A series of essays wherein I explore the numerous musical identities of my favorite musician: from child prodigy to teen idol to guitar hero to singer/songwriter to award-winning in-demand film composer.
Featuring news/updates and commentary/analysis of Trevor's career and associated projects.
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Monday, December 23, 2013

Knowing The Score: Jack Frost

Note: portions of this entry first appeared on the Yesfans discussion forum in May 2009.  This post is image-heavy, as a warning to those utilizing older browsers.  Also contains SPOILERS! for Jack Frost

Here's a special holiday edition of Knowing The Score, featuring the only holiday film to date among Trevor's scoring oeuvre. I would like to extend many thanks to all my readers worldwide, I hope your holiday season - whatever tradition you celebrate - is filled with loved ones and festivity galore.

For your average moviegoer, Jack Frost is little more than an obscure holiday entry in Michael Keaton's resume.  But for Rabid Rabinites, it is very special indeed.  Not only was the film scored by Trevor, but he is in it!  Playing a version of himself, true, but it's a very cool detail that we certainly appreciate.  Sales of the DVD have likely benefited from an entirely separate demographic of Rabinites who have purchased it for just that reason (like me).  Lou Molino III, Trevor's long-time friend and drummer-of-choice is also in the film, also playing a version of himself (Talk about typecasting!).

The film opens on a winter evening scene in Denver (with the Lake Tahoe environs as the stand-in for the town of Medford where most of the film takes place) and we're outside a club where the Jack Frost Band is rockin' the house indeed with a down n'dirty version of "Frosty The Snowman" (which is actually foreshadowing of a sort).

Almost immediately we are introduced to Trevor Rabin, movie star.  It’s fitting that the first shot of the band is of their fabulous guitar player (sorry it’s blurry but it happens so fast)…
…but then we come to problem of the credits. When a certain credit appears – for six frames or so – we see Mark Addy (whom some of you may remember from The Full Monty among other films, an actor playing a musician):
…and then we see Michael Keaton and Scott Columby (actors playing musicians), and Lili Haydn (a actress/musician playing a musician):
…but do we see the man whose name is up on the screen? Of course not, that would just be silly!

Speaking of credits, every time there’s a nice shot of our movie star there are those pesky credits again (which make it difficult to appreciate his familiar and now immortalized for all time ensemble):

Lou gets a bit of screentime in this movie and he got to keep his line. Apparently Trevor’s speaking part didn’t make the cut (though he did tell me he believes he has no acting talent at all so it was just as well).

There’s something appropriately hilarious about Dweezil Zappa playing an A&R guy working for Asylum. His brother Ahmet also has a bit part as the Medford town snowplow driver.

After this sequence of the band's performance it shifts to the next day and we are introduced to Jack's son Charlie, who is referred to by his friends as "the brain" and they are beset by bullies during a schoolyard snowball fight   Charlie saves the day with his strategizing, but we understand that he and the head bully Rory will experience further fracas.  We also meet his dog Chester and his mom Gabby (played by the lovely Kelly Preston), who is doing her best to hold down the homestead while her husband pursues his rock n'roll dreams (and I'd like to say that their house is rather plush for the family of a struggling musician).  As the main theme "Frostbite" is introduced we learn that their relationship is loving despite Jack's long absences.  But Mrs. Frost has three boys in her household: it's after midnight and Jack and Charlie are building a snowman in the front yard (while the sprightly theme "It's Snowing" plays, featuring lovely dobro touches).  Before bedtime Jack passes down his treasured harmonica, also a bit of foreshadowing, in one of the least schmaltzy scenes, which also features "Frostbite" as a cue.

Jack and Gabby discuss the A&R rep (as the band has a recording date the next day) and then we learn why they can afford such a nice house, she's a banker.  It's such a typical musician move, he's just lucky he found such a hot banker! 

Here's a flyer for the band's Southwest tour from the Frost fridge (which notes in the fine print they are on Blind Marmot Records) and I think we can assume Trevor is on the end right, as the tallest shadow in the grouping.

