Film music and… a costume? Really?

October 18, 2009

Last week, I got asked to play with the Golden State Pops Orchestra for their next concert. If it weren’t for the actual concert hall we sat in, I’d believe that I had been transported to a soundstage recording an orchestral tracking session for film/television!

Film composer/conductor Stu Philips (Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider) conducted last week’s rehearsal in a downright old-timing New York attitude, experience-ridden, industry-worn way that reminded me of the great Leonard Bernstein’s down-to-business rehearsing/recording of West Side Story.

I miss it. The fast pace of rehearsal. The pressure, to play perfectly the second time the ensemble sight reads some tougher-than-classical film music. The professionalism of showing up and expecting to be on your game, in the moment, and never missing a beat (literally). The preparation that had been done before I got to my seat: bowings marked out by the principal player already, everyone in their seats, everyone stops playing as soon as the baton stops beating. Not a second to waste or a rhythm to miss.

Also conducting us is Jason Livesay, a wonderful APU alumnus, violinist, composer, conductor. Yep, he orchestrated the end titles for the new film, Astro Boy, which we will be performing. It stars the boy from August Rush, FYI. Simply gorgeous themes; pretty epic and inspiring. And here it is--for your enjoyment!

Astro Boy (John Ottman, composer; Jason Livesay, orchestrator)

Something else on the program that simply thrilled me: Though the new Star Trek movie returned to the music of the original series, I grew up with the ‘Next Generation’ shows and movies. As the orchestra started up the piece, I felt full of wonder hearing that melody that was so familiar every afternoon in front of Grandma’s TV after school!!!

Star Trek: First Contact

Here’s one I never got over. Terrified me as a kid. I even watched the X-Files show; only I switched channels every time during the opening titles.

The X-Files

And last but not least, a little class act from the early 90’s.

Knight Rider (Stu Philips)

We’re performing these exact pieces and more this Saturday, October 24. If you’re interested in the concert, there are student tickets for $15. More information and tickets here. Now I must go find a costume for this concert. They’re making us all dress up. (So HERE’S my question: what should I wear?!)

Jamie Cullum – A Memorable Night at the Bowl

August 21, 2008

I made a last minute decision last night.  At 5 pm, I was trying to decided whether or not to go see Jamie Cullum at the Hollywood Bowl.  I didn’t have tickets yet and they were unavailable online.  But I thought I’d try and see what I could get at the box office.  I my good friends Caleb and Katy decided to come as well.  We parked at the park and ride 15 minutes from my aparment and for 5 bucks, got a round trip bus ticket to and from the Bowl.  When we got there, the cheapest tickets available were the $13 tickets.  I was more than okay with this, as $18 is a fantastic price to pay for what happened that night.

The night began with Elizabeth Shepherd.  The Canadian born jazz singer also plays piano, and was accompanied by a bassist and drummer.  I really liked their music.  She had almost a Bjork/Fiona Apple sound, but with a definite jazz feel.  This was very much “progressive” jazz, with odd harmonizations and frequent time changes.  A few times I was thrown off by the time changes, but that’s not a complaint.  The bassist and drummer were very good, and Elizabeth’s piano playing was great, although I wasn’t crazy about her singing.  It’s not that she has a particularly bad or unpleasant voice, it’s that she doesn’t have a particularly pleasant, or memorable voice.  She can sing just fine, but her voice wasn’t all that memorable.  All in all, they were very good though, and I plan on checking them out online.

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Press Bb to start game…

July 19, 2008

Anybody remember seeing this?

Just for follow-up fun… I think the horn blowing out flames really takes the cake on this one…

Oh, and Jameson,… I strongly urge… no, I mandate you to purchase the t-shirt on the front page of

That’s all.

The Pendulum Swings

July 18, 2008

There’s something about music.

I got a call recently for a gig playing with a Swing band at the Hip Kitty Jazz Club in Claremont. I have been to this venue before and really liked the atmostphere and thought it was a real hip place, so naturally I was excited to get to play there.  I said yes to the gig perhaps too soon.  With gas costs to and from the rehearsal and performance, I woul be about breaking even.  But, I figured, it would still be fun to play at such a cool venue.

