Category Archives: Classes

9/21/2019 More Noir, Linear Harmony and Jeff Beal

On Saturday, Sept. 21st the Academy of Scoring Arts will host the latest installment of my Ellington Study Group.  I am excited to have as a guest speaker Jeff Beal (House of Cards, Monk, Blackfish, The Queen of Versailles). This jazz-oriented discussion will continue our exploration about scoring techniques in film noir. Jeff is an exceptionally creative and prolific composer and has a wealth of wisdom to share. Don’t miss this unforgettable meeting with a modern legend in film and television scoring.

I’ll start by give a talk about harmony: linear, chromatic, and non-functional harmony are all parts of the jazz and film composer’s “noir” toolkit, with roots in late 19th and early 20th century classical music. In the 40’s and 50’s. jazz and film composers and performers drew heavily on this tradition. We’ll start with Billy Strayhorn’s arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Blue Serge” from 1947, then I’ll give a quick overview of some concepts of linear/chromatic harmony from a jazz and modern music composer’s perspective. Then we’ll then look at a few more cues from Elmer Bernstein’s 1957 score for “Sweet Smell of Success” as well as a some excerpts of a recent scoring project of  my own.

Jeff Beal will talk about his jazz influences, his trumpet background, and noir chromatic harmony in his highly lauded score for “House of Cards”, and about his upcoming commission from the LA Master Chorale.

3/23/2019 The Dark Side: Music of Late 1950’s Film Noir and Marcelo Zarvos from “Ray Donovan”

Saturday, March 23rd 2019
Vitello’s E-Spot Lounge – 10:00 am to 1:00 pm

The Dark Side: The Music of Late 1950’s Film Noir, with Special Guest Marcelo Zarvos (HBO’s “Ray Donovan”)

Scott Healy brings the next installment of his Ellington Study group, starting off with a look at a few of the great jazz film scores from the film noir period: Duke Ellington’s score from “Anatomy of a Murder,” Elmer Bernstein’s “Sweet Smell of Success,” and Henry Mancini’s “Touch of Evil”. The late 1959’s was a great time for jazz music and for Hollywood. These so-called “noir” films are full of high drama and cool vibes, and their scores inhabit and serve the picture, as well as stand on their own as inspired and superbly-crafted art.

We’ll spend some time analyzing and discussing the harmonic technique and orchestration/instrumentation choices as well as how the music serves the picture. Scott will also show session files from a recent animation project scored in the classic film noir orchestral style.

Then after a short break we’ll speak with our guest Marcelo Zarvos. Marcelo has had a long and prolific career scoring for film and television, and is currently engaged scoring HBO’s “Ray Donovan.” The most recent season of this show was set in NYC and they really kicked the music up a notch; Marcelo’s score is edgy, organic, dark and dramatic…perhaps we could label the show a modern-day film noir? He will discuss the music for the series and his scoring process. Music editor Derek Somaru from “Ray Donovan” will also join in the discussion.

After the class we will have a buffet lunch served, and there will be more time for discussion and networking. So sharpen your digital pencils and get out your virtual score paper, put on your thinking caps and spend a morning getting dark and dirty with some great music.

We’ll spend some time analyzing and discussing the harmonic technique and orchestration/instrumentation choices in these classics, as well as how the music serves the picture.


About Marcelo Zarvos:

The subtle nuances of composer Marcelo Zarvos’ style are evidenced in his recent scores for FENCES directed by and starring Denzel Washington, Golden Globe-winning THE AFFAIR and RAY DONOVAN. Though his training began by studying classical music he later began delving into jazz, rock and world music. This expansion of influence helped to create Zarvos’ trademark sound – a seamless blend of classical, orchestral, rock, electronic and various ethnic elements, that together create uniquely affecting and emotionally charged music for film, TV, modern dance and the concert stage.

Zarvos most recently scored the acclaimed hit film WONDER starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay and directed by Stephen Chbosky which opened in November 2017.

Because of his skill with layered stories and emotive undertones, Brazilian-born Zarvos has become the go-to composer for filmmakers like Nicole Holofcener (ENOUGH SAID, PLEASE GIVE, the recent Amazon series ONE MISSISSIPPI), Antoine Fuqua (BROOKLYN’S FINEST), Tod Williams (THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR, CELL), Ross Katz (ADULT BEGINNERS, THE CHOICE), Cary Fukunaga (SIN NOMBRE) and Barry Levinson (THE HUMBLING, YOU DON’T KNOW JACK, ROCK THE KASBAH).

