* (April 2016) "MARTIN"- IZING: MARTIN TILLMAN & "SUPERHUMAN" - A WELCOME RETURN TO DISCOVERY
* (April - June 2012) PASSENGER 57 (1992), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (1992), THE FIRM (1993)
* (Dec. 2011 / Jan. 2012) TANGO & CASH (1989), THE GOLDEN CHILD (1986), BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA ('86)
* (Sept. / Oct. 2011) DEATH WISH (1974), THELMA & LOUISE (1991), POLLOCK (2001)
“Martin’s album is an absolute blast to listen to. It combines his talents as an instrumentalist and songwriter with his unique abilities as a film composer, taking the listener on a colorful cinematic voyage that sparkles with reflection and absolutely reflects his passion for this project”
(Composer: THE MARTIAN, BLACKHAT, THE EQUALIZER, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123,
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE)
THE CONCEPT OF "THE CONCEPT"
SUPERHUMAN - "Notes Towards The Universe" excerpt (2016) M. Tillman
Okay, first of all "what the hell is a 'concept album', and is it a fair designation?" For the record (pun entirely intended, ... heh! heh!) we’ve never felt so. For that seems to be, even within the world of the arts - where imagination supposedly rules the boundless horizon of the mind and soul, part of that diametrically converse (yet all-too-human) need to “sum things up” easily and succinctly for assimilation and transport into that “heathen land” occupied by those who won’t "get it” lest you attach some pithily remembered handle or label. But y'know, some things shouldn’t be easily dissected, summed up, and cataloged for convenient (and conveniently understood) later reference. Some things should take time to grow on you – evolving, maturing and metamorphosing just as the audience / listener / viewer does.
Not to get too “cinematically pretentious” (although we are a film magazine / blog), but that’s always been the beauty of films from the likes of masters such as Kubrick, Tarkovsky, Malick, Leone ... and, hell yeah! (say what you will, but it's true) George Lucas, in that upon first viewing one can come away with an initial (call it "superficial") impression / opinion, then later (sometimes years later) the “meaning” of the film seems to change just as / and parallel to (coincidentally?) one's own personal changing world view. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, SOLARIS and ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA are quintessential examples of movies which come to be “interactive” with each individual viewer over each individual’s maturing years. The same has always held true for the visual arts (Van Gogh, Magritte, Warhol, Pollock anyone?), and it is certainly the cornerstone of music in all its forms – from the best classical, folk, rock, R&B, Jazz and more. All of which nicely (once again "coincidentally?" - we think not) brings us to Martin Tillman’s SUPERHUMAN - which upon first listen we enjoyed, but of which after repeated spins, we find ourselves falling more and more head-over-heels in love.
The "interactive" cinema of Kubrick, Tarkovsky and Leone
A few days ago of this writing Robert Townson, executive producer of soundtrack specialty label Varese Sarabande, in celebrating the anniversary of his first album production credit (and reflecting back on the joys of collecting vinyl), initiated a social media thread asking others to recollect their most fond record store memory. We had two – both of them recurring experiences over the years. 1) going into a shop, browsing the racks and finding a gem you never knew even existed; then having to immediately snatch it up lest you come back days later and it was gone never to be found again. And 2) entering a store, and attempting to identify (most often with an instrumental piece) who the artist was simply based on the “sound” and “vibe” of the tune playing.
The “other side of the aisle” rendition of this music store version of "What's My Line?" would be, while later ourselves working in both larger record emporiums such as TOWER RECORDS, as well as in small independent book & record shops, putting on an obscure album (be it a soundtrack, Jazz, New Age, old school R&B or something by a relatively unknown South American or Turkish classical composer) and having patrons continually coming up and exclaiming, “Whoa! Who the hell is that!?”; and you subsequently selling out of every single copy of that album, CD and cassette in one evening.
While the inspiration for the diverse, yet at the same time thematically and tonally cohesive, SUPERHUMAN album was / is as a tribute to the courage of Martin’s loving wife Eva in her battle against M.S., it also manages to be a colorful and energetic “time capsule trip” of sorts through the last fifty-odd years of musical evolution – with loving nods to classical, funk, Jazz, New Age, the club dance scene, and last but certainly not least, as a nifty homage to genre bending film composition legends such as Tangerine Dream, Nino Rota, Vangelis, Wendy Carlos and more. While not fond of the phrase “concept album” we’ll presently enlist the moniker to get across a “concept” of our own – namely that the concept of the “concept album” is no new concept at all. But how, in our present day world of instant downloads of single tracks, we more than welcome its resurgence.
The "cutting edge" of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Rota and Carlos
Since the last listen you've had your heart broken or met a new love. You just missed being hit by a car. You saw something on the 6 O'Clock News. You'd purchased a new pair of shoes which were killing the sh*t out of your feet, ... whatever. Large or small, experience has altered your world view, and you now see (and listen) to things just a bit differently than you did during the LP's last spin on the turntable. You can't help but do so whether you want or notice it or not. And yes, we realize we're showing our age with that "turntable" bit. But because you were different (even in those subconscious ways) you then perceived everything differently (even if you didn't realize it), and suddenly found yourself (in life in general) "getting" someone you didn't quite "get" before; and (with music in particular) "getting into" a piece which earlier had left you cold. The experience of discovery became interactive. And this, more than anything - this old school concept of granting ourselves the room in which to experience discovery (something increasingly difficult to do with the downloading of individual musical tracks) is what were are reminded of with Martin Tillman’s stunningly realized SUPERHUMAN - ironically both cinematic and musically non-cinematically "fringe" at the same time.
