A short Interview with J.J. Johnson
Would you prefer to be lauded for your jazz or soundtrack
I would much rather be lauded for my career as a Jazz Instrumentalist,
because that has been the focus of my life as a professional musician.
How did you feel about working with some of the big soul stars of the
In film composition in general the film composer rarely if ever come into
contact with the stars of the movie. The stars work in Production.
composer works in Post Production, which takes place long after the movie has been
filmed, and edited.
Do you think that the music and attitude of these films had a positive
No, I do not.
How strongly were you influenced by other artists?
I was not influenced very much by other artists, because the movie dictates
that the composer be influenced only by what he sees when he views the film.
What was it like to work with Quincy Jones, and how
do you think you influenced each others' movie scores?
It was a joy to work with Quincy Jones, because he is such a marvelous Human
Being. No, I do not think that we influenced each other's movie scores. I feel that
we had a mutual respect for each others work in film composition.
Did the fact that you both came from strong jazz backgrounds help with
arranging and composition?
Movie producers, directors, etc. usually shy away from film composers with
a Jazz background. Mostly what their films need is underscore and more
specifically dramatic underscore, much of it under dialogue in the film.
Jazz music is very distractive in these types of situations. There are exceptions
of course, depending on the producer, and the basic story that he is telling
with his movie.
Film studio issues and other pressures:
How much of your scores were dictated by the studios and how much artistic
freedom were you given at the time? Did you *have* to adopt a funk feel
for these scores rather than a jazz feel, or did you write what you felt was
appropriate for the movie?
As I mentioned before, the producer and his film are the primary guidelines
for what a composer writes. There are conferences and meetings where the music
is discussed in depth, so that the film composer has the benefit of knowing
precisely what is expected of him. Even so, many famous composers have had
their scores thrown out because the producer, director, etc did not like the
music that the composer wrote. The most famous example is of course "Space Oddysey 2001".
Alex North wrote a marvelous score for the movie, according to the musicians who
played in the Orchestra. And yet, his score was thrown out because the Production Co.
did not like his music. They ended up using music from existing Classical music
scores, and other varied sources. Film composing is a 'dangerous game' even under
the most ideal conditions.
;) Thanx! An eMail-interview with J.Johnson, Oct. 1998 by Edward Griffiths
If you could get into contact with another artist, please let us know.
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