Ben Charest confided that a career highlight as having dinner with Sir Georges Martin discussing The BeatlesFilm Scores: Expect the Unexpected Jim Doxas December 20, 2021 511 MTL Jazz Notes I think that there is always a cinematic aspect to music. Great musicians and great artists from all walks of life tell a story within their chosen genre. Some express their thoughts through watercolours, others through words, and musicians through sound. Some art seems to appear instantly, but often behind the seemingly quick creation lies years of practice and experimentation. The skill of improvisation relies on versatility, and this makes a solid foundation for writing film music. The difference between a film’s soundtrack and a film score is that often the soundtrack will consist of previously recorded “hits,” whereas a film score uses original music to convey a specific mood to the audience. This task rests on the shoulders of the composer; and a mighty task it is. Think of the film score from the movie series Star Wars and you get an idea of the power of a score to enhance the film. This score has become part of the lexicon of modern cinema audiences. In Montréal, we have two film composers of global stature. “…music makes you more conscious of structures, forms and shapes that help you control the narrative as an improviser.” … Ben Charest James Gelfand had scored over 40 feature films and performed all over the world James Gelfand, a Montréal pianist, has had a varied career playing piano in styles ranging from classical to jazz. His performances have brought him to audiences around the world. In the mid-nineties, James began composing for films, his first being The Rendering with Shannen Doherty, produced by Annie Carlucci, with whom he went on to score 40 more films. He feels that; “…Improvisation is the most important tool in the scoring of films. The ability to quickly go down a compositional path, and then to be able to evaluate and change the direction.” Scoring and performance go together for James. He considers jazz improvisation as a complement to composition, and his development of composing has helped him to enhance his jazz playing. Composing music to fit a specific scene and timeframe is an art, one at which he excels. When paying close attention to James’ improvisation, one can see that his compositions go where the music takes him; he doesn’t see boundaries as an obstacle because he is able to see beyond them, and yet delivers what the filmmaker envisions. He has played in renowned festivals in Montreux, Jacksonville and of course, Montréal. It is hard to ask someone like James to pick one career highlight, but he shares it was the performance at Place des Arts as the winner of the Montreal International Jazz Festival Prize. “…Improvisation is the most important tool in the scoring of films. The ability to quickly go down a compositional path, and then to be able to evaluate and change the direction.” … James Gelfand Ben Charest is a fantastic musician whose versatility allows him to branch out into a wide scope of musical styles. Ben got his start in film scoring when he was asked by a producer at the National Film Board of Canada to score for a film. He recalls, “I conducted in front of the screen at the NFB studio without any synchro. I didn’t know you could do such a thing!” He feels that film composing has affected his improvisation and musical storytelling. Ben told me that, “…music makes you more conscious of structures, forms and shapes that help you control the narrative as an improviser.” I was surprised when he reflected that his career highlight was not appearing at the Oscars for his work on Les Triplettes de Belleville, but rather having dinner with Sir Georges Martin discussing The Beatles phenomenon. Ben has several exciting films on the horizon, and in the meantime is kept busy completing his master’s degree in orchestration at Université de Montréal. On a personal note, it is always exciting to perform with both Ben and James. Even following rehearsals, at the performances I expect the unexpected. Both of these artists’ music is enchanting and engages the audience with its vitality and twists and turns. Not every musician can write film music, because good film composition is a balancing act between an artistic vision, the musical identity of the composer and the desires of the film’s producer and director. The score to a film can transport someone to a faraway land, convey happiness, suspense, or sorrow. I believe that both of these respected musicians are successful because of their start as improvising, jazz musicians. They both have a sense of adventure which is clearly heard in their music. Jim Doxas is an award-winning jazz drummer who has performed with many of North America’s finest musicians and has performed on more than 150 albums. He also lectures and teaches percussion at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music and at Concordia University. To learn more about Jim and his music, please visit: www.jimdoxas.com Editor’s Note: Jim performs regularly with his own group and with other first rate jazz musicians at the UpStairs Jazz Bar & Grill at 1254 Mackay, just below Ste-Catherine St. I’m happy to report that the club has re-opened with live music, restaurant and bar service, following public health guidelines. Please visit: www.upstairsjazz.com for show information or call 514-931-6808 for reservations. Related
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