Jan Hammer

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Jan Hammer
Jan Hammer 2 - 1977.jpg
Jan Hammer in 1977
Background information
Birth nameJan Hammer
Born (1948-04-17) 17 April 1948 (age 70)
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Musician
  • composer
  • record producer
Instruments
  • Keyboards
  • drums
Years active1968–present
Associated acts
Website janhammer.com

Jan Hammer (Czech pronunciation: [ˈjan ˈɦamɛr] ) (born 17 April 1948) is a Czech-American musician, composer and record producer. He first gained his most visible audience while playing keyboards with the Mahavishnu Orchestra in the early 1970s, as well as his film scores for television and film including "Miami Vice Theme" and "Crockett's Theme", from the 1980s television program, Miami Vice . He has continued to work as both a musical performer and producer, expanding to producing film later in his career.

Mahavishnu Orchestra American jazz fusion band

Mahavishnu Orchestra were a jazz fusion band formed in New York City in 1971 by English guitarist John McLaughlin. The band underwent several line-up changes throughout its history across two stints from 1971 to 1976 and 1984 to 1987. With its first line-up consisting of musicians Billy Cobham, Jan Hammer, Jerry Goodman and Rick Laird, the band received its initial acclaims for its complex, intense music consisting of a blend of Indian classical music, jazz and psychedelic rock, and their dynamic live performances between 1971 and 1973.

A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film. The score forms part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes pre-existing music, dialogue and sound effects, and comprises a number of orchestral, instrumental, or choral pieces called cues, which are timed to begin and end at specific points during the film in order to enhance the dramatic narrative and the emotional impact of the scene in question. Scores are written by one or more composers, under the guidance of, or in collaboration with, the film's director or producer and are then usually performed by an ensemble of musicians – most often comprising an orchestra or band, instrumental soloists, and choir or vocalists – and recorded by a sound engineer.

<i>Miami Vice</i> Theme 1985 single by Jan Hammer

"Miami Vice Theme" is a musical piece composed and performed by Jan Hammer as the theme to the television series Miami Vice. It was first presented as part of the television broadcast of the show in September 1984, was released as a single in 1985, and peaked at the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the last instrumental to top the Hot 100 until 2013, when "Harlem Shake" by Baauer reached number one. It also peaked at number five in the UK and number four in Canada. In 1986, it won Grammy Awards for "Best Instrumental Composition" and "Best Pop Instrumental Performance." This song, along with Glenn Frey's number two hit "You Belong to the City", put the Miami Vice soundtrack on the top of the US album chart for 11 weeks in 1985, making it the most successful TV soundtrack of all time until 2006, when Disney Channel's High School Musical beat its record.

Contents

Hammer has collaborated with some of the era's most influential jazz and rock musicians such as John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Mick Jagger, Carlos Santana, Stanley Clarke, Tommy Bolin, Neal Schon, Steve Lukather and Elvin Jones. He has composed and produced at least 14 original motion picture soundtracks, the music for 90 episodes of Miami Vice and 20 episodes of the television series Chancer .

John McLaughlin (musician) guitarist, founder of the Mahavishnu Orchestra

John McLaughlin, also known as Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, is an English guitarist, bandleader and composer. His music includes many genres of jazz, combined with elements of rock, Indian classical music, Western classical music, flamenco, and blues. He is one of the pioneering figures in fusion.

Jeff Beck English rock guitarist

Geoffrey Arnold Beck is an English rock guitarist. He is one of the three noted guitarists to have played with the Yardbirds. Beck also formed the Jeff Beck Group and with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice, he formed Beck, Bogert & Appice.

Al Di Meola guitarist

Al Laurence Di Meola is an American guitarist. Known for his works in jazz fusion and world music, he began his career as a guitarist of the group Return to Forever in 1974. Between the 1970s and 1980s, albums such as Elegant Gypsy and Friday Night in San Francisco earned him both critical and commercial success.

His compositions have won him several Grammy Awards. [1]

Grammy Award accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States

A Grammy Award, or Grammy, is an award presented by The Recording Academy to recognize achievements in the music industry. The annual presentation ceremony features performances by prominent artists, and the presentation of those awards that have a more popular interest. The Grammys are the second of the Big Three major music awards held annually.