The next day Jack and Mac (cute) go off to their Recording Date of Destiny, and the first signs of Charlie's disappointment with a dad who is as wedded to music as his family are seen in that Jack does not have time to show Charlie his signature hockey move "the J shot" before that afternoon's game.  Pre-game his team receives a pep talk from their coach, played hilariously by Henry Rollins who is wound just a little too tight for the elementary school set.  

Juxtaposed with the game is the band in an ancient studio to record a demo with apparently no money for a basic consideration like sound baffling.

Jack comes home to crushing censure, even Chester gives him a disapproving growl upon his late-evening return.  He gets a lecture on how much of Charlie's life he has missed from Gabby and chilly civility from Charlie, but five points to Jack for making a drummer joke.  Even though he knows he shouldn't be making foolish promises yet again, Jack promises Charlie a real family Christmas up at their cabin (Wait a minute, they have a cabin too?  He is so lucky he latched onto a businesswoman!).  As they're heading out the next day Jack gets a call from the A&R guy (okay his name is John Kaplan but I can't stop thinking of him as Dweezil). Because all of this is the set-up for the moment of truth: the head of Asylum demands the band play his Christmas party in Aspen on Christmas Eve. Jack is so close to his dream of getting a real record deal and potential success but he is reluctant to break yet another promise even as he and Gabby are trying to sort out the logistics.  Then we see the last of Charlie's patience drain away as he gives back his dad's magic harmonica.  This is truly the heartbreaking part because we later realize that the last time Charlie sees his father alive is in anger.

Cut to the band driving to the Western winter playground of the rich and famous, but Jack has a change of heart on the way there and decides with finality that family is more important than his rock n’roll ambition. Pull over!
Okay, clearly the balance of power in this band is all wrong if the guitar player has to ride in the back with the gear. If for no other reason than the guitar player is 6’3. And you never let the drummer drive, dude, everybody knows that! (OMG I’m just kidding!) It’s implied that Trevor is in this scene, but I think it’s safe to assume he’s not really there since we don’t actually see him.
Since none of the band wanted to play the gig they head for home...and then things go horribly wrong from there - and not just because that's the last time you see the band (save Mac, who becomes a sort of ersatz father figure) in the movie - as evening brings on heavy snowfall and Jack meets his mortal end driving off a bridge and then we cut to a shot of Charlie at the cabin, looking out the window, hoping against hope.  The story then moves forward one year and shifts its focus; as Charlie is now a very lonely boy in need of the kind of comfort he is too angry and heartbroken to accept.  The cue "Miss Him Too" emphasizes the deep sense of loss Gabby and Charlie experience in their grieving even a year later.  That night Charlie builds another snowman so the story can take on the timeworn Christmas trope we know (this scene is accompanied by a version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" from their live album The Dance).  The cue "Magic Harmonica" is a lovely winter-minded composition, with delicate accents bringing snowfall to mind and a sprightly motif as the transformation occurs.  The magic of Winter finds a way to bring Jack and Charlie back together again, each to find their way towards redemption and closure.  The cue "Charlie Boy" has a lovely emotional resonance as Charlie realizes that yes, a snowman actually contains the spirit of his father.  And there's a whimsy to "Frost in Medford" which demonstrates the light touch Trevor can have with comedy.  The theme  "The J Shot" is the kind of "human highlight reel" music Trevor does so well, again with nice accents of dobro.  

Overall, it is a heartwarming story (albeit entirely formulaic), even if many viewers couldn't really get behind Michael Keaton as the nominal lead (as a rock n'roller turned literal snowman) in a family film.

Trevor's appearance in the film is related to his role as scorer, in that he was asked to coach Michael Keaton in the fine art of rock n'roll performing, and we see the result of his guidance in their scenes, with Keaton doing a decent job of portraying a veteran front man.  And we are treated to some of Trevor's guitar heroics in the songs "Frosty The Snowman" and "Don't Lose Your Faith" (which he and Michael Keaton co-wrote).