Cellist / composer Martin Tillman
While over the years certain individual songs like “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” and “Pinball Wizard” became Top 40s radio hit singles, their context within the larger concept of the rock albums (which later became films) from which they were taken - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (by Andrew Lloyd Webber) and TOMMY (by The Who) respectively - added layers of more meaning to those individual tracks then they, as awesome as they were / are, contain(ed) on their own. And therefore, for as much as we love iTunes and Amazon Music (“AutoRip” is indeed a God-send!) we lament what seems to be the decreasing popularity of, and impatience with, taking the time to “browse” an entire conceptual work, and not giving it the necessary time to creatively grow upon one’s psyche. Perhaps the contemporary way of thinking would be to refer to it as bemoaning the lack of “binge listening” to an entire work by a musical artist in the same or similar manner in which we'll now take an entire weekend (or even single evening) to binge watch a complete season of a beloved new TV series. We think Tillman is acutely aware of this present day musical lack of attention span. And his new release seems to be a deliberate attempt to counteract this trend.
When speaking with Martin Tillman the very first impression one is greeted with is the exuberant energy of a kid in a candy store filled with every confection imaginable. And that’s exactly what Tillman is. Born and raised in Switzerland, where during the summer the boarding school run by his parents was transformed into a music camp, he fondly remembers ...
“… Growing up since the age of zero surrounded by cellos and harps and pianos and flutes and drums, it was really inspiring”. He’d jokingly add …
“The reason I like so many (musical) styles is … I’m not very focused. That’s a great part of being able to switch. And I also believe when you play different styles you keep being fresh”.
And far from being just a classical cellist, after graduating musical conservatory, in 1988 a scholarship to attend USC’s School of Music became a dream fulfilled as Tillman always knew he had to come to Los Angeles in order to eventually play with the musical legends whose names he’d grown to know and love via the sleeve credits on albums collected in his youth – some of his favorites being those by Chicago, Toto, Pink Floyd, and Chaka Khan.
After graduating from USC Tillman’s first real world introduction to the music industry was a four year recording studio stint as a combination receptionist / assistant / gopher / coffee boy and cable cleaner. It was here however where he first met two industry legends – iconic songwriter / producer / composer & arranger David Foster (EARTH WIND & FIRE, CHICAGO, the score to ST. ELMO’S FIRE) and his frequent engineer extraordinaire – the Grammy winning Humberto Gatica (CHICAGO, Michael Jackson’s “BAD”, Celine Dion’s “MY HEART WILL GO ON”). Impressing both men, Martin’s first major U.S. recording job was playing cello on the CHICAGO TWENTY-1 opening track “Explain It To My Heart” (written by Diane Warren, and produced and engineered by Gatica) – an experience which to this day he refers to as …
“… the worst session I’ve ever done because I didn’t know what to do; there were no sheets of music, and it was a very hard key to play in. But I did it, it got used, ... and one thing lead to another”.
Among the “one thing leading to another”s were recording sessions and concert performances over the years, playing both acoustic and (at the time the little heard of) “electric” cello with artists as diverse as Air Supply, Sting, Elton John, Beck, Alison Krause, B.B. King, Elvis Costello, Tracey Chapman and T-Bond Burnett. Then in 1996 film composer Hans Zimmer, at the time unfamiliar with, but genuinely fascinated by, the unique sound and timbre of the “E” cello, invited Tillman to be a part of the soloist ensemble at the heart of his score to John Woo’s blisteringly entertaining thriller FACE / OFF – it’s music a radically complex amalgam of neo-classical orchestra and chorus aided and abetted by electronics and contemporary rhythm section.
For the next near twenty years Martin Tillman would become a staple at the heart of such Zimmer scores as MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2, the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and THE DARK KNIGHT film series, THE DAVINCI CODE, ANGELS AND DEMONS, BLACK HAWK DOWN, MAN OF STEEL and more; as well as a plethora of non-Zimmer filmic works including THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS, TRANSFORMERS, THE PROPOSAL, BAD BOYS 2, CONSTANTINE, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, 2012, UNSTOPPABLE, BABYLON A.D., THE EQUALIZER, Walter Hill’s BULLET TO THE HEAD (for which he also composed additional music), BLACKHAT, the video game score CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS, the remakes of TOTAL RECALL, THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 and many others.
Particularly enjoyable for Tillman, as well as perhaps most recognizable by general audiences, was his performance of Zimmer’s “Jack Sparrow Theme” in the (to date) four PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN films. Written specifically with Tillman in mind, the cellist happily proclaims, …
“I had a lot of fun performing ‘Jack Sparrow’… being the drunken, humorous ‘Keith Richards’-like character”.
Arguably coming in a close second and third place (you choose the order) among his score performances most remembered by audiences are the heartrendingly tormented (yet gorgeously realized) "E"-cello solos opening both Zimmer’s 2001 BLACK HAWK DOWN (the track “Hunger”) and John Debney’s 2004 THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (“The Olive Garden”).