Biography

Early life

Jan Hammer was born in Prague, then capital of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). [1] His mother was Vlasta Průchová, a well-known Czech singer, and his father was a doctor who worked his way through school playing vibraphone and bass guitar. Hammer began playing the piano at the age of four and his formal instruction started two years later. [1] He aspired to follow his father into medicine until a family friend convinced him to develop his musical talents instead. Hammer formed a jazz trio in high school, performing and recording throughout Eastern Europe at the age of fourteen. [1] Upon entrance to the Prague Academy of Musical Arts, he completed many compulsory classes including harmony, counterpoint, music history, and classical composition.

Prague Capital city in Czech Republic

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, the 14th largest city in the European Union and the historical capital of Bohemia. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of 2.6 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters.

Czech Republic Republic in Central Europe

The Czech Republic, also known by its short-form name, Czechia, is a landlocked country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west, Austria to the south, Slovakia to the east and Poland to the northeast. The Czech Republic covers an area of 78,866 square kilometres (30,450 sq mi) with a mostly temperate continental climate and oceanic climate. It is a unitary parliamentary republic, with 10.6 million inhabitants; its capital and largest city is Prague, with 1.3 million residents. Other major cities are Brno, Ostrava, Olomouc and Pilsen. The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union (EU), NATO, the OECD, the United Nations, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.

Vlasta Průchová Czech singer

Vlasta Průchová was a Czech jazz singer. From the second half of the 1940s, she gradually built up her leading position in the Czech jazz scene. Průchová was the mother of the renowned Czech-American pianist and composer Jan Hammer.

When the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia on 20 August 1968, Hammer's studies at the Academy were cut short. Hammer recorded a jazz trio live album at "The Domicile" in Munich on 30 August 1968. This was released as Maliny Maliny by the German label MPS Records. But Hammer moved to the United States and resolved to become a citizen after receiving a scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston. [1]

Warsaw Pact international military alliance of Communist states

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland between the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CoMEcon), the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia August 1968 unrest in Czechoslovakia

The Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, officially known as Operation Danube, was a joint invasion of Czechoslovakia by five Warsaw Pact countries – the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, East Germany and Hungary – on the night of 20–21 August 1968. Approximately 250,000 Warsaw pact troops attacked Czechoslovakia that night, with Romania and Albania refusing to participate. East German forces, except for a small number of specialists, did not participate in the invasion because they were ordered from Moscow not to cross the Czechoslovak border just hours before the invasion. 137 Czechoslovakian civilians were killed and 500 seriously wounded during the occupation.

Berklee College of Music independent college of contemporary music in Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Berklee College of Music is a private music college in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known for the study of jazz and modern American music, it also offers college-level courses in a wide range of contemporary and historic styles, including rock, flamenco, hip hop, reggae, salsa, heavy metal and bluegrass. Berklee alumni have won 294 Grammy Awards, more than any other colleges, and 95 Latin Grammy Awards. Other notable accolades include 19 Emmy Awards, 5 Tony Awards and 5 Academy Awards.

Upon completion of his studies, Hammer spent a year touring with Sarah Vaughan, recorded with Elvin Jones and Jeremy Steig, then moved to Lower Manhattan and joined the original lineup of the Mahavishnu Orchestra with guitarist John McLaughlin, violinist Jerry Goodman, bassist Rick Laird, and drummer Billy Cobham in 1971. [1] [2] A successful jazz fusion band, they performed some 530 shows before their farewell concert on 30 December 1973. Hammer was an early pioneer of playing the Minimoog Moog synthesizer in a live setting.

Sarah Vaughan American jazz singer

Sarah Lois Vaughan was an American jazz singer.

Elvin Jones American musician

Elvin Ray Jones was an American jazz drummer of the post-bop era. He showed an interest in drums at a young age, watching the circus bands march by his family's home in Pontiac, Michigan. He served in the United States Army from 1946 to 1949 and subsequently played in a Detroit house band led by Billy Mitchell. He moved to New York City in 1955 and worked as a sideman for Charles Mingus, Teddy Charles, Bud Powell and Miles Davis.

Jeremy Steig was an American jazz flutist.

After recording albums with Goodman and John Abercrombie (ECM session Timeless with Jack DeJohnette) in 1974, Hammer's solo career began with the release of The First Seven Days (1975). [1] He produced and recorded the album at Red Gate Studio, which he'd built in his upstate New York farmhouse and which has been the location of his recordings ever since.

