Tuesday, 27 November 2018

EFG London Jazz Festival 2018

On Sunday 25th November, there was a screening of The Jazz Ambassadors at the Barbican, followed by a panel chaired by Sebastian Scotney, editor of London Jazz News with the film's director, Hugo Berkeley and myself. Also in attendance were the producer, Mick Csáky of Antelope Filmsline producer, Helen Kelsey and editor, Nse Asuquo.

The documentary looked and sounded great on the big screen and it was fantastic to meet and talk to people afterwards. Thank you to John Cumming and Serious Music for organising the event and thanks to everyone who came along.

Congrats to
EFG London Jazz Festival and Serious on a brilliant 10 days of music, film and much more.

Photo by Mick Csáky

Thursday, 22 November 2018

New release! The Jazz Ambassadors Original Score

I've worked on some fantastic projects this year, but one of the most fascinating for me was my collaboration with director, Hugo Berkeley on his amazing The Jazz Ambassadors” documentary. Hugo uncovered an incredible story about America's Cold War in the 1950s and how the US government recruited some of America's most influential jazz artists to become their 'coolest weapon'.

 Performers including Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Dave Brubeck travelled the globe as cultural ambassadors and helped win hearts around the world for America. 

My challenge was to write an original score that could capture the atmosphere of the times and also blend seamlessly with the iconic live performances from the artists in the film. I also wanted to bring together an ensemble of jazz players at the top of their game, to do justice to the power of the story, and for their contribution to stand next to performances by some of America's greatest ever jazz musicians. 

I brought together a special 9-piece jazz ensemble for this recording, featuring virtuoso drummer, Mark Mondesir (John McLaughlin, Courtney Pine) and powerhouse bass player, Karl Rasheed Abel (Jason Rebello, Laura Mvula) who provide a deep pulsing rhythmic foundation. The horn section features the exceptional talents of trumpet players Freddie Gavita, Tom Walsh and Kevin Robinson, Paul Booth, Graeme Blevins and Patrick Clahar on saxophone, and Fayyaz Virji and Dennis Rollins on trombone. Between them they have worked with artists from Quincy Jones, Al Jarreau, Ray Charles and many other jazz greats. I completed the line up on piano.

We recorded and mixed the score at Air-Edel Studios with the awesome engineer Nick Taylor, with the musicians performing the compositions at the same time as watching the visuals on screen. I knew each of the musicians had a really strong individual voice which brought real depth and authenticity to their performances. Sticking to jazz principles, we recorded the music without a click track, giving the recordings a feeling of older jazz recordings and an improvisatory feel.

The vibe in the room was really important to me, so we talked a lot with Hugo, the director, about the story behind the documentary. I wanted all the players there to feel that what we were was doing was special, performing a music score that supported an important document of jazz history. It was a real privilege to work on this project, I hope you enjoy it. 

The Jazz Ambassadors Original Score will be available to download on all digital platforms and streaming via Apple Music and Spotify from 25 November 2018.

Also if you want to hear my own jazz compositions, check out 'The Long Way Home’ (2014) which features a brilliant line up of modern British jazz stars including Nigel Hitchcock, Gerard Presencer, Jason Rebello, Ben Castle and James Maddren.

The Jazz Ambassadors is a THIRTEEN/Antelope South/Normal Life Pictures co-production, in association with BBC, ZDF and Arte.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Nightcrawlers Soul Sessions CD out now

John Reid

I first started working with the incredibly talented singer-songwriter John Reid in the 90s just before he had a huge hit with Push the Feeling On with his band the Nightcrawlers (if you’ve ever been to a club in the 90s, you’ll definitely remember raving to that song). The songs we were writing at the time were a bit more Soul/RnB and, as house music was the new big thing, these tunes ended up on the back burner for a while. Quite a long while as it turned out! 

After nearly 30 years, we dug deep into the soul vaults and found some of the old tunes we penned back in the 90s and added a whole raft of new songs in that old school vibe. We put out the digital release of John’s “Nightcrawlers Soul Sessions” earlier this year which came out to great feedback.

Our singles “All Night Long” and “Love Comes Around” both hit the number one spot on the UK Soul Chart and got a lot of love from all the best soul stations including Mi-Soul, Delite, Solar and Starpoint Radio. BBC Radio also gave us great support from DJs Paul Miller, John Leech, and the legend that is Tony Blackburn. 

So I’m really delighted to share that anyone who wants to buy the “Nightcrawlers Soul Sessions” album in CD format, it’s available as of today at HMV, on Amazon and all good record stores.

And if you want to have a listen on iTunes or Spotify, you can tune in here.

