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.

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