Finale User Spotlight: Meet Saxophonist Todd Bashore

Todd Bashore, pictured in front of MakeMusic’s offices in Eden Prairie, MN. Photo by Scott Yoho

Todd Bashore is an NYC-based saxophonist and a long-time Finale user. Todd and I first crossed paths years ago when I managed Finale Quality Assurance and Todd was a Finale Beta tester. When Todd came through town this summer with the Max Weinberg Big Band we finally got to meet in person. As I learned more about Todd’s high-profile career, I quickly invited him to appear in our blog.

Scott Yoho: Let’s start with your history of Finale. Did you first use Finale as an undergrad at Duke?

Todd Bashore: I studied with Paul Jeffrey at Duke, a fantastic saxophonist and composer/arranger. He was Thelonious Monk’s last tenor player and he did a lot of writing for Charles Mingus in the 1970s, but he also had his years of scuffling in NYC before he got some breaks. To help support his family during that period he also worked as a hand copyist. He thought it was important for me to learn hand copying so when I moved to NYC, I would have a music-related skill to help earn a living while I tried to get gigs.

At that time Finale and Encore were the main two competing programs and while I fiddled around with school copies of both of them, I was still faster with my pen. When I moved to NYC and began studying with Jimmy Heath I was surprised to see that he was using Finale. Here I was in my early 20s messing around with a Pelican Graphos with Z1 nibs and 69-year-old Mr. Heath was doing his writing on the computer. I decided I’d better learn Finale.

SY: How did you get involved with using Finale professionally?

TB: After I received my Master’s degree, I worked briefly in the rental library at Boosey and Hawkes. They were using SCORE almost entirely at the time and their output was fantastic. Finale’s defaults were much different at that time (mid-late 1990s) so I would take a page of something they had done and would tweak my Finale settings until I could get comparable output.

I met some other NYC engravers such as Randa Kirshbaum (now a senior editor at Boosey) and started doing some work for Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was librarian for J@LC for a couple of years and kept doing the engraving for the Ellington transcriptions that they published for the next decade or so. I began doing freelance Finale work and have since worked for Slide Hampton, John Lewis, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Manny Albam, Jim McNeely, Don Sebesky, David Berger, Arturo O’Farrill, and Pulitzer Prize winners Wynton Marsalis and Gunther Schuller among many others.

SY: Speaking of well-known names, in 2009 you arranged all of the music for the CTI All-Star Band which was premiered at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Can you remind me who was in the line-up?

TB: Airto, Randy Brecker, Mark Egan, Bill Evans, Niels Lan Doky, Hubert Laws, Russell Malone, Flora Purim, Jeff “Tain” Watts, with Jamie Cullum, John McLaughlin, and George Duke sitting in.

SY: Wow. How did that gig come about? Did you perform with the group?

TB: I had been introduced to legendary producer Creed Taylor (the CT in CTI) by Paul Jeffrey. We had kept in touch and Creed would occasionally come to some of my gigs. A couple of months before the Montreux gig Creed’s usual arranger, Don Sebesky, was way too busy to write anything for it. I had gotten a nice review in the New York Times for an arrangement I wrote for a Jobim concert by Slide Hampton’s band, so Creed gave me a shot. He liked the first couple of things I wrote so I got the gig.

Since there was literally no rehearsal time for this performance and we would be playing all new charts, Creed said I would have to travel to Montreux to rehearse the band. Well, if I was going anyway I might as well write myself a part! I actually have a solo on the first track on the DVD, Mr. Clean. Supposedly it’s ready for release in Japan and Creed is still lining up the U.S. distribution.

SY: You’re playing Minneapolis again this October with the Max Weinberg Big Band. Most of our readers probably recognize Max as Bruce Springsteen’s drummer and as the bandleader for the Conan O’Brien show, but his current project is a big band. What kind of charts are you playing?

TB: For the most part we’re playing classic Count Basie and Buddy Rich arrangements. We do have a few surprise arrangements by that “other band” Max plays with too.

SY: In addition to playing sax with the group, you’re also doing copying work for the band? On the road?

TB: I haven’t had to do much copying for Max’s band on the road but I had a pretty intense month before we started. David Berger transcribed around 26 big band charts in a little over a month and I tried to keep pace with him on the copying. Whew, that was a rough month! I think I just left my espresso machine on 24/7. David has amazing ears and did a fantastic job on the transcriptions so that’s the bulk of the material we’re playing right now with Max’s band.

SY: Are the other guys in the band Finale users too? Do they bug you for tips?

TB: Yeah, a lot of them use Finale as well and we’ve had a bunch of Q&A sessions on the bus.

In part two of our feature on Todd Bashore, we’ll bug him for Finale tips too!

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