I sent this CD to Richard Danielpour although we'd never met or spoken. I just liked his music. Richard was kind enough to call me up after listening to the record and say nice things about it. I told him that I wanted to learn more about 20th century techniques and he pointed me to some passages of Stravinsky and Bartok, during a conversation that lasted for about half an hour. That telephone call opened my mind to some new concepts and I'll always be grateful to Richard, who I now consider a friend, for his generosity.
I just finished a string quartet, The Amazing X-Ray Machine, that fully incorporates some of the ideas that Danielpour turned me on to (the octatonic scale in particular). It's a piece I'd never have written without his input.
Milton Kaye is another musician whose help has been invaluable to me. Now 95 years old, Milt is a pianist and composer who accompanied Jascha Heifitz on tour and record and soloed with the New York Philharmonic under Toscanini. Milt has some great stories to tell. His recollection of seeing Rachmaninoff play at Carnegie Hall when he was in short pants sticks in the mind. Milt's comments about how tempos have changed since the horse and buggy days- which he of course recalls- are also fascinating.
Any mention of my education would have to include the two years that I spent as an usher at Carnegie Hall when I was in my mid-20's. I learned so much about sound during this period, and have some precious memories of my time there.
One winter- maybe it was in 1977- a huge snow storm blanketed Manhattan. Benny Goodman was giving his 50th anniversary concert that week and had a rehearsal scheduled one morning. Some of the ushers were asked to come down and help out. I'll never forget Helen O'Connell running through Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me). I was standing in the aisle taking it all in and she aimed the entire number at me, beaming that great smile of hers!
I had a similar experience with Renata Scotto. I had the stage seating job during her recital. She performed encores for almost an hour and exhausted, was looking for anything to keep her going. She could tell, I'm sure, how into her performance I was, and sang one aria looking directly at me. After the show I went upstairs and told her she was the only artist whose autograph I'd ever requested, and she kissed my hands!
I also remember players in the Chicago Philharmonic coming offstage one night in October after they'd just concluded a concert with a rousing version of a Bruckner Symphony. All they were interested in was how Reggie Jackson had done in that night's World Series game!
GE: How did you meet your wife Jerri?
Gary Eskow: I was in San Francisco visiting my brother Rick. He and his wife had just had their first child, my niece Josie. The red eye coming back home was full, except for the aisle seat next to me, which Jerri claimed just before takeoff. She likes to say that we slept together on our first date.
GE: What made you realize that she was the one?
Gary Eskow: I was guarding my single status fiercely, and made Jerri aware of it in no uncertain terms one night on the phone. I still can hear her saying, "Let's go to bars and cruise chicks." I flopped like a fish on deck and was powerless to resist her from that moment on.
GE: Any kids?
Gary Eskow: Two wonderful boys. Danny is 16, Brian 14.
GE: Did you ever write lyrics as well as music?
Gary Eskow: Yes, and some of them weren't bad. But I didn't possess the ability to edit myself well. I hung onto some truly awful lyrics instead of knowing that they were garbage.
Several years ago my friend Baron Raymonde was on tour with Rod Stewart, playing six woodwinds. We decided to produce a smooth jazz demo for him, a set of five pieces that I called Before The Memory Fades. One of my old songs, Giving Up Your Love is on that recording, and I think the lyric holds up pretty well.
I wrote a song for classical guitar and tenor when I was in my twenties:
Whenever did my love say she would last until December
Or that the bloom would stay 'til the frosting of the branches?
The snow came early, chilling streams that still run freely, but
Perhaps more quietly.
That's not bad, I suppose.
GE: Not bad, not Bob Dylan either.
Gary Eskow: I'm aware of that.
GE: You've written for a number of publications, including Mix and The Hollywood Reporter. Do you enjoy working as a journalist?
Gary Eskow: Very much, for several reasons. First and foremost, having the opportunity to talk with talented artists is a great joy, especially when I'm a fan of the person I'm speaking with, like Neil Sedaka. I liked Ray Davies of The Kinks a lot.
I also get to review new technology, both software and hardware. Engineers and developers educate me about their products and it's great to stay current in this area. I've done some political interviews as well, and I love that kind of work.
Learning to how to pare down one's (verbal) thoughts on paper can be very useful to a composer, I think. Good editors- like Tom Kenny, my editor at Mix, have taught me how to cut out the fat.