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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Into the Mouth of the Wolf: Composing for Acrobatic Artists

I've had the pleasure of collaborating with Jamie DeWolf over the past five years. Both with Snap Judgment Live, Tourette's Without Regrets, and some live shows with Shane Koyzcan. So I was pleased to compose score for several of Jamie's stories for this show.

Last year, Jamie turned me on the astounding acrobatic ensemble "Circus Automatic" and their latest project, "Raised By Wolves."

This is a group of acrobatic artists whose dedication is really inspiring to me. It's clear watching them that countless hours of training and practice have gone into their craft. There is something so subversive about athletes who choose to use their physical skill not to complete, but to realize art, and as they say "subvert the dominant paradigm".

In a country that elevates material success above all else, it's very humbling to see artists so dedicated to their craft, not motivated by financial concerns, but by expression.  I was very pleased to write an hour of original score for their shows in San Francisco, culminating with a mind-boggling display of balance by Orion. Here he is getting ready to blow the audiences minds:


You can hear some of the finale music I composed for Orion's finale below. I've met some really wonderful musicians here in Wellington, New Zealand, where I'm living for a while. One of them, Jules, lent me the Fender VI -- a cross between a six string bass and a baritone guitar -- which I used extensively for the score. Sometimes it's fun to let a new instrument inspire you. I hope you enjoy it.

- Alex     

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Watch Snap Judgment Live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

Our sold out show at the beautiful Brooklyn Academy of Music from last summer aired recently on NPR.

Me and the Snap Judgment gang (where I'm musical director and composer) sold out the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 2400 seats.

Here's me and The Roots' MC Black Thought discussing his story before the show. 

Right after we spoke I realized we should play a Rick Ross-style song to amplify the humor when he's stuck in prison with a rapping guard. The first time Tareq heard it was on stage in front of 2400 people. I don't think he minded because he got me a pair of tickets to watch the Jimmy Fallon show (thanks Tareq). It was an honor jamming with such a legendary MC. 

My man Glynn Washington opened the show. Check out the crowd's response to his entrance alone.


Tara Clancy is a hilarious writer (check out her articles for the New York Times) and she's even better in person. Nice Riverdance, Tara!





I've worked with enough comedians on this show to know something. Whatever happens in rehearsal, once they get on stage and feel the crowd, they activate. Jen activated. And this story went semi-viral, cleverly released the week Girl Scout Cookies were released.



Josh Healey just keeps topping himself (he killed it AGAIN last month at Oakland's Paramount Theater AND at my CD release party -- Thanks Josh). This the best humorous story about abortion I've ever participated in. I mean.... just watch.




They call him 'The Closer.' James Judd is one of a kind. This was perhaps his most ambitious story. It started with a killer drum solo that, sadly got edited out. But it happened, Dave, it happened. I got to scat sing on a grand piano for this one.




Pia Glenn is a multi-talented actress and singer -- and she's also very resilient, as this challenging story reveals. I'm proud of the music on this one, especially at the end.


This show will be tough to beat. Sold out NYC with Black Thought of the Roots. Pretty great. Of course we just sold out Oakland's Paramount Theater....but that is another story, and shall be told another time. -AM

Sunday, February 28, 2016

SF Chronicle feature; CD Release Saturday 3.5.16

Wonderful piece in San Francisco Chronicle promoting Alex's CD release party this Saturday, March 5th at Oakland's Awaken Cafe. Read the article here.


The Awaken Cafe show is almost sold out. I would hate if friends and fans get left out. If you plan to come, I suggest you get tickets, here. 

I will be joined onstage Saturday by Dave Brandt (drums) and Tim Frick (bass), and special guest Scott Ayers (The Lovemakers). 


Our sold out show at The Paramount Theater last night was a stunner. Can't wait for you to see the videos, but in the meantime, Glynn Washington and Josh Healey will each tell a story or two at the Awaken Cafe show 3/5. Hassan El-Tayyab will open the show. 


Jason Munn, unparalleled poster artist, has created a limited-run silk screen print that will only be available at the show for $10-20 (sliding scale). There are 42 prints left at this moment. They are each signed and numbered and they are gorgeous, a momento of what should be a very special evening. 

Hope to see some of you there!






