Sunday, 5 January 2020

New Year, New Decade

It’s been a busy three months with quite a few exciting things going on. 
In September I finished scoring two episodes of the cyber crime series Hunter:Hacker for director Hugo Berkeley. 


October began with a great gig with my funk-fusion band at Ramsgate Music Hall.


The band features Sahil Batra, Jaleesa Germerts, Elliot Peek and we were joined by the fantastic Tom Walsh and Paul Booth - hopefully the first of many!                                                                                                                             
Then I started work co-scoring a feature length documentary 'Citizen Bio' about bio-hacking with Paul Oakenfold with us sending ideas back and forth across the pond from Kent to LA. 
I also began work on a powerful short film called White Gold written and directed by Luke Bradford 

These two projects kept me pretty busy until I flew out to Los Angeles in early November to work with Paul on the musical themes we had started, and also to meet with director Trish Dolman. While there I enjoyed some Californian sunshine. Here’s Paul and me taking a walk in Griffith Park up to the Observatory. Happy days! 

After returning from LA I had a couple of days at home in Kent where we celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends before I flew to Tallinn in Estonia to take part in the Music Meets Film part of the Black Nights Film Festival. It was my first time in Estonia and a truly wonderful experience. I shared a platform with forensic musicologist Peter Oxendale, composer, Tom Player, and composers Richard Harvey and Mikel Zimler.
Each of us gave lectures and masterclasses on our specialist areas of music composition in film and the music business. 
Our host was the very gracious Michael Pärt who in addition to organising the MMF events took us to visit the new Arvo Pärt Centre dedicated to the life and musical works of his father, the great composer, Arvo Pärt. We had the pleasure of giving a day of lectures and were taken on a tour of this beautiful space and research centre. 
Estonia has a thriving film industry with fantastic recording studios, performance venues, musicians and choirs all available for hire. I’m very much looking forward to recording there in the future.

Things slowed down for holiday season, although the creative gears never stop turning! I wish you all the very best for a great year in 2020!

Monday, 28 October 2019

Michael is nominated in #TheIvorsComposerAwards

I'm delighted to say today I received a nomination in the category Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble for my composition Mother Medusae in the Ivors Composer Awards (formerly British Composer Awards). 

The piece was created for Thomas Gould, violinist and leader of Britten Sinfonia, who was looking for a jazz composition to perform at Kings Place as part of his Gould Standard Series. Thomas has a love and fascination for jazz, and a growing fan base as a jazz violinist, alongside his reputation as a fine classical soloist. This gave me the musical freedom for the main melodic theme to begin on the violin and exhibit an element of reflective romanticism, and at the same time incorporate jazz patterns not generally found in classical music. I knew Thomas liked the percussive, rhythmic feel on a track on my album The Long Way Home called Silverlink Express and so that became my touchstone in the development of the composition.

His trio also included the outstanding musicians Kristjan Randalu, on piano and Stephan Braun on cello. 

During the period prior to and while writing Mother Medusae, stories about the #MeToo movement, the gender pay gap and aggressive online ‘trolling’ were unfolding in the news. However, women were finding solidarity, fighting back and confronting the situation. Mary Beard’s book Women and Power spoke of classical attitudes to women and how these attitudes have been perpetually recycled to this day. The symbolic meaning usually associated with the Medusa is that the Medusa monster, a Gorgon, is to be feared, however Medusae are also associated with protecting women from evil. This fierce feminine power as a protector from evil is at the heart of my composition, inspiring a fluidity and strength in the musical movement and requiring a bold attack in the performance.

Check it out @SoundCloud 

Photo credit: Deborah Ripley

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Drifters

I was at Air Edel Studios earlier this week to mix the score for an exciting new indie film The Drifters directed by Ben Bond and produced by Starcross Entertainment’s Iona Sweeney supported by Creative England and the BFI. It’s been brilliant to work on the music for this as part of the ZeroVU team with my partners, Nick Taylor (bass player and recording engineer at Air Edel) and multi-instrumentalist, Mitch Taylor.

The film has been described as a post-Brexit love story and tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers who meet as migrants in London trying to make sense of their new world. It’s beautifully filmed in London and the Devon coast and features rising stars Lucie Bourdeu and Jonathan Ajayi. We took a very pared back approach with the music to help convey the fragility of their relationship which is at times quirky, funny and bittersweet with a dark edge running through it. The film should be playing festivals later this year and I’ll post more info here.

L-R: Ben Bond (dir), Iona Sweeney (prod), and Mike and Nick Taylor (Mitch Taylor not in photo) - Zero-VU

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.