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A Los Angeles Keyboardist’s Not Lost Weekend in “Last Vegas”

A Nice Rig on a Dream Gig

Last June, a weekend recording session of Mark Mothersbaugh’s music for the recently released film “Last Vegas” yielded over 30 cues–just about the entire score to the movie.  I was a memorable project not just because it’s cue after cue of me soloing over slamming grooves with a live band (really fun), but because it was live R n B band on an indie movie. The director, a musician himself, wanted a funky score with an old school vibe, and that’s what Mark gave him, with our help. I saw the movie last night, and all these factors, the looseness, the live vibe, and the improvisation really make the soundtrack pop. It was a great weekend.

The other featured performers were Carlitos Del Puerto on bass, Matt Chamberlain on drums and Brad Dutz on percussion. What a band.

I’ve done a bunch of sessions out here, mostly small indie features and a few larger studio releases, and with the exception of a large orchestra date, I’ve only done three film sessions with a live band, and never an entire score of groove and soloing like in “Last Vegas”.

Not to detract from the multi-talented savants who piece together film scores on computer, and I’ve certainly done a bunch of that work too, but a live band sounds better. These truths are self-evident, and everyone knows it, but factors like budgets, workflow, and lack of familiarity with the world of live playing all seem to conspire against doing it old-school.  Live scores are more expensive, and need planning, printed parts, contracting and studio time, so it’s not for every film, nor should it be. But in the right situation, and with a little extra money and effort, it’s right.

The proof of the grooving is in the listening. Computers can do great things, but they don’t groove, and they don’t solo very well. And computers really suck at jazz, funk and R n B.

How do we convince producers and director (and composers) to set aside a slightly larger music budget and engage live musicians? Here in LA there’s Ron Jones’ Academy of Scoring Arts, which promotes live film scoring by holding professional workshops and networking and educational events. Check it out.

A live jazz large ensemble film score is next. In any case, it was a great two days for this Los Angeles keyboardist.

Rhodes and B3-this Los Angeles keyboardist's dream rig.

Here’s the rig for the session: 1973 Fender Rhodes, 1959 Hammond B3 with 122 Leslie, the Clavinet D6 is to the left.




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