The only available rehearsal space was the band leader’s wife’s salon.  While driving up the street on my way to the rehearsal, I got a flat tire. That really set the mood perfectly for how the night would unfold.  The drummer was also a sub, like me, as well as the bari sax player.  I won’t bore you with specifics, but the rehearsal was 3 hours of misery.  For a swing band, we certainly didn’t swing.  The drummer in particular was all over the place.  Beats were dropped right and left, the saxes were out of tune, all of my parts were written out note for note, and I was the youngest in the band by at least 40 years.  As soon as the rehearsal was over, I bolted out the door to leave.  But, alas, I still had a flat tire to change.  I set about doing so when the band leader noticed my situation and did what he could to help.  2 other members of the band came out and helped me change my flat tire.

So, the gig was tonight.  I had told all my friends how awful it was going to be.  I had talked it up to be this horrible 4 hour performance that I was about to experience…for free.

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A Tight Groove

July 13, 2008

Tonight as the sun set over Buena Park Christ Community Church, I saw a glimpse of heaven. APU’s touring musical small group, Celebration, not only was mind-blowing and impressive, but knowing it was the last time this group would exist together as it is to perform together and lead people into the presence of God through worship only heightened our experience into their their tightly woven harmonies (and unisons), impecable timing, unspoken fervor, and powerhouse skills of voices and hands all serving the unified purpose of their music, worship, and ministry.

It was breathtaking, much of what vocalists like Ashley and Jessie did, singing and speaking Josiah’s bass-playing could get anyone head-bobbing and feet-thumping after a few seconds. Andrew, oh friend and former roommate, there are no words… Just when you thought his work on the ivories wasn’t enough, he picks up the guitar. Anyone get inspired by August Rush? The drummer, Justin, could not be more on top of it! But I’m just a violist speaking. Wow, such great strides made over and for this tour. Players like Ryan and Karen you often can’t get enough of. Karen on Tambourine and Shaker,… Oh and the cello. What happened to the ‘concert not ending until she sets her cello on fire’? I was in such high anticipation!

Thank guys, for doing what you did up there. Thank you for the work you put in so that we could, well… groove with you. I can easily say I am proud to study music among a crowd such as yourselves.

On a slight tangent, there is something to be said for the repetition of performance. I know this happens often in a more mainstream contemporary band than not… rock, pop or jazz, but coming from a classical standpoint, so many times it seems that we work forever towards one or two performances, and what could-have-been, would actually come easier. In the two weeks my quartet performed and toured, we crossed lines in ensemble performances that two years only seem to get us close to. Practice and rehearse all you want, but perform more. Especially in college while the opportunities are up for the grabbing. That’s what tonight reminded me of, this small group touring for six weeks, despite any hindrances or confilcts of personalities, etc (just generalizing… every group will have its share… I don’t know) meshed and grooved so incredibly tight. That’s what performing on the road does, right?

Where The Light Is – Mayer at His Best

July 7, 2008

John Mayer first came to see mainstream musical success in 2001 with the release of his debut album, Room For Squares.  Since that time, John has put out several more records and shown incredible growth not only in his songwriting, but his guitar playing as well.  Mayer’s next studio album, Heavier Things, released in 2003, allowed Mayer to explore within the pop feel of his first album.  The result is top quality music.  Mayer’s most recent studio album, Continuum is my personal favorite.  Released in 2006, Mayer adopts a much bluesy-er and rock-y-er feel.  Great songwriting is accompanied by soulful guitar solos and memorable melodies.

Before releasing Continuum, Mayer joined up with studio-giant Pino Palladino on bass and ex-Stevie Wonder drummer Steve Jordan to form John Mayer Trio.  The three relased Try!, a live album in 2005.  The music that these three great musicians make is much bluesy-er than anything Mayer has done on his own.  This project of Mayer’s may just be my favourite thing that Mayer has done.

John Mayer has distinguished himself as a very versatile musician, becoming a master of acoustic guitar based pop, pop/rock, and straight ahead blues.  With this in mind, Mayer gave a concert last December at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.  The concert opened with John Mayer with an acoustic guitar, joined with two other acoustic players on a few songs.  This was followed by John Mayer Trio, and finally closing out the evening, the main act… (drumroll please)  John Mayer with a full band!

John has just released a DVD and CD of this event.  Both are fantastic.  I highly recommend these to anyone who enjoys good music.  It has been so great to see Mayer’s growth musically over the past several years.  He is definitely one of the most creative artists out on the radio/mtv circuit these days.  If you think you know John Mayer as “just another pop act”, check out this live CD or DVD, entitled Where The Light Is.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

The Met’s Debts

June 24, 2008

Check out Ben Rosen’s blog about New York’s Metropolitan Opera and it’s successful turnaround efforts of anachronistic art in a post-millenium culture. Very good read on arts administration in our country (a beast on its own), at least one insider’s story of it. [TR-CG via]