I had been using this blog as a way to put updates out to friends and family, but now I'm going to start using it as an actual blog. Thanks to the amazing Jenn Casey and her wonderful ideas, I now have an actual direction to go with these blogs. I'm basically going to rant about my musical ideas, shows that we've seen, new music, my piano techniques, arranging, etc, etc. And I'm going to try and make it a weekly thing, so please make sure to check it out.
Now I'm a huge fan of bluesy, gospel, rock type piano playing. If you know me, you know it's how I play and it's what I listen to as well. My main influences are obvious: Elton John and Billy Joel. I'm also influenced by jazz players like Horace Silver and Gene Harris. If you've never listened to them, do it now, especially Gene Harris! In fact, here's a link to check out:
Gene Harris - Summertime:
Another one of my influences is a guy named Jason Robert Brown. I've been playing piano in the musical theatre world for years now and when I heard Jason Robert Brown's music and the way he uses the piano in his shows I was instantly a fan. In a lot of musical theatre shows the piano is just playing in the background; your typical boom-chick pattern. But JRB, being an extraordinary pianist, brought it to the forefront and lets the player rock out. For a taste of what I'm talking about, check out this clip of "Real Big News" from Parade: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWIuLb-iOHg
That opening piano part is one of my favorites from the show. In fact the entire show has nothing but amazing, and somewhat difficult, piano parts. At the end of the blog I'll list a couple songs of JRB's to check out for great piano parts.
The reason I bring up Jason Robert Brown is because yesterday I was reading his blog and he put up a recording of outtakes from his CD "Wearing Someone Else's Clothes." In the blog he talks about the song "Getting Out" and how he went about recording the piano solo break in the middle of the song. Unfortunately I couldn't find a YouTube clip of the song so you'll have to take my word for it that it's awesome. You can find it on iTunes though and it's a great CD! Basically though, it's a rock song with some latin flavor to it in places and right after the guitar solo the entire band cuts out and the piano solos alone before everything kicks back in. I can only imagine the pressure to record something that will forever be written in stone on CD. When it's live in performance, you just play whatever comes to you at that moment. But for a CD, you want to make sure you nail the improv-ed piano solo. So Jason talks about how he took different takes but could never really find the one he wanted. For the entire blog you can go here: Jason Robert Brown's Blog
At the end of the blog he basically issues a challenge of sorts to everyone out there to take a shot at playing their own version of the piano solo from "Getting Out" and then post it to his blog for him to check out. I, knowing this song and loving that piano solo, decided immediately that I wanted to try it. And who wouldn't want the chance to play piano for Jason Robert Brown??? So I sat down at the piano, played through some things and finally was able to get a good take of my version of the solo. So for your listening pleasure, here it is:
So I posted it to his website and waited for the verdict. Here is what he had to say:
[FROM JRB: Awesome! And an "Old Red Hills" quote too!]
Needless to say, I'm very happy about that. And I'm actually really pleased with what I played. As I listen to it more and more I realize that this one video has given me lots of ideas for topics to blog about. So in the coming weeks, I'll be breaking my solo down and possibly even sharing some of my piano licks with you. And please feel free to comment and tell me what you think. If you're interested in taking your own shot at it, check out JRB's blog. I think about 5 or so people have posted videos on his site so far. It's a fun idea and I'm excited to write about my thoughts and ideas on improvisation in the coming weeks. When I was working at Howl at the Moon, I used to get asked how I played certain runs and now I have a way to share them. I hope everyone has a great weekend. Thanks for reading and make sure to check back soon for more!
Songs to check out:
Jason Robert Brown
- "Getting Out" from Wearing Someone Else's Clothes
- "Moving Too Fast" from The Last 5 Years
- "Shiksa Godess" from The Last 5 Years
- "She Cries" from Songs for a New World
- "King of the World" from Songs for a New World
- "Big News" from the Original Cast Recording of Parade
- "Real Big News" from Parade
A lot has happened already in the new year! During the holiday season I was mostly just standing outside in the cold handing out flyers to try and sell tickets for Broadway shows. It was pretty cold, but not quite as bad as I expected. It actually wasn't much different from Louisville, minus the huge amounts of snow we got from time to time. Also thanks to that job Jenn and I have been able to see a lot of shows for free, which is definitely worth standing outside freezing for 6 hours.
