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Welcome to the archives of the
American Big Band Preservation Society, Inc.

Your official Big Band resource!

Library and Archives exist to preserve the cultural materials that have enduring value to the historical documentation of American popular music.

The ABBPS collections include more than 10,000 documents, images, and historic artifacts related to this musical artform.


Some highlights include: The Henry Busse collection (trumpet player for Paul Whiteman, bandleader, composer, and soloist on the original performances of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue), The Vaughn Monroe collection (including his music, personal effects, cornet, trombone, Voice of RCA jacket, and more). Our collections also include hundreds of original photographs – many of which are autographed, and thousands of unpublished, hand-written arrangements, penned by local arrangers to legendary international names.

“The soundtrack to the 20th century is the Great American Songbook performed by the Big Bands….it is a thrill and an honor each and every time I get to work with these arrangements, the primary source to this timeless music, fortunately being preserved by the ABBPS!”

- Dan Gabel, President and CEO

Take a deep dive into the ABBPS archives with our president and CEO, Dan Gabel. 

The American Big Band Preservation Society archive exists to preserve the physical artifacts so that current and future generations can experience them.

The American Big Band Preservation Society, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

The Archival Collections at the ABBPS is our pride and joy. It is a major project to digitize the entire musical library, with a complete listing and finding aid. Since 2017 we have a major effort underway, and have processed and digitized approximately 40% of the arrangements contained in our collection. 

  • Interested in volunteering your time? Contact us here

  • Looking for more information about a specific collection? Inquire here

  • Have a collection of arrangements or related documents you don’t know what to do with? Consider donating them to us. Donations are considered tax-deductible contributions to our 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Get in touch 


1. Arrangements

Are you looking for a specific title? Arranger? Instrumental or vocal feature? Or perhaps looking to build your own band’s repertoire. We’re here to help. Get in touch with us and one of our experts will be in touch.

2. Complete Programs

We offer “ready-to-use” packages for your programming needs. We can put together an entire set of arrangements, along with program notes, visuals, and even a rehearsal clinic. This is perfect for school concerts, jazz festivals, or other events. Let us help you create a varied program tailored to your ensembles’ strengths, and celebrate the diverse music of jazz. BOOK NOW

3. Big Band Academy

Coming 2025. Sign up for the waitlist to reserve your spot! 
In 2025, we will begin to offer online courses with experts in the field.
-Learn: Explore how the Big Bands and Great American Songbook shaped the 20th century
-Listen: Discover recordings that have been lost for nearly a century. 
-Write: Acquire the skills to arrange and orchestrate. All levels welcome. 

4. Clinics/Presentations/Lectures

Over the past decade, we have offered numerous programs, and are now expanding.
-School Clinics: available for all levels (elementary through high school). 
-College/University Clinics: available for various topics. We are associated with the University system in Massachusetts, drawing upon a vast network of resources and educators. 
-Special Events: We can curate lobby displays for themed events, as well as provide live music for special events across the United States. Great for Great Gatsby parties, WWII events or honoring veterans, swing dances, fundraisers, galas, and more. 
-Library/Retirement Community presentations: programming is available for single events or series. Our “Big Bands are Back” lecture series has been presented successfully for numerous communities, often expanding from a 4-part series into 12 or more sessions. Powerpoint visuals, audio clips, printed materials, and live performances are all possible with this versatile program. 



5. Musical Definitions


Terms are often used in this genre of music which may be unfamiliar to many, even to some professional musicians, librarians, or others in the field. These phrases and terms are standard and used frequently not just on this website, but in primary sources related to the Big Band era, by experts in the field, and elsewhere. We have assembled a panel of experts to create helpful and accessible definitions.


Bob Freedman: jazz pianist, saxophonist and Grammy-winning arranger who orchestrated for artists ranging from Sarah Vaughan and Harry Belafonte to Maynard Ferguson and Paul Simon, and scored theme music for TV shows, including ABC's Monday Night Football, and many others.


Michael Feinstein: GRAMMY®- and Emmy-nominated entertainer, singer, pianist, and music revivalist. He is an archivist and interpreter for the repertoire known as the Great American Songbook.

Dan Gabel: President and CEO of the ABBPS, considered an expert in jazz, big band, and American popular song styles. Gabel is an ASCAP published arranger, bandleader, and trombonist.

Composition (v.): The organization of any or all of the standard musical values (pitch, harmony, rhythm, and duration) into a new entity. An instrument or instruments may be, but are not  necessarily, specified. Compositions may or may not involve sung or spoken words. 

The resultant product of composing (v.) is a composition (n.), which may be of any length or style. -Bob Freedman.


Example: S’Wonderful, composed by George Gershwin; lyrics by Ira Gershwin.

The composition consists of a melody, chords (a simple accompaniment harmony), and lyrics.

Orchestration (v.): The assignment of the various musical elements of a composition or arrangement to specific instruments, with or without voices. The term may be applied regardless of the nature of the elements involved. I.e., one may orchestrate for a  symphony orchestra, a dance band, a Broadway show’s pit band, etc. The instrumental combination may or may not be a standard one. One could, e.g., orchestrate for a group consisting of bagpipes, a flute, a trombone and a Hammond organ. The term (and process) could reasonably be applied to as few as two instruments (identical or not). If only voices are involved the resultant product is known as a vocal arrangement or choral arrangement. 

