Christian Jacob Goes Hollywood!
September 9, 2016 by Helen Borgers

Christian Jacob and Clint Eastwood at the New York premiere of SULLY, Tuesday, September 6, 2016. Photo courtesy of Christian Jacob.

After you’ve been nominated for several Grammys, performed, arranged, and conducted all over the world with big bands, symphonies, trios, and even with the King of Thailand, what big thrills are left? Hollywood, of course! The movies!  And, because of his compositional skills, as well as his superb playing, Christian Jacob has started at the top, with one of the most respected film makers of our day…Clint Eastwood.

I caught up with Christian on the phone, right after he got in from seeing the New York premiere of Sully, Clint’s new film.

Clint is well-known for his devotion to jazz. For over 40 years, he has incorporated it into his movies, including Play Misty for Me (which has scenes featuring Cannonball Adderley at the Monterey Jazz Festival), and Bird (in which he used Charlie Parker’s recorded solos, extracted from their original settings, and mixed with contemporary live rhythm sections).  Many others of his films have jazz scores, like Bridges of Madison County, True Crime, and The Gauntlet, the latter using a small ensemble featuring Jon Faddis, Art Pepper, Mike Lang, and Shelly Manne.  

But knowing Clint’s love of jazz and supposing that he might be a fan of his, never crossed Christian’s mind! So, imagine his surprise when Clint’s girlfriend called her close friend, Tierney Sutton, with whom Christian has worked regularly since the mid-1990s, and asked for Christian’s phone number! Three weeks went by, and nothing happened.  Then the call finally came. Clint invited Christian and Tierney to come to the studio; but he didn’t say why.

Clint showed them a rough cut of Sully.  It was so rough, in fact, that some of it was still in storyboard form! There was a temporary soundtrack, and to Christian’s further astonishment, it was his solo recording of “Body and Soul” from his 2014 release called Beautiful Jazz: A Private Concert, as well as some a cappella voicings of Tierney’s from recordings of the Tierney Sutton Band (TSB). It then crossed both Tierney and Christian’s minds that Clint had asked them there to request permission to use these recordings in his film.  The screening ended and it was only then that Clint asked them to score the film with new, original music.

Interestingly, Christian had a theme that came to his mind while watching the movie.  Clint said, he did, too! Christian told me, “I played him my theme, then he played me his. 72 hours later he and Tierney were in the studio, recording with Trey (Henry) on bass and Ray (Brinker) on drums … improvising over my themes while watching the film.” They ended up with three original themes by Christian (a theme for the title character, a theme with a stress feel, and a theme with a feeling of vindication), plus Clint’s theme.


The Tierney Sutton Band. Photo courtesy of Tierney Sutton.


Even though there were some really long days, Clint was there the whole time, commenting on what he liked and didn’t like.  They adapted as they went, based on Clint’s preferences (like Tierney singing in her lower register).  After that, Christian took it home and did orchestrations.  

Christian said the whole experience “went really, really fast.” And the thing that really surprised him, he said, was the absolute trust Clint had in him, allowing Christian to decide, for example, whether or not to use Clint’s theme! (Happily, both Christian and Tierney fell in love with his theme, and Tierney even wrote lyrics for it, which are used in the score.)

Clint also gave Christian his three phone numbers, telling him to feel free to call anytime, adding that he would be willing to have Christian come to his place or he would go to Christian’s house to work! Clint’s accessibility and his collaborative approach surprised and impressed Christian.

When the scoring was finished, and the film was ready for release, Clint said, “Steven is going to be so jealous.”  Christian asked, “Steven who?”  Turns out that Steven Spielberg is also a big fan of TSB! Just goes to show, you never know who is listening.

Clint doesn’t usually use a lot of music in his films, but people have been telling Christian there is more in this one than usual. The soundtrack album will be available soon!

The Los Angeles premiere of Sully is Friday, September 9th.

"Body and Soul" has not been posted to YouTube, but this is from Beautiful Jazz, and it definitely gives you a feel for the beauty of Christian's solo outing! This is "How Long Has This Been Going On?"



On-air personality, Helen Borgers, can be heard on KJazz 88.1 FM from 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. As a jazz broadcaster, Helen has been invited to give pre-concert lectures at various performing arts centers, served on panels in jazz conventions all over the world, and lectured about the history of jazz in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She has also written articles for international jazz publications and regularly emcees concerts, festivals, and club dates throughout southern California.

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