I had a brilliant time co-producing this with my compadre, Ernie McKone of Boogie Back records fame. Between us, we played pretty much all the instruments, apart from horns - and everything is live which gives the album a really special feel. John’s vocal performances are stunning and you can see why he’s had number one hits for everyone from Leona Lewis (“A Moment Like This”) to Westlife (“Unbreakable”) and Tina Turner (“When the Heartache is Over”. 

I’m really proud of this project and loved that Robert Elm’s compared some of it to Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall”. Hope you enjoy it. 

Me, BBC London DJ, Robert Elms and John

Monday, 8 January 2018

I've neglected my Blog for too long!

Ok, first I've got to apologise to the people who may actually bother to read my posts...although how can I blame you for not checking them out if I don't write anything...
Well, that's going to change. From now on I'm going to try and honour this space, using it as a place to share not only info about my work, but also thoughts about the books I'm into, films I've seen, and maybe even more personal opinions and perspectives about life and the world we live in (dare I speak my truth?).

It's been a very strange, interesting time these past two years or so: with now Trump in the White House, and the instability of Brexit here in the UK, not to forget the allegations of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry and beyond. The sands are shifting beneath our feet. I must salute all the courageous, inspiring women who have shared their harrowing stories with the world, and because of their brave actions it feels like a period in history where the potential for real lasting changes in gender dynamics might be possible. Oprah Winfrey's speech at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, after receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award, says it all.
If you haven't heard it yet, check it out here: "A New Day is on the Horizon!"

But for todays Post, as it's the first in long while, I'm going to focus on catching up with my recent creative activities.

It's been a really productive and creatively interesting time!
I scored the mini TV series DARK ANGEL for World Productions/ITV early in 2016 (produced by Kirstie MacDonald, directed by Brian Percival).
It starred Joanne Froggatt in the leading role. She gave an incredible performance! Part 1 aired in the UK on Halloween night 2016, and part 2 a week later. It went out in the USA on PBS/Masterpiece theatre in May 2017. It's also now available on DVD and streaming.

This past year (2017) I was given the opportunity to work with a wonderful director, Richard Loncraine, on a feature film written & produced by Nick Moorcroft and Meg Leonard called 'Finding Your Feet'.
It was a fantastic experience working with the creative team which included editor Johnny Daukes and Music Editor Graham Sutton. The film stars some of Britains finest actors and actresses including Imelda Staunton, Celia Imrie, Timothy Spall and Joanna Lumley. It's released in cinemas across the UK in Spring 2018.
Watch the Trailer here.

Another fantastic project I had the privilege of scoring in 2017 was a feature length documentary called 'Jazz Ambassadors' which was directed by Hugo Berkeley.
The film shines a light on a difficult period in US history during the Cold War (not unlike the current period in some respects...) when the US State department sent American Jazz musicians overseas to 'spread the word' about freedom and the 'American way of Life'. It's a fascinating study on the power of music to break through cultural barriers and instigate change in the world. Check out this article in Time Magazine about it.

In addition to my work 'scoring to picture' I've also been writing and producing music for a couple of very cool bands and artist - but more on that next time!

For now, over and out.

Monday, 10 March 2014

My new album is out! Making 'The Long Way Home' has been quite a journey...

It was just under a year ago when I launched my KickStarter project. At that point I had no idea if I would make my funding target. But due to the support and generosity of the 137 people from all over the world who backed my project, I was able to go into the studio as planned on May 15/16, 2013 to record the 8 tunes that I had ready.

With an incredible band of musicians we recorded 4 tunes a day.

Line up on Day 1 was:
L. to R. - Calum Gourlay (bass) Gerard Precenser (trumpets), Nigel Hitchcock (alto sax), MJM (piano), and Dave Hamblett (drums).

On Day 2 the band was:

L. to R. - Ben Castle (tenor sax), Mark Nightingale (trombone), MJM (piano), James Maddren (drums), Tom Farmer (bass) and Gerard Precenser (trumpets).

I had a fantastic designer named Gil Plante work on the Album artwork (CD and Vinyl) and the wonderful Cover Art photo is by my brother Mark McEvoy. 

The additional B/W photos in the CD booklet and on the Vinyl LP sleeve were taken by my daughter Emily McEvoy and by a great friend, designer and photographer Deborah Ripley.

The album was co-produced, engineered and and mixed by the wonderfully talented Nick Taylor at Air-Edel Studios, London, UK.

The album is now finally out and available on iTunes and CD (Amazon - order here) and the Vinyl will be ready very soon (and will include a complimentary download code).

Watch this space for more news as the journey continues.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Target £7500 - the countdown begins...