The resultant product of the process of orchestration (v.), a.k.a. orchestrating (v.), is an orchestration (n.) -Bob Freedman.

Big Band (n.): A collection of at least nine (ten) musicians playing arranged music together, often but not necessarily including improvisation, with a collective and informed purpose. 

The arranged material is played in a jazz style, derived from works by jazz and Great American Songbook composers, or from myriad other sources including folk, blues, Classical, and World Music. -Dan Gabel.

Arranging (v.): The organization or reorganization of an existing musical composition so as to enhance and individuate its  composite elements, any of which may be altered. One or more  instruments and/or voices may or may not be involved. 

The resultant product of arranging is an arrangement (n.).  Indications that one or more performers are to improvise may be  included in an arrangement. -Bob Freedman.

Examples of arranging: An arrangement can completely change the sound of a composition. We have selected three representative recordings of the composition ‘S Wonderful of a 25 year period. -Dan Gabel.

Ex. 1: ‘S Wonderful, arranged by Sam Lanin (possibly with Arthur Lange). Performed by Sam Lanin and the Ipana Troubadours. Columbia 1213-D, recorded November 30, 1927. 

DG: This is the first commercially successful recording of the song, recorded the year after it was written and premiered by Adele Astaire.

Ex. 2: ‘S Wonderful, arranged by Ray Conniff. Performed by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra. Victor 20-1638, recorded January 9, 1945.

DG: This is one of the iconic arrangements of the Big Band era. It was a hit for Artie Shaw in the mid-40s and still played today. Trombonist Ray Conniff from Attleboro Mass had just joined the Shaw band from Vaughn Monroe, and wrote this adventurous instrumental chart. It would later become a #1 hit for Conniff with his own group in 1957.

Ex. 3: ‘S Wonderful, arranged by Nelson Riddle. Performed by Ella Fitzgerald with Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra.Verve 314 539 759-2, recorded July, 1959.  

DG: Nelson Riddle should need no introduction as one of the greatest arrangers in history. The same is true for Ella Fitzgerald, as one of the greatest vocalists. This pairing for an album of Gershwin songs is considered one of the finest recordings in history. Ella starts with the verse, but notice how different this treatment is than the others in the hands of Riddle’s adept hand.

Big Band Instrumentation:

A Big Band generally consists of four main sections, plus vocal:

  1. Reeds (3-5). Saxes: 2 alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes, baritone sax. Each player often may double on additional reed instruments, including: Bb clarinet, flute, bass clarinet…)

  2. Trumpets (3-4)

  3. Trombones (2-3 tenor trombones; 1 bass trombone)

  4. Rhythm (Guitar, Piano, Bass, Drums)

  5. Vocal. Bands often include a vocal soloist or vocal group.


This instrumentation became standardized in the late 1930s especially by (1) Glenn Miller (first to employ standardized 5 reeds and 8 brass) and (2) Duke Ellington (standardized use of the baritone sax in the reed section). 


Earlier Big Bands (1920-1935), Detects, and stock arrangement/dance bands employed a slightly smaller lineup, standardized during this period of time. 

  1. Reeds (3). 1st alto sax, 2nd tenor sax, 3rd alto sax. All double clarinet

  2. Trumpet (2). 1st Bb trumpet (cornet), 2nd Bb trumpet (cornet)

  3. Trombone (1). 

  4. Rhythm (Guitar, Piano, Bass, Drums)

  5. String (1-6). Violin A, B, C. Viola. ‘Cello.

Chart (n.): Term most jazz musicians use to refer to an arrangement or orchestration. 

Tune (n.): Term most jazz musicians use to refer to a song (as in the Great American Songbook), or alternatively, a jazz composition, contrafact, bebop head or melody.

Head (n.): The main statement of the melody; tune or composition. 


Score (n.): Document containing all of the instruments and/or voices in one place. 

Score (v.): The act of writing or orchestrating an arrangement.

Copy (v.): To write-out the individual parts for each instrument for a particular arrangement. This may be achieved by (1) hand-writing (hand-copying), and/or (2) using a computer musical notation software (ex. Finale, Sibelius, Musecore). This is achieved by employing a copyist (n.) to complete this work. The copy (n.) refers to the job or the physical parts of a particular arrangement. 

Form (n.): The manner in which the music or musical sections are organized. Generally speaking, the sections of a popular song or jazz tune do not change or vary from the original composition, even in different arrangements. 

Example: George Gershwin’s composition ‘S Wonderful uses AABA popular song form. While hundreds of musicians have performed and recorded this tune, despite varied performances and arrangements, the form of the song itself (AABA where each section contains 8 measures) remains the same. - Dan Gabel

Stock Arrangement (n.): A published arrangement for Big Band or dance band. These highly influential charts set a standard for instrumentation in the 1920s-1940s among professional and local orchestras. These were published on smaller (6.5” x 9.5”) paper, often with a graphic or artwork on the cover supplied by the publisher. While scholarship exists about these essential and ubiquitous arrangements (especially scholar John Clark’s doctoral paper, Stock in Trade, pub. 1995), their importance to the history of Big Band music cannot be overstated.

Great American Songbook (n.): The canon of the most important and influential American popular songs and jazz standards from the early 20th century that have stood the test of time in their life and legacy. Often referred to as "American Standards," the songs published during the Golden Age of this genre include those popular and enduring tunes from the 1920s to the 1960s that were created for Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musical film. - Michael Feinstein 

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