Sometimes it’s a treat to find music you created for a client on previous projects show up in new ones. (Although, hopefully your contract specifies exactly what they can use it for and whether you’re compensated). That’s what happened here with this video. I had even forgotten I wrote this music, originally thinking, “Hey, that’s cool. Who wrote that?”

Putting together a new AAA basketball game every year is an incredible task for 2K. I would have loved to score the entire scene instead of looping the intro music, but there was surely no time to get me involved during the process. I’m just pumped to hear my music in other contexts throughout the game.

Double Talk’s Film Music

Double Talk is a film about a prolific voice artist in Spain named Joan Pera. He’s dubbed movies in English to Spanish and Catalan throughout his career. As a master of his craft, Joan has dubbed a prodigious volume of films. Woody Allen is one of his most notable characters, and Joan’s performance of Woody is highlighted in this film.

The Director of the short film is Jessica Bernstein-Wax. She asked for jazz, in particular a sub-genre of jazz reminiscent of Django and stride piano, to use under the opening and end credits. She also needed a sultry ballad remindful of “Misty” to highlight the romance of Spanish city life featured in the film. I was brought in late during the production schedule and given about two weeks to write and record the music. Two weeks is plenty of time to write 3 tracks (the third track was actually a variation on the first). They only took a handful hours to write, but the real challenge was finding an available studio space and booking high caliber musicians within the allotted time. I’m fortunate to live in an area ripe with professional musicians and recording studios, but as a jazz musician myself, I know how busy our schedules can get. My strategy was to find the studio first and book a morning session in the first available slot. That made booking the musicians less of a challenge (most jazz players don’t gig or teach in the mornings). It also compelled the director and her small team to move fast and approve my compositions quickly.

We had about 4 hours to setup, record, and mix. Getting the drums loaded in and mic’d by the engineer usually takes at least an hour, and setting up the rest of the band and dialing in the sound would take at minimum another hour. So we were looking at less than two hours for recording and mixing. It turned out very well for such a short amount of time. There was something refreshing about limiting our mixing to that timeframe, and keeping the mix rough lent well to an “old time” jazz sound.

The most demanding part of this job was project management. Prep time is one of the things that is often skimped when budgeting for such a project. Like mentioned above, the compositions only took a few hours to write and edit but it required considerable time and effort to mockup the music, write and revise contracts, negotiate rates with the film director, musicians, and engineer, create lead sheets of the music, plan the recording, and practice for the performance. I believe our initial inclination as composers and humans is to gloss over less interesting and tedious details and focus on what we’re most interested: writing music. It’s crucial to our business, however, to devote as much brain power to project management as we use for music.

There was no rehearsal for these tunes. They were all done within two takes. I hope you enjoy them!

Business is booming over here, but I still find time to play live music. Back in 2015 our drummer from the Kuckaw! project captured me playing a solo to Herbie’s relatively unknown, but slamming title, Heartbeat. Love the interplay in this video between bass, drums, guitar, and myself. I’m lucky to play with such a skilled cohort.

Hop Blox

I was approached to quickly create SFX for Pogo Labs’ Hop Blox. Fortunately, I already had a foundation of sound from a game project that never made it to release. Keeping ownership of your work in the event a game terminates development is something I recommend incorporating into your contracts. It paid off here. I spent about an hour improving and adapting the unused SFX for this quick project. They’re playful sounds;  I hope you enjoy them and find them agreeable for the project.

I chose this tune for David Jeffrey’s CD, November Sessions. I’ve been playing with David’s band for close to a decade. I’ve got a stack of tunes similar to this that I’ve never recorded or even played live and I figured it was time to bring one to the band and get it on a CD. Turned out pretty well for only having rehearsed it twice.