Sunday, January 24, 2016

Composer for NPR's Snap Judgment Live, Pixar's Brave Soundtrack, and East Side Sushi releases first solo album

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

Composer for NPR's Snap Judgment Live, Pixar's Brave Soundtrack, and East Side Sushi -- releases first solo album February 19 on iTunes.

CD Release Show in Bay Area March 5 at Awaken Cafe, Oakland 

"The 11 songs on [The Echo Falls] are all acoustic gems, graced with exquisitely subtle instrumentation and Mandel's soft tenor." 
San Francisco Chronicle


The first solo album from Alex Mandel -- singer/songwriter for Pixar's Academy-Award winning BRAVE, and The Echo Falls, and musical director of NPR's Snap Judgment -- releases everywhere February 19.

It's been over 6 years since the release of Alex Mandel's last album, The Echo Falls. What has Mandel been doing? 

In 2010, Mandel played his first show as composer/musical director for NPR's Snap Judgment Live. Nowadays, Snap Judgment sells out shows nationwide, at venues like the Nokia (LA),  the Brooklyn Academy of Music (NYC) (with The Roots' MC, Black Thought), and, this February 26th, the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Snap Judgment reaches 3 million listeners a week, and many of these stories have gone viral on YouTube.  "Alex is a pure musical genius,' says Snap Judgment Host Glynn Washington. "He brings the 'Snap' to Snap Live."



In 2012, Mandel wrote two songs for Pixar's movie Brave (2012). Brave grossed $550 Million worldwide, and went on to win the Academy Award. The Scottish-tinged "Touch the Sky" became a global hit, garnering 20+ million listens on YouTube. The song's singer, Julie Fowlis, makes a guest appearance on the new album ("The Road"), as does Irish fiddle and whistle player, John McCusker, from Mark Knopfler's band ("City and the Bay").


In 2013, Mandel scored and wrote a theme song for a low-budget indie film, East Side Sushi (Anthony Lucero, 2015) which went on to win 15 film festivals, receive a 100% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes, and will be released in April 2016 by Samuel Goldwyn/Sony. (Mandel's acclaimed score is available on iTunes.)



In 2014, Mandel composed a musical about how Norman Rockwell embraced Civil Rights after the sudden death of his wife in his late 60s.  Norman Rockwell's America, aka Painting America, was performed at Theatreworks New Works Festival alongside Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph's latest play. In 2015, Canadian poet Shane Koyczan ("To This Day") asked if he could cover Mandel's song "Turn on a Light" for the opening track of his album, Debris. 

All this time, Mandel wrote, re-wrote, and discarded his own songs.  A far cry from the folk-rock of The Echo Falls, the material ranged from Brave-style Celtic folk-rock ("Way to Go", "The Road"), to modern rock with reggae, West African and electronic elements ("Helping Hand", "Happy"). Two of the songs were expanded versions of songs Mandel wrote for Snap Judgment ("As Long As I Breathe", and "Love Never Ends").  

"One great thing about doing the Snap Judgment gig, is I got to be musically promiscuous," Mandel says. "In Snap, or when I score movies, a certain musical genre might best help tell a story. Some of those disparate sounds made their way into these songs."

"But often I asked, what's the point of releasing an album? There was always something more pressing to do."  

Until the pieces started to fall into place -- a unifying storyline about naiveté, disillusionment, escapism, despair, sexuality, love, and wisdom emerged. A nine week meditation class renewed Mandel's determination to finish the record, and inspired the album's title. Even though sales were in the low thousands, Mandel learned that The Echo Falls had racked up nearly half a million listens on Pandora. Finally, a successful Kickstarter campaign raised enough money to pay for artwork, for mastering and reproduction. The Physical CD features gorgeous album art from Oakland-based artist Jason Munn (The Small Stakes, Treasure Island Musical Festival) and an 18 panel poster with complete lyrics. "I wanted to make an album that takes listeners on a musical and lyrical journey," says Mandel. "As Long As We Breathe" is a 15 song musical journey that will reward repeated listens. 











Wednesday, September 2, 2015

EAST SIDE SUSHI - In theaters September 18

My score and song for EAST SIDE SUSHI is now available on iTunes. 