A classically trained pianist and composer, Zarvos earned his BFA from Cal Arts. He burst onto the film landscape in the early 2000s with his score for KISSING JESSICA STEIN and with the film adaptation of the John Irving novel, THE DOOR IN THE FLOOR. Zarvos’ credits include THE GOOD SHEPHERD, THE WORDS, BROOKLYN’S FINEST, THE FACE OF LOVE, REACHING FOR THE MOON (FLORES RARAS), SIN NOMBRE, HOLLYWOODLAND, ADULT BEGINNERS, THE HUMBLING, LITTLE ACCIDENTS, AMERICAN ULTRA and ENOUGH SAID.

Twice nominated for Primetime Emmy® Awards (for YOU DON’T KNOW JACK and TAKING CHANCE), Zarvos’ television work includes TOO BIG TO FAIL, THE BIG C, EXTANT the HBO movie PHIL SPECTOR, the Amazon series ONE MISSISSIPPI and Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and two current Showtime series THE AFFAIR and RAY DONOVAN.

Zarvos’ recent projects include THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, THE CHOICE (based on the Nicholas Sparks novel), MAPPLETHORPE starring Matt Smith and directed by Ondi Timoner, THE CHAPERONE starring Elizabeth McGovern directed by Michael Engler and adapted by Julian Fellowes and scheduled for release in Spring 2019 BREAKTHROUGH starring Chrissy Metz and directed by Roxann Dawson opening in April 2019 , THE BEST OF ENEMIES starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson directed by Robin Bissell opening in April 2019 and Antoine Fuqua’s upcoming Muhammad Ali documentary for HBO.

12/8/18 – Harmonic Superpowers and Guest Jeff Babko

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8TH, 2018 – 10am – 12:30pm

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Hone your harmonic superpowers while hanging with your cool LA colleagues and ingesting large quantities of caffeine!

On Saturday the 8th we’ll start off by listening to and giving feedback on demo recordings and scores that were sent in to the ASA. Then I want to spend some time talking about chord substitutions and linear jazz harmony, with a particular focus on jazz piano voicing techniques and keyboard harmony.  I’ll have examples from the masters going back to the 1920’s.

 

The first half will have been a fitting preparation for the second half of the class, as I will then introduce one of my favorite musicians, L.A. keyboardist, fellow caffeine lover, and overall cool guy Jeff Babko. Jeff will talk about his multi-faceted career as a live and studio performer, and give us some insights into how he approaches his art in today’s musical environment. This is one not to miss. So lock and load people, let’s get to it!

About Jeff Babko:

Pianist/keyboardist Jeff Babko is a native of Southern California, and has remained on the west coast throughout his career. Babko constantly balances many musical and professional hats, as an in-demand recording musician and touring keyboardist.

After graduating from the University of Miami’s distinguished Frost School Of Music, Babko began working with international superstar Julio Iglesias on a series of worldwide tours. He also appeared in Iglesias’ “Tango” longform video.

After leaving Iglesias, Babko began regularly touring Asia and Europe super-drummer Simon Phillips. Soon after, he joined guitarist Robben Ford’s band, and later extensively toured and recorded with Larry Carlton. With Carlton, Babko performed for the King and royal family of Thailand in Bangkok’s royal palace. Listeners can enjoy Babko’s recorded work with Ford and Carlton on their joint effort, Live In Tokyo, as well as on some of their individual recordings (see “other people’s rekkids” section). Babko also backed Carlton with Japanese B’z guitar superstar Tak Matsumoto on their Grammy award winning recording.

Other tours included Europe with the L.A. supergroup TOTO in 2000 (including the “Live In Sofia” television special), and also with Grammy award winner Shelby Lynne.

Television work began with Martin Short’s syndicated talk show in 1999/2000, and later on the Wayne Brady daytime show. For the past 15+ years, most significantly, Babko has been the musical arranger, a composer, and house band member on ABC TV’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. He’s backed up countless rock, pop and jazz artists on the show, and has produced much of the music for its comedy segments (including co-writing “I’m F**king Ben Affleck”).

Always keeping one foot dipped in comedy territory, Babko has been the touring musical director and accompanist for Martin Short since 2002, and also performs with Mr. Short & Steve Martin, also joined by the Grammy award winning bluegrass group Steep Canyon Rangers. Look for their Netlfix special in 2018!

