Using the 1922 silent movie Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror for inspiration, pianist Mick Rossi composed an original film score for the historic work. The film was one of the earliest depictions of the vampire phenomenon made universally famous through novelist Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897 and crystallized by the acting of Bela Lugosi in subsequent Dracula films starting in the 1930s and continuing into the present era. F. W. Murnau directed this version, which was shown on Halloween 2000 at Rowan University, and Rossi’s score was performed live as musical commentary to the speechless action on the screen.
The music is commanding and powerful. Rossi and clarinetist Andy Laster are the prime soloists. The Rowan University Percussion Ensemble, consisting of ten percussionists and eight bassists, lavishly embellish the dark and light passages with all manner of interpretive speech. Rowan University Music Department Chairman Dean Witten conducted the massive undertaking.
The intrigue of this performance is pervasive, but its imagery is startlingly realistic and communicative. Rossi scurries over the keys depicting lighter film moments and then seeps deeply into the darkness with ponderous thunder as the action becomes morose. Laster intertwines clarinet passages that spring freely from his instrument to cloak the mood swings. The clarinet has the capacity to evoke numerous feelings, and Laster sets the shifting scenes with his conceptual outpourings.
The percussionists play an extremely important role in this presentation. Lighthearted vibes and marimba tones transform into segments portraying sinister energy. Similarly, the bassists add their brand of aural description of the action, such as during stalking scenes and other stealthy, heart- stopping sections. All of these emotions are suggested by Rossi and the orchestra without one needing to be actually watching the movie.
As the film progresses deeper and deeper into its ghoulish plot, the music realistically relays the images to the mind. Rossi ponders over the keys and Laster portrays cautiousness that soon erupts into a state of frightening agitation when the inevitable consequences of the storyline unfold in full. The kettle drums explode, the bassists become frenzied, and Rossi and Laster continue to transport the visions in compelling musical terms. Rossi often steers the ensemble into sections of free improvisation to inject spontaneity into the action.
Although this gigantic effort was done in support of the silent film, it stands on its own as a significant artistic work. Rossi’s score and improvisations contain all the elements necessary to stimulate a demanding musical appetite, and the intricate blending of Laster’s clarinet with the percussionists’ and bassists’ nuances cum overt outbursts makes the recording an emotionally charged, cross-genre event.
Track Listing: Original Score in Five Movements (65:29)
Personnel: Mick Rossi-piano; Andy Laster-clarinet; Mark Barber, Laura Bryan, Barry Capelli, Jr., Joseph
Donnelly, Andrea Lustig, Christopher Pastin, Suzanne Smalley, Daryl Updike, Matthew Witten,
Edward Zaryky-percussion; Douglas Mapp, Paul Klinefelter, James Barber, Joseph Jacobs, David
Mensch, Nicholas Recuber, Robert Smith, Matthew Turowski-basses. Recorded: October 29, 2000,
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.