John Altman Luncheon – August 19, 2009

john altmanJohn Altman began his musical career at age 3 with Judy Garland at the London Palladium! Commencing his recording and live career in the late 60’s as an in-demand saxophonist – he has performed with many major figures in music, including Eric Clapton, Sting, Phil Collins (all of whom performed in his band, the Secret Police, an all star aggregation specially assembled for the Secret Policeman’s Ball), Jimi Hendrix, Nick Drake, Muddy Waters, Bob Marley, Jimmy Page, Little Richard, Prince, and Van Morrison and Hot Chocolate (for both of whom he functioned as musical director) and many more. He has recently contributed saxophone solos for the new albums by Rick Astley, Chuck D and Goldie.

Beginning in the mid 70s he found great success as an arranger/conductor. Among his hit records — Aled Jones Walking in the Air (which he also produced); Alison Moyet’s That Ole Devil Called Love, Simple Minds Streetfighting Years, Rod Stewart’s Downtown Train, George Michael’s Kissing a Fool, Prefab Sprout’s Hey Manhattan, Tina Turner and Barry White’s Wildest Dream, Diana Ross’ Christmas Album, Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet, Goldie’s Saturnz Returns, album tracks for Tom Jones, the Pretenders, Ian Dury, Graham Parker and Murray Head, and perhaps his most famous arrangement Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. His association with Python also produced the cult classic The Rutles, and three series of the Innes Book of Records, as well as many onstage appearances.

John has had a parallel successful career as a composer/arranger/producer for films and television, winning most of the prestigious film composer awards -an EMMY and an ASCAP Film Award for RKO 281 – The Making of Citizen Kane, the Anthony Asquith Award (BAFTA) for Hear My Song, a second ASCAP Award and the Choreographer’s Carnival Award for best dance score for Shall We Dance, a TRIC Award, an Oscar mention for the period music for Titanic, which he also produced, and several other nominations. His contribution to British music was recognized in 2006 by the award of the Gold Badge of Excellence, the lifetime achievement award of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. Other films include Funny Bones, Bhaji on the Beach, Legionnaire, Bad Behaviour, Beautiful Thing, The Matchmaker, Fidel, King of Texas, Beautiful Joe, Hope Springs, and On Thin Ice produced by and starring Diane Keaton. He was the first Western composer in history to score a Russian movie in 1991. He is also a frequent guest conductor for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. His latest record arrangement is for cult indie band Eisley.

John’s recent projects include Hollywood credits Shall We Dance, the CBS movie Suburban Madness, and the controversial Emmy nominated miniseries, The Reagans, along with UK projects Mr Harvey Lights a Candle for BBC Films, and the BAFTA nominated The Queen’s Sister for Channel 4. Along the way he has also found time to be a prolific writer of music for commercials, having scored over 4,000 worldwide, winning every major creative award.

On the jazz scene he has performed with Chet Baker, Plas Johnson, Ernie Watts, Red Holloway, Conte Candoli, Slim Gaillard, Barbara Morrison, Herb Geller, Wild Bill Davison, Bud Freeman, Les McCann, Percy Heath and many others. He also leads a highly successful big band, heard on many of the above records and soundtracks. His new jazz quartet CD You Started Something was released in January on the Bronze Jazz Label, of which he is A & R Director, and was Jazz CD of the month in the prestigious Observer newspaper. …AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE… WHEN DOES HE SLEEP???