The Jan Hammer Group was formed in 1976 and supported The First Seven Days on tour, receiving good reviews from both jazz and rock critics. The group turned out three LPs the following year: their own Oh, Yeah? and, with Jeff Beck, the RIAA platinum Wired (with Jan's "Blue Wind"), and Jeff Beck with the Jan Hammer Group Live , a chronicle of their 100-show tour together, certified gold. One final album by the group followed in 1977, Melodies.

Hammer composed music for the Czech fairy-tale Šíleně smutná princezna (The Incredibly Sad Princess).

Late 1970s and early 1980s

In 1977, Hammer recorded Elegant Gypsy with Al Di Meola. Casino, Splendido Hotel and Electric Rendezvous followed. He then joined Di Meola for a tour chronicled the same year on Tour De Force - Live ; and finally appeared throughout Scenario , utilizing a Fairlight CMI digital synthesizer and contributing to more than half of the album's compositions.

Hammer returned to solo work with the release of Black Sheep in 1978. [1] He then formed a new band, known as "Hammer". [1] Also in 1978, he wrote and performed on three songs for Jeff Beck's next album, There and Back which was released in 1980. One of the album tracks, "Star Cycle," went on to become the theme for the British television series The Tube .

He formed Schon & Hammer, a duo with ex Santana and Journey guitarist Neal Schon, that recorded Untold Passion in 1981 and Here to Stay in 1982.

Hammer took the stage with Jeff Beck in December 1983 for the nine U.S. benefit concerts that raised money for Ronnie Lane's A.R.M.S. (Action Research into Multiple Sclerosis), featuring Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker and a host of others. Into 1984, his various talents were employed on recordings as diverse as James Young's (Styx) first solo album, City Slicker for which he co-wrote and produced; John Abercrombie's Night; Mick Jagger's first solo album, She's the Boss ; and Jeff Beck's Flash which included Hammer's song "Escape", winner of the 1985 Grammy award for "Best Rock Instrumental Performance".

Miami Vice and successes

Hammer's original scores for three major motion pictures complement a long list of credits for documentaries, "made-for-TV" movies in the U.S., commercials, and station identifications. But his greatest challenge came in the fall of 1984, when the producers of Miami Vice enlisted him to commence the rigorous weekly schedule of scoring the series. [2]

The popular success of his music on the series was evident after just one season when, on 2 November 1985, the Miami Vice Soundtrack hit number one on the Billboard Top Pop album charts. [1] The album achieved quadruple-platinum status with U.S. sales of more than four million copies.

At the Grammy awards in February 1986, "Miami Vice Theme" earned Hammer two awards; one for "Best Pop Instrumental Performance" and one for "Best Instrumental Composition". [1] He also earned Emmy award nominations in 1985 and 1986, for "Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition". At the end of 1986, Hammer won Keyboard Magazine's poll as "Best Studio Synthesist" for a second consecutive year. He had previously won the "Best Lead Synthesist" honor for seven years, at which time he was inducted into the Keyboard Hall of Fame.

In 1988, Hammer bowed out of full-time musical chores for Miami Vice.

The first project to spring from the new Red Gate was Hammer's original soundtrack for Clinton and Nadine for HBO Films.

Hammer's next two assignments contributed greatly to his next album. First, at the end of the summer, he was commissioned to compose and perform a theme entitled "The Runner" for a major series of television advertisements in England that starred Bob Geldof. Second, Hammer composed and performed the theme music for the top-rated new bi-weekly pan-European television series, Eurocops, which premiered in seven countries that November.

Snapshots was the first full album from the new Red Gate studio in 1989, with Hammer composing, performing and producing every track. [1] The promo video for "Too Much to Lose," the album's first European single, featured Jeff Beck, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and Ringo Starr.

The 1990s

In the early 90s Jan toured with drummer Tony Williams. Notably, they featured as Jan Hammer / Tony Williams Group Thursday July 4, 1991, Spectrum de Montréal (Montreal Jazz Festival). The show was documented on both DVD and audio CD.

The 1990s saw a renewed focus on scoring, starting with I Come in Peace (a.k.a. "Dark Angel", composed in 1989 but released in 1990), Curiosity Kills and all twenty episodes of the British television series, Chancer , several episodes of HBO's Tales from the Crypt ; a television spot for Amnesty International, featuring Czech president Václav Havel, two pilots for NBC, Knight Rider 2000 and News at 12, The Taking of Beverly Hills (Columbia Pictures) and New Line Cinema's Sunset Heat .

