weird time signatures over chords only a drummer could come up with. This is one of those pieces, a simple blues.
Goon Juice (Los Angeles)
Australians are known for our drinking. For many young Australians, cheap cask wine is their first drink and a staple at parties and BBQ’s. In Queensland we called it ‘Goon Juice.’ ‘Pass the goon’ is a phrase I have echoing around my head from many a high school party! Of course many of these parties did not end well, as I have tried to portray in this piece.
If there is one thing I will admit scares me to death every time I sit in with another band, it is the chance that they will call a fast Latin tune. I am missing the gene that allows drummers to play this particular style! Jon Papenbrook, my longtime lead trumpet player, was always asking me when I was going to write a Latin chart. I resisted for a long time, but then I thought, how hard can it be? Writing it was easy. Playing it, another thing. I ended up not even trying to play a Latin chart; I just played a ‘Tim’ chart and it actually worked out fine.
1. Conceivilization 7:18
2. Sarahbande 7:34
3. Minor Incidents 7:06
4. The Expensive Trainset (An Epic Sarahnade) 9:59
5. Sing Sing Sing (The TMix) 6:09
6. Let Sleeping Questions Lie 5:49
7. Circadian Rhythms 8:00
8. Jazz Vespas 7:39
9. Goon Juice 6:23
All music composed & arranged by Tim Davies (Altered 15th, ASCAP), except: (5) composed by Louis Prima (EMI Robbins Catalog Inc), (6) composed by Raya Yarbrough ( Raya Music)
Los Angeles band (1,3,4,6,9):
Saxophones: Alex Budman, Ann Paterson, Mike Nelson, Lee Secard, Ken Fisher
Trumpets: Jon Papenbrook, Rich Hofmann, Walt Simonsen, Ken Bausano, Brian Owen
Trombones: Jacques Voyemant, Kerry Loeschen, Martha Catlin, Steve Hughes
Guitar: Mark Cally
Keyboards: Alan Steinberger
Bass: Ken Wild
Drums: Tim Davies
Melbourne band (2,4,5,7,8):
Saxophones: Greg Clarkson, Tim Wilson, Tony Hicks, Andrew O’Connell, Stuart Byrne
Trumpets: Greg Spence, Michael Fraser, Eugene Ball, Paul Williamson, Thomas Jovanovic
Trombones: Dave Palmer, Jordan Murray, Daryl McKenzie, Matt Amy
Guitar: Jack Pantazis
Keyboards: Marty Hicks
Bass: Kim May
Drums: Tim Davies
Jim Honeyman, Bram Glik (saxes), Bobby Burns, Jr., James Blackwell,
Javier Gonzalez (trpts), Nicholas Daley, Jeremy Levy, Juliane Gralle (trbs.)
Produced by Tim Davies & Steve Kaplan
Recorded by Steve Kaplan (LA), Jarrad Gilson (Melbourne)
The Bridge Recording Studio (LA), Oaklands Productions (Melbourne)
Mixed by Steve Kaplan at Noise and Other Distortions, Santa Monica, CA
Mastered by Ron McMaster at Capitol Mastering (LA)
Photography by Larry Mah (LA), Darren Hulcombe and Zac O’Connell (Melbourne)
Cover design & layout by John Bishop
Listen to the music
There are also some scores you can review.
The Expensive Train Set
Jim Bianco and the Tim Davies Big Band
Live at the Iwaki