In 2010, Babko recorded (“100 Miles From Memphis”) and toured with Sheryl Crow. The “100 Miles” band, dubbed “The Thieves”, recorded a live set from the Pantages Theatre, which has been a televised mainstay since its release. Another ongoing touring and recording situation has been with James Taylor, and Babko can be heard on Taylor’s “Covers” record, including its single, “It’s Growing”. Babko joined Taylor on the 2017 stadium tour with Bonnie Raitt, performing at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, among other legendary ballparks.

Other recent recording highlights include Jason Mraz’ “Love Is A Four Letter Word” and Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange”, Nathan East’s 2 solo albums, as well as Smokey Robinson’s “Smokey & Friends” record of duets, produced by Randy Jackson for Verve Records. You also have heard Babko on recordings from Alanis Morrisette, Maná, Willie Nelson, Tim McGraw, Jennifer Nettles, The Madden Brothers, and others.

Babko has four solo albums out under his own name, including 2012’s critically acclaimed “Crux”for Tonequake Records, featuring Mark Isham, Tim Lefebvre and Matt Chamberlain. His 2007 release “Mondo Trio” w/ Jeff Coffin and Vinnie Colaiuta is considered a classic “drum fusion” record. The collective supergroup “Band Of Other Brothers” with Will Lee, Dave Matthews Band’s Jeff Coffin, Nir Felder and Steely Dan’s Keith Carlock was a critical favorite and the band headlined the Iridium in NYC in 2017.

Babko can be seen on Steve Martin & Martin Short’s Netflix special, released in May 2018. He also runs his own studio, TudorTones, with his wife, studio violinist Songa Lee. Also, Jeff hosted a podcast from TudorTones featuring fellow keyboard players called “The Caffeinated Keyboardist.” (http://caffeinatedkeyboardist.podomatic.com).

10/20/18 – Voicing Boot Camp and Drummer Bernie Dresel

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20TH 2018 – 10am – 12:30pm

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Blues for Pablo analysisSaturday the 20th is going to be a jam-packed class. I want to spend an hour talking about how to voice a big band horn session in to get that that classic, dynamic, crisp and swinging ensemble sound. We’ll talk about creating full ensemble “shout” tutti horn voicings, layering, voice doubling, instrument and section ranges, cross-doubling, and inner unisons. We’ll analyze examples from Duke Ellington and Thad Jones, and I’ll do a detailed analysis of a new chart of mine from Bernie’s record.

 

After a short break, I’ll being up band leader and drummer extraordinaire Bernie Dresel. The 16-piece BBB Featuring Bernie Dresel has just released their second record, Bern Bern Bern – seventy-two minutes of high-octane big band music featuring music by an LA’s finest composers and arrangers. Bernie will be discussing big band drum chart writing techniques, as well as his newer forward thinking recording production ideas applied to the big band.

So lock and load people, let’s get to it!

About Bernie Dresel:

Bernie Dresel has been one of the busiest studio and live musicians in the world as both a drummer and percussionist since moving to Los Angeles in 1983 after graduating from the prestigious Eastman School of Music. On film and tv you’ve heard Bernie most recently on Incredibles 2, Zootopia, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Family Guy, and The Simpsons. He has traveled the world, occupying the coveted drum chair for Grammy Award-winning Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band since its inception in 1999 until 2015. And also, for an overlapping 15 years (1992 to 2006), he was the drummer for the multi-Grammy Award-winning Brian Setzer Orchestra, selling close to 4 million records. Modern Drummer magazine’s readers’ poll named Bernie “Best Big Band Drummer” and Drum! Magazine has put him on their list of “53 Drummers Who Made a Difference in the ’90s” as well as honoring him with a Drummie® for Best Big Band Drummer.

And now Bernie has had his own big band for 4 years called The BBB Featuring Bernie Dresel, which is without question one of the world’s most exciting, most innovative and original hard-swinging large jazz ensembles ever. Their just released 2nd album, Bern Bern Bern (available now on CD and Pure Audio Blu-Ray), provides potent testimony to the sheer exhilaration of big band jazz….a combination of intense swing, fiery soloing, exciting arrangements, and tight ensemble playing that is showcased within a unique production palette, all the time being powered by Bernie Dresel’s extraordinary drumming talents. Bernie will be discussing big band drum chart writing techniques, as well as his newer forward thinking recording production ideas applied to the big band.

