When you get asked to fuse one of the world's greatest pieces of classical music together with a fast, modern jazz improv - that's not the kind of brief we turn away! And that's exactly what we were tasked with delivering for the new online campaign for iconic British clothing brand, Hackett.
Working and planning closely with Just So London and talented director Chris Ranson (Adidas David Beckham; Nico & Vinz; Mark Morrison) the concept centred around taking a 'classic' and reinventing it in a fresh, yet timeless way.
Several pieces had been suggested and we helped the client arrive at one that felt suitably familiar enough to a wide audience, yet that had a clear and distinctive melody that could be reworked very simply over just two instruments and remain recognisable when presented in a new context. The piece chosen was the first movement of Vivaldi's Winter from The 4 Seasons. Here's the original score.
In the outset, the brief had requested re-arranging the piece for a 40 second film on improvised jazz drums and a double bass. But through considered evaluation and dialogue with the production team, we highlighted that double bass might be a problematic instrument to carry the whole melodic and harmonic arrangement, due to it's register and how that may restrict the dynamic playing of the kit, particularly coupled with the speed of the piece and the fact the spot may very well be played on less than ideal speaker systems (laptops and phones) whereby a large proportion of the bass and bottom end frequencies may go missing.
So we suggested a more upfront main instrument, perhaps a trumpet or something like a guitar that could be used in a 'chord-melody' style i.e. one that plays both melody and accompaniment at the same time. This idea hit the spot with the client and we proceeded to discuss guitar tone and drum references for the sound of the arrangement. Rather than go for an out and out hollow body archtop 'traditional' type jazz guitar sound, like an Gibson ES-175 or an L4 we decided to go for a more modern sounding Fender Telecaster, utilising our trusty sunburst custom Jerry Donahue model, recorded through our brand new (and we might add, bloody awesome) Audio Kitchen Combover amp.
Our next task, was to extract from the dense arrangement of strings, harpsichords and various arpeggios and melodic runs, those which were recognisable enough to the lay ear when played on electric guitar, when interjected with phrasing and re-harmonisation (changing the underlying chords without changing the melody) from a more jazz inflection. We started the piece slower, to suit the storyboards and allowing us room to develop the pacing opting for an approach whereby the guitar led the arrangement for approximately the first half and then the drums lead the listener's ear for the second as the piece became more freestyle and improvised, as we built the piece to an energetic crescendo.
Once the piece was sketched out and the guitar part recorded, we brought in jazz drummer Shane Forbes to perform the kit part. We knew, as with any good jazz record, not to over-score and make this part too prescribed which would sound unnatural. So we provided a clear framework for Shane and spent the next hour or two developing and fine-tuning with him the level of dynamic, energy and style until it really hit the sweet spot. He was a joy to work with. Here's one of the earlier takes.
The track was then mixed and prepared ready for the two musicians to mime to on the shoot. Once the offline was ready, we undertook extensive Foley (no audio taken on-location) and matched and balanced the music with the acoustic ambience of the theatre in the film.
We're really pleased with how this unique brief came together - let us know what you think!