So proud to announce that EAST SIDE SUSHI, winner of the Audience Award at 15 film festivals (Cinequest, CAAM Fest) and Best Screenplay at Napa Valley Film Festival, will be in theaters throughout California starting September 18th. As you may know, this wonderful indie features my score and song. 

I urge you to see (and hear!) it in a theater if you can.

UPDATE: East Side Sushi will be released by Samuel Goldwyn/Sony on home video and iTunes in April 2016!

The film has gotten excellent reviews from The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, and San Francisco Chronicle. Update: It now has 100% Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes thanks to reviews in LA Times, SF Chronicle, Variety, and more.

 And here's the updated trailer with a card FULL of all the awards this little indie has gathered over the past year. Don't miss it. (But if you do it's coming to a premium cable channel soon.)
 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Alex Mandel - Bio

Chances are, you may have heard Alex Mandel's music, and not realized it.

Mandel wrote the hit song from Pixar's Brave, "Touch the Sky". His music for the hit show Snap Judgment LIVE has reached millions of listeners on NPR. His critically acclaimed bands The Fingers and The Echo Falls have had songs on TV shows and movies. His scores for the award-winning East Side Sushi is now playing on Virgin Airlines; the film has won 12 film festivals (so far). He's also composed music for corporate clients like Pixar, Kendall-Jackson wines, Apple, Electronic Arts, and many others. 


The PIXAR feature film, Brave (2012), features two songs Mandel wrote for the movie: "Into the Open Air", and "Touch the Sky" -- the latter, with lyrics co-written with Director Mark Andrews. They are both sung by Scottish musician Julie Fowlis, and feature guitar work and arrangements by Mandel. "Touch the Sky" has struck a chord with global audiences, with Millions of views on YouTube and more than 100 fan cover versions; it's even featured daily at Disneyland's "World of Color".  The more contemplative "Into the Open Air" featured in the film during a touching scene between mother and daughter, and in a TV spot celebrating Mother's Day. Brave has been embraced globally, and has grossed over $500 Million worldwide.

recording guitar for "BRAVE" 

As composer and musical director for the NPR/PBS radio and TV show Snap Judgment LIVE, Mandel has accompanied storytellers with a live band at sold-out venues in Oakland, San Francisco, Washington DC, Austin, Ann Arbor, and the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.  Most recently, Mandel performed a sold-out show in NYC, at BAM for 2400 fans, working with The Roots MC, Black Thought, Mike Daisey and more. 

Snap reaches over a million listeners weekly, and is one of the top podcasts in the US. "They have a great band," Ira Glass writes, "Snap Judgment brings down the house every time they do a live show. Seriously, they kill. It makes a person feel very...competitive."  In August 2014, Snap returned to SF for two sold-out shows at the Nourse Theater for over 3200 fans. (That performance will air on NPR this Fall.) One performance, a compelling story by 15-year old Noah St. John, went viral, racking up over 1,200,000 views. 



Mandel recently composed his first musical: Painting America, aka Norman Rockwell's America (songs by Mandel, book by Lynne Kaufmann). The musical premiered summer 2014 at Theatreworks as part of their New Works Festival. The director was Theatreworks' founder Robert Kelley. Theatreworks has debuted many new musicals and plays, including Memphis, which went on to win the Tony for Best New Musical. Over a thousand theatergoers welcomed Rockwell with standing ovations at its debut performances in August 2014.




East Side Sushi (2014) -- featuring score & song by Mandel -- has racked up awards at Cinequest, SF Asian-American Film Festival, Napa Valley Film Festival, and many more.  Written and Directed by Oakland native, Anthony Lucero, East Side Sushi is currently playing on all domestic Virgin Atlantic flights, and is scheduled for theatrical release in 2015. Read the Hollywood Reporter review here. 

Mandel provided the score and songs for Tracy, Dan Scanlon's debut feature film (Director, Monsters University). Other film scores include Violet (dir. Mark Andrews), Shakti's Retreat & Trifles (dir. Pam Walker), and Mr. Incredible and Pals (dir. Roger Gould) from the Incredibles DVD.



