Jan Hammer's musical career is
as firmly rooted in the fundamentals of classical, jazz and rock as it
is committed to the future of electronics, synthesized sound, the
possibilities of interactive media, television, film and animation. His
walls are lined with Grammy awards and gold and platinum plaques from
around the world. His name is found on dozens of recordings spanning
the 1970s to the '90s -- solo albums, collaborations with the
Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola, Mick Jagger, Carlos
Santana, Stanley Clarke, Elvin Jones and many others.
Jan has composed and produced at least 14 original motion picture
soundtracks, the music for 90 episodes of "Miami Vice" (which spun-off
four soundtrack albums and its worldwide #1 hit theme song), 20
episodes of the popular British television series "Chancer," and the
music for "Beyond the Mind's Eye," one of the all-time best-selling
music videos in Billboard chart history.
Jan Hammer was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He began playing piano
at age four; formal classical instruction began two years later. By 14
he was performing and recording throughout Eastern Europe with his own
jazz trio. He entered Prague Academy of Muse Arts, but with the Russian
invasion in 1968, he came to the U.S., to attend the Berklee School of
Music in Boston (on a scholarship) and become a citizen.
Jan spent a year as keyboardist/conductor with Sarah Vaughan. In 1971,
he became a member of the original Mahavishnu Orchestra, (then) the
most successful group ever to record and tour in the jazz-rock fusion
genre, selling over 2 million records worldwide, and performing 530
shows before their December 31, 1973 farewell concert.
Jan's solo career began with The First Seven Days (1975), produced and
recorded at Red Gate Studio in his upstate New York farmhouse. Over the
next decade Jan produced and performed on nearly 20 albums with his own
bands (the Jan Hammer Group, and later Hammer), and such musicians as
Beck, Di Meola, and Neal Schon (of Journey), among others. In 1983, Jan
joined Beck, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker and others for a
series of benefit concerts for Ronnie Lane's ARMS (Action Research into
Multiple Sclerosis). Into 1984, Jan played on Mick Jagger's She's The
Boss and Jeff Beck's Flash -- which included Jan's Grammy-winning song
That same year Jan scored three major motion pictures, a number of
documentaries, "made-for-TV" movies in the U.S., commercials, and
station identifications. But his greatest challenge came in the fall
'84, when the producers of “Miami Vice” enlisted him to
commence the rigorous weekly schedule of scoring the series.
In 1985, "Miami Vice Theme" (MCA Records) hit #1 in Billboard -- the
first TV theme to hit #1 since Henry Mancini's "Theme from Peter Gunn"
in 1959. "Miami Vice Theme" became a top 5 inter-national hit and
earned Jan two Grammy awards: “Best Pop Instrumental
Performance” and “Best Instrumental Composition.” The
Miami Vice soundtrack album stayed #1 in Billboard for 12 weeks,
hitting quadruple-platinum and selling over 4 million copies in the
U.S. alone, with worldwide sales in excess of 7 million as of this
Miami Vice II and Escape From Television were both million-selling
albums for Jan in 1987, both featuring “Crockett’s
Theme,” which had become a smash European hit. The following year
found Jan bowing out of full-time scoring duties for “Miami
Vice.” He was free to spend six full months building the new Red
Gate Studio on his property in upstate New York.
Several film and television projects from the new studio followed
immediately, including HBO's “Clinton and Nadine” with
Ellen Barkin and Andy Garcia. Snapshots was the first full album from
the new Red Gate studio, with Jan composing, performing and producing
every track. The promo video for "Too Much To Lose," the album's first
European single, featured Jeff Beck, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and
The '90s brought a renewed focus on scoring for film and television,
starting with I Come In Peace (with Dolph Lundgren); Curiosity Kills
(with Rae Dawn Chong and C. Thomas Howell); all twenty episodes of the
British tv series, “Chancer”; several episodes of HBO's
“Tales From the Crypt”; a thought-provoking television spot
for Amnesty International, featuring Czech president Vaclav Havel,
which was aired worldwide; two pilots for NBC television, “Knight
Rider 2000” (starring David Hasselhoff) and “News At
12”; The Taking of Beverly Hills (Columbia Pictures), Ken Wahl's
first post-"Wiseguy" vehicle; and New Line Cinema's Sunset Heat,
starring Dennis Hopper, Michael Pare and Adam Ant.