The first gig I got in 2010 was to be the music director of a brand new show called Young, Rich, and Pretty, which was written by two guys (Rocco Natale & Zachary Kampler) who live in Connecticut. We did a workshop reading of the show at the end of January in CT and it went great! It's a really fun show based on a F. Scott Fitzgerald short story ("A Diamond as Big as the Ritz") and it has a lot of great music that is very jazzy. I'm really excited about the show because it has a lot of potential to be a really great show and possibly (keeping fingers crossed) one day end up on or off Broadway. Right now we're in a rewriting stage, but I think the next step is to submit it for some of the theatre festivals and get another production of it started up.
Another great thing that happened is that I got involved with a group called the Broadway Artists Alliance. Jenn and I went to see Finian's Rainbow and we met a guy named Tyrick Jones, who was in the cast and is one of the directors of this group. The Broadway Artists Alliance is a group that does workshops and master classes for kids through young adults in which they have professional actors/dancers/composers/etc. from Broadway come and teach the classes. So far I've only played for some auditions and one dance master class taught by an ensemble member from The Addams Family, but now that I know Tyrick I'm pretty sure I'll get the chance to play for more. Also through Tyrick I got to play at a memorial service (unfortunately) for his manager and I got to play for him and Lee Summers, who is an original cast member from Dreamgirls. Lillias White, who is another huge Broadway star, sang as well but unfortunately she brought her own accompanist.
The only other thing I've been consistently doing is working with our new friend Thom Christopher Warren, who is the standby for Scar/Pumbaa/Zazu in The Lion King on Broadway. We've been doing some coaching and are actually in the works to start a class for actors up here to coach them. I'm really excited about it and hope that we get it started soon because I believe it will be a nice little way to get some steady income.
Ok enough about me, Jenn is doing great as well! During the holidays she worked at Macy's Herald Square, and one would think that she just worked sales, but no, she was hired as a manager for the Jewelry department the first time she ever applied. She's crazy good at interviews haha. Well basically, she worked her butt off during the holidays and was actually able to get her employment extended through the end of January. After that she applied for some more jobs, even though she really wanted to stay at Macy's. Lucky for her, a perfect job opened up and she applied and got it! So now she is the Human Resources Manager of Recruitment for Macy's Herald Square. She has an office on the 8th floor of the store where you can look out and see Madison Square Garden. It's pretty insane and I'm so proud of her!
As far as performing, we've started to work to get her book together and find her new songs so she can start auditioning, which hopefully she will eventually have time to do once she gets used to her new job at Macy's. But she did get a chance to perform this past Monday, which leads me to my next and final (I think) update...
This past Monday I music directed a benefit for a theatre in Scranton, PA for our friend Thom. Basically, Thom got all of his Broadway friends together and we took a bus down to Scranton to perform and he asked Jenn to come and sing with us! So it was great because Jenn and I got the chance to work with about 10 or so professional Broadway performers including two veterans. One of them was Alice Evans, who was in the original cast of Sweet Charity with Gwen Verdon, How to Succeed In Business..., and Man of La Mancha. The other lady is actually a big Broadway name, Loni Ackerman. She was the standby and eventually took over the role of Evita for Patti LuPone. She also was in the original cast of Starting Here, Starting Now and played Grizabella in CATS on Broadway. She was also in the original cast of George M. starring Joel Grey and Bernadette Peters. So basically Jenn and I were in awe and are still getting over the fact that Loni is now like a great friend and even wants to invite us up to her house in the summer for like a cookout. It was almost surreal to be a part of it. It was a blast though and it went really well and we have a ton of new friends because of it.
