Hello all and Happy 2014,
2013 was a good one. Farewell to that one and in with the new year. There are a number of adventures coming up. I am working with Sting and his management on the repertoire and musical vibe of the Paul Simon/Sting tour. I feel somewhat useless because those guys don’t really need much help but it is nice to be asked. Their respective bands are remarkable. I have been able to suggest songs and get stuff out to the two of them that have helped I think.
This is the big year of Sting’s The Last Ship. It will open in Chicago in June and I’ll be supervising and orchestrating it, plus will conduct the opening performances before handing it off. Then it’s Broadway in the fall. Very sadly I will miss my first year in thirteen directing the Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame because of Sting’s show but at least it is a hell of a good excuse. Taking over for me will be my “brother” and compadre, the brilliant Michael Bearden, Michael Jackson’s last musical director.
The fall will also be filled with musically directing the Kennedy Center Honors and Christmas In Washington (with the President and First Lady in attendance). Fortunately for me though, a lot of my work will be done in the days right before the official Last Ship Broadway opening God willing. I will be fully with the show through its opening weeks.
The PBS special Sting: The Last Ship (Live from the Public Theater) is going to be shown in February on PBS and also later in the year, during pledge time on various stations. I’m happy about this because it was a beautiful series of performances last October. It gave the audience a chance to hear Sting speak about the genesis of the show, not to mention getting to hear him perform those songs himself. The Last Ship record is, I believe, now certified Gold and this is for a record that is a real artistic departure for him. It harkens back to his roots in Northern English folk music as well as theatre and music hall traditions. There is some absolutely extraordinary writing on there. Just read the lyrics to “Shipyard.” They read like a Longfellow narrative poem. Magnificent.
Here are a couple of video clips with Sting talking about the project:
I will be co-producing and arranging a Beth Hart record this summer with Michael Stevens, producer and writer for the Kennedy Center Honors. Michael also completed a film for HBO called Herblock, a documentary on the great political cartoonist who won two Pulitzers and coined the term McCarthyism. He was the first journalist who called Nixon on the Watergate affair (before Woodward and Bernstein), at least in cartoon form, chilling and funny at the same time. I wrote the soundtrack and recorded it at Abbey Road.
I am about to produce the end credit for Jerry Lewis’s last film “Max Rose,” featuring the Broadway singer Melissa Errico. I haven’t worked with her in years but she’s a trip. A huge heart with a big voice. It is a Michel Legrand song called “Hurry Home,” a song he wrote with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It serves as a focal point thematically and musically for the entire film. At the very end you’ll hear our version come up, a warm end title, that is essentially a modern take on the song but in traditional mode, with a classic sound (Gut String Guitar, Acoustic Bass, Brushes on a small Drum Kit, Piano and Strings).
Tori Kelly, Christina Perri, Fall Out Boy and Panic At The Disco all have string charts on their new record written by yours truly. In particular, scope out Tori. She is coming up and is a supremely gifted young RnB singer who is funkier than a lot of pop artists.
Butch Walker, a producer of great gifts, produced all the above records. There is a great documentary on Butch which is currently on iTunes:
Brendon Urie of Panic at the Disco came to the Kennedy Center and performed in Billy Joel’s tribute alongside Don Henley, Garth Brooks and Rufus Wainwright. They were all killing. For the Santana musical tribute which I also musically directed we had Sheila E, Steve Winwood, Juanes, Tom Morello, Mana and Buddy Guy. What a show!!!
As mentioned in an earlier update, a number of arrangements I did for Bruce Springsteen ended up on his new record “High Hopes,” the most moving perhaps being his lovely take on “Dream Baby Dream” which has a great video featuring only clips of Bruce fans at his concerts.
I began the year arranging the Star Spangled Banner for Renée Fleming to sing at the Super Bowl. The reaction was astounding to me. Amidst a few grumbling detractors there were thousands of wondrous comments about how dignified and overwhelming her performance was. I was so moved by it all. It is an impossible song to do right by. Someone always hates where you go with it but I think we nailed it.
I have started regularly posting updates and thoughts on my wife’s Rob Mathes fan page on Facebook. (The idea of a Rob Mathes fan is, frankly, somewhat baffling to me as I consider my job to be one of the many toiling in the engine room. I’ll take it though! Amen.)
We are going to try to find a sponsor for this year’s Christmas Concert and maybe even start having a special guest every year of some kind. Vanessa Williams showed up Saturday night at this past year’s 20th Anniversary event and everyone flipped out. I now have 7 Horn players and the full rhythm section plus all the amenities of that beautiful venue (Performing Arts Center at Purchase College-SUNY), which is ridiculously expensive to rent for a Concert. I do NOT want to raise ticket prices so we’ll see. I want students and young people to be able to come. I need the word to get out. My wife Tammy has uploaded a ton of videos of the concert and many other Mathes ventures which could help people, who have never come, finally understand the joy and beauty of our Christmas Concert. It is those incredible musicians who honor me every year with their presence.
I want to appropriately, and in a worthy fashion, finish….....finally…..for the love of Pete…......yep….I said it. WHEELBARROW, my long promised sequel to Evening Train tonally.
In the meantime, Flesh and Spirit, my newest record, became available on iTunes this past Christmas, including its artwork featuring Lisa Meloni photos. I am deeply proud of the record, recorded live in the studio for the most part. It rocks pretty frickin’ hard!! Here is the link:
I’ll try to update again soon. I am tweeting now every few days at least so if anyone cares…follow me:
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