ASMAC held an “Honor Our Own” luncheon May 16 at Catalina’s in Hollywood, celebrating the successful careers of ASMAC Board Members Sylvester Rivers and Chris Walden.
Composer, arranger and orchestrator Jorge Calandrelli introduced Chris Walden as a “brilliant young, talented musician,” who has impressed him because of the “power of his (musical) language and the textures of his big band arrangements.” Then Calandrelli presented Chris Walden his ASMAC award. Born in 1966 in West Germany, his mother was a singer of Baroque and Renaissance music and played antique musical instruments. He could read music before he started school where he learned to play piano and trumpet and became interested in jazz, “when it wasn’t popular.” He arranged for his high school band, played casuals and began making a living in music while still a high school student. He was selected for the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra and was encouraged to write for radio big bands when there were eleven big bands on German radio. From there he started writing for the Radio Symphony Orchestra. He moved to Cologne to study the trumpet and conducting at the University of Cologne. He wrote arrangements for a singer and then arranged music for first film, scored as an assistant to his mentor, Peter Herbolzheimer. The film, “Schtonk,” was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign film category and launched Walden’s career scoring for TV and film.
By age 29 Chris Walden felt he done it all in Germany and in 1996 moved to Los Angele, where he continues to write music for German television. He established his own big band in 1999 in Los Angeles which records music for the German Movie Award Show. The band rehearses at Local 47, performs from time to time and Chris said that it has been an excellent promotional tool for his music. “I can explore my ideas with the big band.” He introduced his wife and children and expressed gratitude for their support and the support of his publicist, manager and contractor.
Chris Walden has scored more than 30 feature and TV films, and written arrangements for artists including Michael Bolton, David Foster, Paul Anka, Renee Olstead, Sheryl Crow, Christopher Cross, Olivia Newton-John, David Hasselhoff and orchestras like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, West Australian Philharmonic, Honolulu Pops, and many more. He has orchestrated for Barbra Streisand, Diana Krall, and John Pizzarelli.
Walden’s recent film credits include the feature film “The Pet,” TV movies “Alien Siege,” “Crimson Force,” Gene Wilder’s “The Lady in Question,” and the CBS mini series “Blonde”. Chris wrote arrangements for “American Idol” and has been musical director on many TV shows and series, and has recorded more than 60 compact discs. As an arranger and bandleader he has worked with jazz greats like Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Ernie Watts, Tierney Sutton, Bobby Shew, Pete Christlieb, among others. In 2006 Walden received two Grammy nominations.
Next arranger-composer David Blumberg introduced composer, arranger, pianist Sylvester Rivers and presented him with an ASMAC award. Rivers has recorded with artists including Lionel Richie Diana Ross, the Jacksons, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Rogers, New Edition, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Martha Reeves, Shalimar, Gloria Gaynor, Candi Staton, Deniece Williams, Johnny Mathis, Billy Preston, Syreeta Wright, Michael Henderson, Earl Klugh, Maxine Nightingale, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, The Fifth Dimension and others.
Born in Detroit, Rivers began playing the piano at the age of seven and was recording professionally by the time he was a teenager. In the early days, he played for Holland-Dozier-Holland’s labels on such hits as the Honeycone’s, “Want Ads,” and Freda Payne’s, “Bring the Boys Home.” Moving to L.A. in 1974, Rivers began playing on recording sessions for many artists, from Bobby Vinton to Johnny Mathis.
Sylvester thanks his mother, family and friends who attended the event. He said he especially appreciate receiving this award from ASMAC, because “Your peers known your game, inside and out.” He recalled that he learned to play music at his church and got a call to play for Motown while still in high school. He moved to Los Angeles, when everyone in the music business in Detroit “seemed to go bankrupt.”
Once in Los Angeles, described by Rivers as “a musicians’ paradise,” his career expanded into television and film, where he played on the “The Love Boat” series theme and the Richard Pryor film, “Which Way Is Up.” Changing his focus to arranging and orchestrating, he worked with Nancy Wilson and scored his first number one R&B hit with Candi Staton’s, “Young Hearts Run Free.” He had a second hit with Candi Staton’s single, “Victim.” Soon thereafter, he received his first composer’s credit for a gold record, the title cut of the Michael Henderson album, “In the Night-Time.” He also arranged and orchestrated for the TV series, “Fame;” songs for the Kevin Bacon/ Laurence Fishburne film, “Quicksilver;” the film, “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” and “The Arsenio Hall Show.”
Rivers has continued in the recording studio, with Kenny Rogers on the Platinum album, “Share Your Love” including the single, “Through the Years,” Lionel Richie and Diana Ross on the “Endless Love” soundtrack, and the Multi-Platinum New Edition album, “New Edition,” among others. He has been composing and arranging television scores including the syndicated sports program, “The Other Side of Victory,” hosted by the late Arthur Ashe and later by sports commentator, James Brown. Rivers recently arranged and orchestrated for the ABC production of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, “The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour.” He occasionally tours as music director with artists including Ray Parker, Jr., (“Ghostbusters”), and he recently conducted the world tour of Soul II Soul (“Back to Life”).
by Jeannie Pool