"Crockett's Theme" was re-released with Hammer's theme tune for Chancer in the UK in 1991 after the former featured in a series of commercials for NatWest.

Hammer's next project was as composer and performer of the original score for the Miramar Productions video album, Beyond the Mind's Eye . [1]

1994 saw Hammer recording Drive, his first full-fledged album of original new non-soundtrack material under his name in several years. [1] He was reunited with longtime partner Jeff Beck on "Underground", reminiscent of their collaborations of the past.

In 1995, Hammer returned to his scoring and soundtrack work. He began with the one-hour Universal drama Vanishing Son , then went on to compose the theme and score for 13 episodes of the series. He composed and performed the original music for two feature films, both released in 1996: A Modern Affair and In the Kingdom of the Blind the Man with One Eye Is King. Hammer wrapped up the year scoring Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus.

In 1996, Hammer's scoring assignments included the NBC Movie of the Week, The Babysitter’s Seduction, The Secret Agent Club, and The Corporate Ladder.

Also in 1996 (and through 2000) Hammer was commissioned to compose all the original music for TV Nova, the first commercial television network in Eastern Europe, based in the Czech Republic. He composed everything—including themes for 23 original shows produced by the network, 50 separate station ID's, the music for all of the network's special broadcasts, plus the music for all the news, sports and weather programs.

In 1997, Hammer also composed the hard-driving rock soundtrack for the new CD-ROM game, Outlaw Racers (MegaMedia). His next project was the theme and original music score for the pilot and the series of Prince Street.

Hammer started off 1999 by writing, performing and producing a tune, "Even Odds" for Jeff Beck's latest album Who Else! (Epic). Also, 1999 saw the release of The Lost Trident Sessions , the third (and last) studio album from his former group, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album was recorded in 1973 just prior to the band's breakup.

2000 to present

Jan Hammer produced the original score for Cocaine Cowboys , a 2006 documentary depicting the infamous Miami drug trade scene of the 1980s. Hammer's soundtrack of the film was released in 2007.

Also in the autumn of 2004 Hammer released the album The Best of Miami Vice on the Reality label in the U.S. The Best of Miami Vice contains newly recorded versions of "Miami Vice Theme" and "Crockett's Theme", as well as one bonus track never before released on CD.

In February 2005, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released the first season of Miami Vice on three double-sided DVDs. One of the package's discs contained bonus material, including an extensive interview and archival footage of Hammer creating music for the show back in 1985.

To coincide with the release of the DVD, Reality Records released a newly recorded version of "Crockett's Theme" to AC (Adult Contemporary) radio in America.

In 2006 Hammer was asked to collaborate with the singer/rapper TQ for a brand new version of his song "Crockett's Theme". The result of their work was The Jan Hammer Project Featuring TQ (Terrance Quaites): Crockett's Theme. A CD single of this new version climbed up the charts in Europe, hitting No. 1 on the iTunes Europe download list.

In a 2012 interview, Jan Hammer indicated that he is working on a compilation of unreleased works. [3]

In a 2014 interview with the Rolling Stone he claimed he always felt halfway between experimental music and prog-rock. He also claimed to have recorded the theme song for Miami Vice before the series was made, and that it had been the piece he presented to Michael Mann when announcing his interest of being involved with the series. He stated that he used a Fairlight CMI to compose the music to the series while sampling drums and percussion into it with real acoustic sound. He added that he would have been interested in scoring the 2006 film version of Miami Vice, but that he was never approached by Michael Mann about it. [4]

He recorded a version of the Squidbillies theme in 2014. [5]

On 20 July 2018 he released his first album of new material in over 10 years: Seasons - Part 1.

Personal life

Hammer became a US citizen in 1978. [6] He has a son, Paul, who fronts the band Savoir Adore. [7]

Discography

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Huey, Steve "Jan Hammer Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 2010-05-04
  2. 1 2 Schoenberg, Richard (2004) Seventy-Nine/Eighty, Schoenberg & Associates, ISBN   978-0-9748208-0-4
  3. Tracey, Ed. "An Interview With GRAMMY Winner Jan Hammer". Miss Music Nerd. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  4. "Jan Hammer Reveals His 'Miami Vice' Scoring Secrets".
  5. "Jan Hammer of 'Miami Vice' Fame Records the 'Squidbillies' Theme".
  6. "My interview with Grammy winner/DK reader Jan Hammer" . Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  7. "Savoir Adore: Our Nature" . Retrieved 2016-08-13.