He also composed the orchestral score for the PIXAR short film "Your Friend the Rat" -- directed by Academy Award Nominee Jim Capobianco (Best Original Screenplay, Ratatouille) -- which won the Annie Award in 2007 for Best Animated Short Film, and is featured on the Pixar Shorts Volume 2 Blu-Ray, available in November 2012.






Mandel started writing songs at the age of 7, and performing them in bands when he was 12 years old. Since then, he has released four critically-acclaimed albums of his songs, one with The Echo Falls and three with The Fingers.  

Clients include Kendall-Jackson Wines, Electronic Arts, Apple, NPR, Salesforce, Tinyplanets.com, Detour, among many others.
Mandel worked at Pixar for a decade on such films as Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Monsters University, and Brave.   
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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Third Song from my upcoming album

Here's the third song from my upcoming album, "A Town Called Love." Hope you enjoy it. Please share if you do.

Snap Judgment posted the first story from our last San Francisco show at the Nourse Theater. This is one of my favorite scores I've composed, and favorite stories from Josh Healey. And very appropriate for summertime:



-AM


Saturday, June 6, 2015

East Side Sushi on Virgin Airlines; Sold Out Show at BAM with Snap Judgment; Bay Area show

I've been busy indeed. Some news: East Side Sushi has now won more than 10 film festivals (as the image shows)
AND as a result you can see it this summer on Virgin Airlines. Don't miss this film which I'm proud to have scored, and composed a theme song for.
A few weeks ago my and the Snap Judgment gang (where I'm musical director and composer) sold out the Brooklyn Academy of Music. 2400 seats. Jamming with Black Thought from The Roots. Can't wait for you to see and hear this spectacular show.
Playing a rare Bay Area gig this Tuesday night 6/9 with the lovely and talented T-Sisters at Leo's in Oakland. Show 9pm/$10. Details here. Finally, next weekend I return to Theatreworks for a 3-day retreat to continue work on my musical about Norman Rockwell's discovery of Civil Rights: Painting America. Last summer we were part of the New Works Festival there, so it is a pleasure to return. -Alex

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Completing My First Solo Album

I'm excited to announce my first solo album is close to release. You can hear the opening track here:


I've been working on it for over 5 years, since my last set of songs with The Echo Falls. My original plan was to release it when Brave came out in 2012. Needless to say, that didn't happen.  The main reason was I didn't have 10+ songs that I felt justified making a record. But there were also a lot of cool projects that kept me busy, the ones described on this blog -- scoring three movies, performing around the country with Snap Judgment, even writing a musical about Norman Rockwell. The album always came last.

The question arose: why release the record at all? As Bob Dylan wrote in the 1990s, the world doesn't need any more songs.... There's enough great music to supply a never-ending playlist from now until our dying breath. Any given the state of music business, chances are it won't make any money. So why complete it, especially when there are other interesting projects that will pay me to compose music, and allow me to collaborate with other talented artists?

The first encouragement was when my Brave songs got accepted by the Pixar Brain Trust. The second was the response that  audiences around the world had to the songs.

Browsing the comments on YouTube and online, I read a lot of comments like "this is the greatest song ever," "this song makes me happy to be alive," and the inevitable, "what kind of music is this?"

It was the last question that caught my interest. "Touch the Sky" was my synthesis of a bunch of music that moves me. I put them together that way, because I figured even if the song got rejected (the most likely outcome) it would be something that I would like to listen to, and something I could say, "well, I liked it." I've learned that beats the hell out of making something you THINK someone else WOULD like, and then adding insult to injury, it's rejected anyway.

Millions of listens later, the song is still enjoyed around the world. And that got my thinking - what if I made an album of the music I like? What would happen? Well, we're about to find out.

The time has come to release the first song. More songs will follow in the coming weeks. To stay updated, please like my Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter, or submit your email on unlock.fm to download the first song, "Way To Go."

When Mark asked me to write the song that became "Touch the Sky", I wrote a lot of lyrics. Some of the lyrics I really liked that didn't made their way into "Touch the Sky" became the seed from which "Way to Go" grew. I also noticed a lot of people asking what kind of music "Touch the Sky" is. Hopefully "Way to Go" helps answer that question....

Thank you for listening, and please feel free to share "Way To Go" with your friends.

Update: here's track 2, "Helping Hand". Please share with your friends who you think will get it.