Southern California headlines might well read “Local Boy Makes Good (music)” with the recent release of Jordan Seigel’s debut CD Beyond Images. A member of the Class of 2010 from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Seigel returned to his Los Angeles home to start his professional life in music after earning a Bachelors in Music with a concentration on film scoring.
It is a career that covers not only performing but also orchestrating and composing musical scores for movies or television.
His CD, which consists of original material that DownBeat magazine named an editors’ choice in August—just a few weeks after its release—“is inspired by and dedicated to some of the greatest film composers of all time,” according to Seigel. In addition to the nod from DownBeat, the work has also been featured on Spotify.
“This is what I want people to hear,” Seigel says, because the music “acts as a calling card.”
One could say his professional work began before his graduation when he orchestrated the music for 2009’s Battlestar Galactica: The Plan. Two years later, he hit the ground running, including preparing the music for V, the revamped television series, and orchestrating the musical scores for other movies and television series such as World War Z and Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot.
Since 2016, Seigel’s worked has evolved from scoring and moved more into his area of focus, composing. However, he likes to emphasize that “it’s not just that orchestration is a stepping stone” as he finds advantageous challenges to both tasks.
He points to the improvisational nature of orchestration in which one has the music laid out and then determines the scope and instrumentation to be used whereas scoring is highly specific as the music has to correlate with action on screen. He sees it as the idea of “accompanying a scene or conjuring one.”
He went into scoring early on with his work on Turn, a television series focused on espionage and its influence on the American Revolution. While the two tasks are “definitely related,” it is a difference in “restrictions; if there are no restrictions, that’s harder.”
He recently did score the ten-minute Cosmic Fling, a finalist for an upcoming short film festival’s competition, which reflects well on Seigel as the film is largely dependent on its music to move the narrative along.
Of course, those are only two of the legs to Seigel’s musical seat since there is also his love for performing, live or otherwise. His sophomore year at Berklee provided him with a mentor of the highest order: Danilo Perez, formerly the pianist for the Wayne Shorter Quartet.
Early on, he provided the piano accompaniment for Snoopy in Space, a job he recalls as “great, really fun” and one that allowed him to follow in Vince Guaraldi’s “veritable footsteps. My journey,” he observes, “is balancing these three worlds. I do some piano from home and that’s been nice—just to be able to keep those chops going.”
With the current lock down, that aspect of his musical life has been put on hold. Seigel enjoys playing in clubs but has found that a growing reputation allows him a degree of free choice.
He shares that studio with his wife Natsuki Sugiyama. The two “have been together for 12 years now. We’ve been married for four years.”
What’s amusing about the relationship, he says, is that “we met at Berklee in the most unexpected class each of us ever enrolled in: South Indian Percussion Class.”
This involved learning how to play a Frame Drum, a far cry from his preference for piano and her expertise with reed instruments, primarily flute and saxophone. Besides their love of music, the couple enjoys traveling, which provided something of a “twofer” when Seigel was in Budapest for some recordings. The two share their house with a dog, Porter, named in honor of Cole.
At the moment, Seigel’s in the final stages of composing his own score for a feature film. Its title is still “under wraps,” but he knows it’s “on the radar” for major studio backing.
Review of BEYOND IMAGES by Jordan Seigel (Released July 17, 2020 by Wonderbird)
With the first bars of “Departure,” the disc’s first cut of Jordan Seigel’s debut CD Beyond Images, I thought this might be a newly-found recording from either Dave Brubeck or Bill Evans, but that was before reading the liner notes. In short, his music is original but derives its tone or mood from his interpretations of a variety of the most famous names in film music from throughout the 20th century.
Seigel’s style is playful but disciplined, exhibiting the kind of phrasing reminiscent of Marcus Roberts, yet he can play some very ethereal stuff as well. Witness “No Chance,” the only piece with a vocalist as Seigel gives a musical nod to Jonny Greenwood, a composer perhaps better known for “Creep,” a song that Greenwood himself admits hating. However, Seigel’s number sounds like it could be one of the opening songs to a Bond film.
The lively, upbeat, almost rollicking joy of “Something’s Up” (based on the work of John Williams) presents a nice counterpoint to the Bernard Hermann-style tension of “The Woods” while “The Lake House” replicates the somber, minor-key compositions of Randy Newman. Meanwhile, Seigel employs jazzy dissonance in “Monkey in the Wilderness,” his musical nod to Jerry Goldsmith.
The title itself—Beyond Images—provides a nice play on words as each piece is based on former film scoring, thus the “images,” but the music moves “beyond” its source material to riff off of film composers throughout the 20th century.
Even the cover can be considered “throwback” with its pop art piano key design that reminded me of the opening sequence of the move Charade.
Beyond Images is a CD that does two things: provides great listening for us as well as an excellent portfolio for Seigel.