More information about Bernie, the album Bern Bern Bern, and this great big band can be found at www.TheBBBFeaturingBernieDresel.com
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see bluedogmusic.com and academyofscoringarts.org for more info

6/30/18 – Birth of the Cool and Duke with Guest Paul Peress

On Saturday, June 30th at 10am we’ll start delving into Miles Davis’ revolutionary “Birth of the Cool”.  This influential and enduring work has it all: inspired arranging, cool vibe, great playing – a multi-session group effort featuring compositions and arrangements by Gil Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Miles, John Carisi and John Lewis. This nonet project from the late 1940’s and early 50’s is the culmination of hours of hanging out and experimenting, and is a great example of intricate, intimate and soulful small ensemble writing. We will study “Jeru” by Gerry Mulligan using scores and parts.

Then after a short break I’ll bring up my good friend and NYC homeboy drummer, composer and band-leader Paul Peress. Paul comes from an exceptionally musical family, his late father Maurice was a well-known conductor, composer, educator, and friend of Duke Ellington. Paul will discuss his own meeting Duke Ellington on several occasions, and his work with his father Ellington’s “Black Brown and Beige” with his father. He’ll also touch on work we did together in NY, where I arranged some of Paul’s music, and various music concepts important to him as a drummer/composer. For summer reading, check out how Maurice traces the roots of the intersection of jazz and classical music from the mid 19th century on, and recounts much of his multi-faceted career in his book “Dvorak to Duke Ellington”. Highly recommended.

Free coffee and lots of hang time, done by 12:30. See you there!

 

About Paul Peress:

“A MUST SEE ARTIST AND MASTER DRUMMER” – The Los Angeles Times

Paul Peress is a Grammy nominated drummer, bandleader, producer, and songwriter, newly based out of Los Angeles. He has worked as music director/drummer with Chaka Khan, Brenda Russell, Moby, The B-52’s, Mary Wilson, Deniece Williams, Regina Belle, Tom Scott, Bobby Kimball, Stephen Bishop, Jeff Golub… His band, The Paul Peress Project, has performed in over 20 countries, including appearances at The Heineken Jazz Festival, Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, South Africa’s Joy of Jazz Festival, BET’s Jazz St. Lucia…

5/5/18 – Concert Jazz and Extended Form – and Mervyn Magic

Ellington’s auspicious Carnegie Hall debut in 1943 gave us the masterpiece “Black, Brown and Beige”, arguably the first long form, extended “legit” concert jazz work. Contemporary critics and aficionados were skeptical that Duke, or anyone for that matter, could pull off such a feat.  Seriously, given that jazz is an improvised art form, how it be “composed” enough for the deadly serious concert stage? How can an a jazz artist sustain interest and craft a meaningful jazz work longer than the a few sides of a 78 rpm record? In the last class we spent some time on the first movement, of “Black, Brown and Beige” using a few contrasting recordings. We’ll continue on from where we left off.

A few decades later with Miles’ “Bitches Brew”, the line between written and improvised sound had grown opaque and the process multi-dimensional. Plus there remained no doubt that even the freest sounding jazz can be composed and legit. Concepts like exploiting musicians’ individuality, evolved common practice techniques, free improvisation, electronics, rock and R n B influences,  and modern production all coalesced for Miles and the “Bitches Brew” band. Last month we took a hard look at “Pharaoh’s Dance”, I want to continue on and look at the rest of the record. Also I’ve been waiting to introduce Sun Ra to the group, maybe now’s the time? We also might check out a bit of Trane’s “A Love Supreme”.

After a short break I’ll introduce our guest speaker,  five-time Grammy Award winner Mervyn Warren, a highly accomplished film and television composer, record producer, arranger, songwriter, lyricist, pianist, and vocalist. Mervyn is equally adept at many styles, his work spans the genres from film score, pop, R&B, jazz, orchestral, classical, vocal, country, and more. His filmography includes The Wedding Planner, A Walk To Remember, The Preacher’s Wife, and A Raisin In The Sun. His artist roster includes Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Queen Latifah, Boyz II Men, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Rascal Flatts, Chicago, Michael Bublé, Al Jarreau, & many more. 

Mervyn will be joining us to shine the light on the recently completed project by legendary jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer. It’s been almost a decade since their last studio album (2009’s The Chick Corea Songbook), and their new 2018 album, The Junction, sets the group on a new course with hybrid elements of jazz, swing, hip hop, and more. We’ll be playing tracks from the new album and talking to Mervyn about his arranging, the recording process, and more.