Hopefully one day soon I’ll have the time and finances to put together a full length album featuring that stack of compositions on my piano…

Concourse in Atmosphere

Clifford Brown III and I reconnected somehow. We played together in high school and my first year in college. I left home, he left home, we never stayed in touch. He found me back in 2010. I played briefly in his quartet and we parted ways for a while until he reached out again for me to play on some of his remixes. Cliff remixes all kinds of different music, usually for contests on Indaba; he’s really good at it. He’d call me up, have me over, plug in my midi keyboard, assign it to a virtual instrument, press record and say, “Go.”

It’s challenging coming up music without hearing the other parts before pressing record. Cliff knows this is difficult, but he thrives on the fresh ideas that manifest from these sessions. I was first concerned how a lack of preparation could hamper the music, but doing it week after week for an entire summer, I found I no longer minded. Cliff was making great music this way. He was taking my vulnerable, sometimes formless improvisations, and crafting them into parts that worked seamlessly with all the other parts regardless of recording order.

For Concourse, Cliff brought in musicians to collaborate from across the globe. A musician in Italy would lay down a part and send it to Cliff, and Cliff would manipulate it or leave it intact to send off to another musician elsewhere. Sometimes the music traveled through half a dozen home studios before it reached me. Sometimes I was the first one to lay down a part. I’d surrender a musical idea that I’d been experimenting with or practicing, usually with a general guess as to where it could lead, only to find that Cliff and his musicians put a wonderful twist on my idea, taking it somewhere I didn’t imagine. The result is very much birthed in acid jazz, and leads to a lot of great minimalist jams by some of the best musicians around.

Concourse is a diverse mix of music, understandably so, considering that the personnel spans through several different countries and specializes in several different musical styles. The horn players are jazz musicians, the singer is classically trained, the violinist plays New Music, the bassist can rock out with the best of them. Cliff intuitively understood this and found a great solution to ensure the album worked as one piece of music, binding it together with an unassuming, meditative female chant. The chant itself is gorgeous, and it’s the link that makes everything work so well. You’ll also hear an urban soundscape thread the tracks together. Cliff’s always full of great ideas.

In this music, I play the Rhodes and piano mostly. Sometimes you hear me lay down a synth bass line. My favorite contribution is my harmonic progression for Nocturno. The Italian singer Cliff found for this song is amazing. Her lyrics are beautiful. The drum track underneath is gritty, a little crushed, but pairs so well with the delicate chord changes. I also find myself listening to my solo on Water Rising a year or more later and thinking, “Whoa, did I play that…?” I’m overly critical of my playing. It’s great to know I can accept it after putting a year of distance between myself and my music.

One of my other favorite tracks is the nebulous Drought (Coffee and Laptops). I imagine a cool New York basement in a 70’s summer–shag rug, tacky couch, haze of smoke in the air. My favorite part is Cliff’s improvisation right around 2:30. That major third over the minor chord shows you just how much attitude Cliff has hidden underneath his unshakable, laid back persona.

Kudos to you, Cliff. I’ll let the music do the rest of the talking. Be sure to check out Cliff and Mike Olmos’ solos on Rush.

WordBender

I was fortunate to create the sound for a great new word puzzler, WordBender. It’s a free download on the Apple store. Check it out here.

Atmospheric Sci-Fi Music

I compiled a handful of tracks appropriate for games, TV, and film. Inquire for licensing for your project.

These were created for my XCOM music replacement project. You can check out how they work with the game on my YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/Sharpeleven64/

Big Fish Casino Music

Producing the music and SFX for Self Aware Games’ Big Fish Casino is a real pleasure. It allows me to showcase my versatility by writing music in several styles for their creative slot machines and mini-games. Below is a link to just a handful of my work for them.

Be sure to check out the game for yourself! http://www.selfawaregames.com/

Rhodes Improvisation

With all the composing I do, it’s important I keep up with my live performance practice. I was injured for a few years and I couldn’t even begin to practice until last summer. Luckily that injury is done and gone. Now I just have to get my chops back.

I’ll be playing live music for the rest of my life, no matter how busy I am with games.

The chord progression is F – Abmaj7 – Dbmaj7 – C7(#9)