I recently completed the score for a documentary about the dark and quixotic artist Miriam Beerman, who is 91 years old. The film, Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos, is a passion project by the director Jonathan Gruber. It was an incredible challenge to match the intensity of this under-appreciated painter’s vivid canvases while finding a way to illuminate her calm personality. To get this feeling of serenity within chaos, I chose a palette of essentially four instruments; piano, cello, vibes, and percussion—including the high keening sound of bowed crotales.
On October 18, the Capital City Symphony under the baton of Maestra Victoria Gau will premiere my three-movement work Mid-Century Mambo. It’s an orchestral piece inspired by 1950s dance rhythms, including a mambo, of course, and some string-y, Percy-Faith-style pop. Luckily, Gau’s group has a rock-solid battery that includes a groovy bongo player.
The concert will be held at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, DC. It’s an all-American evening and I’m in illustrious company: the other two composers on the bill are Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copeland. I’ll be at the performance, so if you come, please say hello!
We’ve been in and out of the studio for a couple of years on this one, but Gin Fizz Fandango, my jazz band’s new CD, is ready for release. The title track on the album is an instrumental—and the title also refers to a cocktail dreamt up by Chaise Lounge’s resident bassist/mixologist, Pete Ostle. Naturally the CD also includes vocal numbers like “Tick Tock” that take advantage of our singer’s unique way with a melody and a story.
The CD release party is on September 26 at AMP by Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland. I couldn’t be prouder of this album or this band (from left in the photo): Gary Gregg on reeds, Joe Jackson on trombone, Tommy Barrick on drums, yours truly on piano and guitar, Marilyn Older on vocals and piano, and Pete on bass. I’m also tickled with the album cover, shot by Sarah Guroff and designed by Adriana Cordero.
I recently scored a commercial for Verizon’s FiOS that features the delightful comic actress Rashida Jones. Though the spot was only 15 seconds long—and only eight seconds of that was music—it was a puzzle to put together. The lyrics the agency provided were hilariously absurd: “Fun Things to Do During Buffering.” I came up with a melody and orchestration, writing the parts idiomatically out of habit, even though I had to use synth instruments, since the time frame did not allow me to hire human beings for the gig. Except for the vocalist, of course. Those lyrics! The singer, a jazz performer named Isabel Hernandez-Cata, was terrifically over-qualified. She came with an arena-sized voice, and I needed her to sound the way June Cleaver looked: pretty and bell-like and generic. It took all of my musical vocabulary to explain to her where to put the sound to bring it down to kitchen size. Luckily she was a quick study and gave me a spot-on performance. It feels silly to be proud of such a tiny piece of work, but sometimes it feels great to simply ply your craft.