Jan's next project was a giant step forward into the world of computer
animation as the composer and performer of the original score for the
Miramar Productions video album, "BEYOND The Mind's Eye," released in
October '92 on Miramar/BMG Video. Scored note-to-frame with visuals
that broke the 'virtual reality' barrier, the video was described as
“breathtaking" by Roger Ebert (on "Siskel & Ebert At the
Movies"), who named it his "video recommendation of the week." On his
syndicated CBS Radio program, Leonard Maltin called it "a dazzling
showcase for computer animation... mesmerizing... 'BEYOND The Mind's
Eye' reflects a maturing of the [computer animation] art."
"BEYOND The Mind's Eye" was one of 1993’s top five best-selling
music videos, according to Billboard's Top Music Videos chart. It went
on to spend 112 consecutive weeks on the chart (through March 1995),
and was certified triple-platinum.
1994 was dominated by Jan’s recording of Drive, his first
full-fledged album of original new non-soundtrack material under his
name in several years. Jan was reunited with longtime partner Jeff Beck
on “Underground,” reminiscent of their supercharged
collaborations of the past; while the title track blended Beck’s
flamenco style with Jan’s keyboard funk. Michael Brecker’s
tenor sax was heard on the smooth, jazzy “Peaceful Sundown”
and on the edgy cybertech R&B of “Curiosity Kills.”
Jan returned to his scoring and soundtrack work with renewed passion
and creativity as 1995 arrived. He began with the one hour Universal
drama “Vanishing Son” (starring Russell Wong of Joy Luck
Club), then went on to compose the theme and score for 13 episodes of
the series. He composed and performed the original music for two
feature films, both intended for release in 1996: A Modern Affair (with
Stanley Tucci, Lisa Eichorn, Caroline Aaron and Tammy Grimes) and In
the Kingdom Of the Blind the Man With One Eye Is King (starring Will
Petersen and Paul Winfield). Jan wrapped up the year scoring
Beastmaster 111 - The Eye of Braxus, the long-awaited sequel to the
sword-and-sorcery favorite (starring Mark Singer and Lesley-Anne Down).
In 1996, Jan’s output continued to thrive. His scoring
assignments included the NBC Movie of the Week, “The
Babysitter’s Seduction” (with Phylicia Rashad, Stephen
Collins and newcomer Keri Russell); The Secret Agent Club, a feature
film starring Hulk Hogan, Richard Moll, Barry Bostwick and Lesley-Anne
Down; and The Corporate Ladder (Orion Pictures), starring Anthony
Dennison, Ben Cross, and Jennifer O’Neill.
Also in 1996 (and through 1997) Jan was commissioned to compose all the
original music for TV Nova, the first commercial television network in
Eastern Europe, based in the Czech Republic. Jan composed everything --
including themes for 21 original shows produced by the network, no less
than 30 separate station ID’s, the music for the network’s
first four special broadcasts, plus the music for all the news, sports
and weather programs.
In 1997, Jan also composed the hard-driving rock soundtrack for the new
CD-ROM game, “Outlaw Racers” (MegaMedia). his next project
was the theme and original music score for the pilot and the series of
“Prince Street” (NBC-TV) starring Vincent Spano and Mariska
Hargitay. On another interesting note, 1997 saw six separate
compilation CDs released in the U.S. containing compositions and
performances by Jan. One of these, Pure Moods (Virgin) spent 49 weeks
on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart and sold nearly four million
copies worldwide, a true phenomenon for such collections.
Jan Hammer has earned his place as a formidable voice in the arena
where modern music meets the state-of-the-visual-arts. From the
neo-psychedelic heyday of the Mahavishnu Orchestra to the heady
breakthroughs of "Miami Vice," up through his post-modern forays into
film and television, Jan Hammer has consistently proven himself a
front-line musical warrior. As he is inspired to reach further into his
treasury of ideas, the world of music and art is always the richer.
January 1998. Text maybe by Steven Kandel.
Obtained from Elliot Sears, Jan Hammer's manager.