So basically that's what we've done for the past 5-6 months. We've been able to see a lot of shows and meet a lot of people and actually find work. I'm gradually meeting more and more people and getting more work, so hopefully by the next update (which I'll try not to make it so long in between) I'll have even more to report. Again, I just added everyone in my address book, so if you're on this list and you don't want to be or your e-mail has changed or whatever, please let me know. Also please feel free to write back. It was great to hear from everyone the last time. And of course, if you're ever coming up to NYC, please let us know so we can see you! Take care and we hope all of you are doing well!
Ok so I know I said I would update this blog more often, but I just haven't haha.Things were a little crazy and busy so now here is the first update from August to October.
As I believe most of you know I finally made the big move to NYC permanently in August. I'm living with my girlfriend Jenn and we have a great apartment in Washington Heights, up at the very top of Manhattan. The place is amazing and the neighborhood is great because it's nice and quiet and doesn't have the fast-paced feel of midtown Manhattan.
Since I moved up here in August I have worked on two projects. The first took place at the Wings Theatre on Christopher Street, about a block away from the Hudson River. The show was called "Topsy Turvy Loves" and it's basically a musical version of Gilbert's (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) play "Engaged." The director, Robert Sickinger (who has worked extensively in Chicago and New York and actually was called "one of the best director's I've worked with" by David Mamet) took about 35 Gilbert and Sullivan songs and used them to tell the story of the play. In all honestly, it wasn't the most amazing piece of theatre but it's a start for me. I played Keyboards for it (aka Harpsichord and Organ) and it was a lot of fun. The reviews weren't so good, but I think it's mainly because you really had to know Gilbert and Sullivan music to be able to appreciate it. Here's a link to some info about it that was on: Topsy Turvy Loves
The next project I worked on was a brand new musical called "Street Lights" and it was a show that got picked to be a part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I was chosen to be the assistant to the composer of the show, Joe Drymala. He actually had another show in the festival a year or two back called "White Noise" and he was also a speech writer for Howard Dean. The show is about a neighborhood and the group of kids who live there and the problems they face growing up in a rough neighborhood. The one thing they have is the Music Center where they hang out, but the city decides it's shutting it down so the kids come together to raise money to keep it open. There is other drama and such in it, but that's the basic story. The interesting thing about the show is that it's a hip-hop score, so pretty much R&B songs and rap. The music is great! Here is a link to the show's website: http://www.streetlightsmusical.com
My job was basically to put the score together for the show so that it could be played by the four-piece band. In working on the project, I met two great musician contacts. The first is the music director, Sonny Paladino, and he has played for the tour of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and the latest Broadway production of "Grease" and is currently subbing the keyboard parts for "Billy Elliot" and "Mamma Mia." The second guy is Jeff Marder, the keyboard programmer, and he has worked on "Shrek", "Wicked" in LA and Broadway, and is currently going to be playing Keyboard 1 for "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" show with the Rockettes. So hopefully by meeting these two guys I'll get a lot of work and will be playing on Broadway soon! Street Lights Photo Gallery
Other than all of that, I haven't been doing much else but hanging out with Jenn and exploring the city. . Read the next post to check out what's been going on in 2010!
So it's finally happening and I now have 5 days until the big move. Jenn and I are staying in a sublet in Washington Heights right off of 181st Street. It's a really nice place and I'm very excited about it. I've been looking at a couple jobs but nothing yet. No worries though I'll find something. haha. Ok I think that's it for right now. I'll update again soon. Thanks for checking out my site.
Welcome to JustinHornback.com!!! I'm brand new to all of this, but hopefully as times goes on I'll be updating more and more. Jenn (my wonderful girlfriend) and I are going to be making the big move to New York City in July. I will be using this to help update my family and friends with what's going on in my life and career. Plus Jenn and I usually get into plenty of trouble (aka crashing cast parties and meeting celebs) so I'll be able to let everyone know about it. Thanks for visiting. I'll write again later.