L.A. Newsbriefs

by Peter Gordon '78

  Jason Joseph '02

Prior to 1980, the two principal majors at Berklee were performance and arranging. The college had a tradition of hiring outstanding arranging faculty members with significant professional credits. With the subsequent emergence of such popular majors as film scoring, MP&E, music synthesis, and music business/management, it's possible to overlook the ongoing presence of arranging at Berklee.

I was reminded of this by a recent Los Angeles Times review of the upcoming Michael Feinstein recording The Sinatra Project. In the same Studio A at Capitol Records where Sinatra recorded many of his legendary performances, Feinstein recorded a set of classic pop standards with a live studio band. The Nelson Riddle - style charts for this session, which the reviewer writes was "as close to being at a Sinatra date as you'll get," were written and conducted by award-winning arranger and Berklee faculty member Bill Elliott. The tradition is alive and well.

Have you seen the concert DVD Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles? In a December 2007 performance filmed at the Nokia Theatre, Mayer '98 performs three sets: a singer/songwriter - style acoustic opener, a bluesy trio set, and then a full-band pop set, featuring Bob Reynolds '00 on tenor sax and Brad Mason '95 trumpet. The entire concert is impressive, but the trio set with Steve Jordan on drums and Pino Palladino on bass is an eye-opening showcase for Mayer's considerable guitar skills.

Congratulations to this year's alumni Emmy nominees: composers Joey Newman '98 (Little People, Big World) and Alf Clausen '66 (The Simpsons), sound effects editor David Van Slyke '82 (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), rerecording mixer Elmo Ponsdomenech '83 (Dexter), preproduction package mixer Brian Riordan '95 (American Idol, finale show), sounds effects editor Stephen Parise '97 (Life after People), and Pro Tools mixer Pablo Munguia '97 (Super Bowl XLII's Halftime Show). Good luck to all.

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the Grammy Foundation Starry Night gala salute to renowned producer Sir George Martin. An outstanding array of artists, including Burt Bacharach, Jeff Beck, Dave Grusin, Michael McDonald, and Tom Jones, performed songs associated with Sir George. Led by producer David Foster, the house band featured Michael Thompson '75 and Tariqh Akoni '91 on guitars, and Neil Stubenhaus '75 on bass. The Berklee connection was also in evidence as the Grammy student jazz ensemble performed, led by lead trumpeter and current Berklee student Billy Buss.

Stubenhaus has also been busy serving as the musical director and bassist for the Yamaha Groove All Stars shows in Frankfurt, Mexico City, and Guadalajara. His recent recording sessions include the movies Semi-Pro and Tropic Thunder, and he was part of a project in Rome for Italian singer/songwriter Gigi D'Alessio, along with Michael Thompson and drummer John "JR" Robinson '75.

Already it's been a busy 2008 for JR. He has done numerous performances in Mexico as a member of the Yamaha Groove All Stars, he was featured on the PBS Special David Foster & Friends, rejoined the legendary band Rufus at the Las Vegas City of Lights Jazz Festival, performed with Quincy Jones live at Montreux, and was part of the ASCAP Quincy Jones tribute in New York. In addition, his latest recording credits include the scores for movies Semi-Pro, What Happens in Vegas, Dark Streets, 27 Dresses, The Love Guru, and Tropic Thunder. As if that weren't enough, the band Native Son that JR coleads with Michael Thompson will record its first album in November live at the Baked Potato club in North Hollywood.

Also on the studio front, bassist Chris Chaney '91 recently finished work on Meet Glen Campbell, a new CD by the pop-country star that also features Vinnie Colaiuta '75 on drums. Among Chaney's other recent credits are the upcoming CD by American Idol winner David Cook, the new CD by Dutch pop-country artist Ilse DeLange, and the score to the movie The Marc Pease Experience, a session that also included JR Robinson on drums.

Singer/songwriter Colin Keenan '94, Rick Mussallam, and their band Mother Eff released their debut CD, Are We Famous Yet? The disc was produced by Erich Gobel '88 and features Mike Keneally on guitars and keyboards, bassist Bryan Beller '92, drummer Joe Travers '91, guitarist Mike Olekshy, and keyboardist Jeff Babko. For more, check out www.myspace.com/mothereffmusic.

If you like r&b in the style of John Legend, Luther Vandross, and Seal, chances are you'll enjoy the new EP Out of My Mind: Side A by Jason Joseph '02. One reviewer wrote, "What a fantastic voice! Top-notch vocals, songs, production." The six-song set is available on iTunes. For more, visit www.jasonjoseph.com.

That's all for now. Stay in touch.


- Peter Gordon '78
Director, Berklee Center in Los Angeles