Peter Erskine, legendary jazz drummer, and other L.A. session musicians poured their own experiences of trying to make a living playing jazz into the work they did on La La Land’s soundtrack. Randall Roberts of the L.A. Times writes:
Don’t judge, says Erskine.
Asked what advice he’d give Seb, who in a defining scene is shown lazily playing rote versions of Christmas carols in a restaurant instead of the Thelonius Monk-inspired music that drives him, Erskine says, “Every playing opportunity informs the next one. You might learn something profound about just how to work with other musicians, or what to do when a song starts to fall apart on the bandstand.”
This from a man who, while best known for his work with Weather Report and Steps Ahead, has earned paychecks from jobs on such cinematic gems as “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous” and “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.”
“La La Land” composer Hurwitz says that he had to pound the pavement like most who make it in Hollywood, with a caveat: “I can’t really say I was a struggling musician because I realized early on that I should just not be a musician.”
Speaking on the phone while on a break from shooting the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” where he is a writer, Hurwitz adds that he and Chazelle once did make a go of it as pop stars — while attending Harvard.
Both were members of Chester French, a band that ultimately provoked a bidding war in the early ’00s between Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. By then, though, Hurwitz had quit the band and set his sights on Los Angeles. (Former Chester French vocalist D.A. Wallach plays a new wave singer in “La La Land.”)
“When I first moved out to L.A., I was expecting things to pick up quickly,” says Hurwitz. “But I decided in those first few years to not pursue other movies and just focus really, really hard on Damien’s movies — and I’m very glad I did, obviously.”
For “La La Land,” Hurwitz and his team recorded the orchestra on the Sony lot but moved to the modest Conway Studios on Melrose Avenue for the jazz and small-band work with Erskine, Kerber and fellow session experts including trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, bassist Kevin Axt, trombonist Andy Martin, guitarist Graham Dechter and others.
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