French Horns, Octaves, and Marvin Gaye

As I continue working on The Top Shelf’s upcoming spotlight on Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner, I find myself thinking about French Horns, and in particular, dramatic octave leaps by a section of French Horns.

I love writing for the French Horn.  It’s capable of such plaintive beauty as well as intense excitement … especially when octaves are involved.

Theme from Peter Gunn

Consider these two snippets from the Theme from Peter Gunn

Now that’s cool!  I bet the players on the session (from 1958) weren’t expecting to get to play *that* when they arrived at the studio.

Les Misérables

I had the very good fortune of seeing Les Miz opening night on Broadway.  I remember thinking, as I was listening to a killer ballad in the first act, that I really wanted to hear a French Horn play an octave leap.  Yes, really.  That’s what happens when I listen to music.  In any case, the composer and orchestrator did not disappoint, as evidenced here.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine

So, what does all this have to do with Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner?

Well, it has a lot to do with trying to get Marvin Gaye “right”.  As with What’s Going On it’s essential to have a great lead singer and a great rhythm section, but to really do the arrangement justice you need those elements that take the performance to the next level, and one of those critical things is  — you guessed it — a French Horn octave leap.

Doesn’t that just kick ass?

So, are we going to have a French Horn section at our January 10th performance at DROM?  Well, we already have 12 people in the band so the answer is “No,” but I promise we’ll get this ever-so-cool lick into the live performance.

I hope you will swing by on January 10 and see (and hear) for yourself.

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