This is how the band appears in the credits of the film:

 Those songs performed by the Jack Frost Band were produced by Trevor for the soundtrack.  What disappoints me is Trevor and Michael Keaton wrote two songs but the second one, “Going Home” was apparently not used as it’s not listed in the credits; I'm assuming it was meant for the sequence where Jack changes his mind about going to Aspen.  And a tangential connection can be found in the Shiverfest sequence, as the band performing "Jingle Bell Rock" is Michael Sherwood's Tangletown, a project which included younger brother Billy.  Billy Sherwood is best-known for having been a member of Yes, beginning with his role as a sideman on the Talk tour in 1994.  I may be wrong but I'd swear that's Billy playing drums in this scene.

In regards to the family films which Trevor has scored, music-wise this is a solid offering even as he is underused in terms of cues and motifs (which are all very lovely, and I tend to think it is closest to the “light orchestral” score that he mentioned he wants to compose in the 2009 MGU interview) because there is so much licensed music in the film.  But my opinion that “Frostbite” is one of the most beautiful things Trevor has ever written – for any project – still stands; and therefore is the single redeeming factor despite the movie’s relative obscurity.  But if you can obtain a copy of the score promo CD via the gray market for such items I'd recommend it, it's part of my holiday listening favorites and brings a bit of Winter magic to a place which never gets any snow at all, much less enough to fashion a snowman.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Haul out thee olde plastic gramophone, it's Grammy time again...

The bad news was delivered a few days back: Yes is not going to be inducted into the Rock n'Roll Hall Of Fame this year.  And while some believe that they never will, that Jann Wenner and the organization have had it in for the band from the beginning...I tend to think it would be a fine occasion to bring together the principal members past and present just one more time; but the inclusion would certainly not be any true measure of the band's cultural and historical relevance, which has already been established.

Speaking of validation, as it is Grammy Season (the nominations having been announced on December 6th), I wanted to write about those coveted shiny objects again in regards to Trevor's career, as he is fortunate enough to be able to put "Grammy-winning musician" in front of his name if he so chooses.  When one considers how many works and the people associated with those recordings are eligible in any given year, to make that final field of five is a very special thing - although to win is even better - but there is definite cache in being able to cite the nomination, plus there's a nifty certificate!

To elucidate a somewhat obscure historical detail, 90125 was rather well-represented in the field at the 1985 awards.  We know "Cinema" won for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, but it hasn't been widely noted there were additional nominations: "Owner of a Lonely Heart" for Best Pop Vocal Group, 90125 for Best Rock Vocal Group, and one category they definitely should have also won: Best Vocal Arrangement for Two or More Voices, for "Leave It."

Technical nominations were also lacking but as those tend to follow trends, the nominations went to the works most represented in the overall field (i.e. total number of nominations).  But I will unequivocally state that Gary Langan absolutely deserved a Best Engineering nod for his work on 90125.

In 1987 the band received recognition for both documents of their globetrotting 9012Live tour which took place in 1984-85 with two nominations: Best Rock Instrumental Performance for "Amazing Grace" from 9012Live: The Solos (in a relational aside, Mr. Horn and his colleagues made off with that one, for The Art of Noise's version of "Peter Gunn") and Best Music Video Long-Form for 9012Live.  This might have been Steven Soderbergh's very first professional recognition; he would of course go on to win numerous awards including the Palme D'Or for Sex, Lies and Videotape and the Best Director Oscar for Traffic.

In 1988 Yes racked up another nomination in the Best Rock Vocal Group category for Big Generator, and I find it interesting that for as many people who believe the album was a drop-off in quality for the band, apparently the members of NARAS did not.

Trevor's only solo nomination to date is for Best Music Video Short-Form in 1990 for "Something To Hold On To."  This calls for more screencaps!

Sadly the rest of the YesWest catalog did not see any recognition in the years to come (but there are those who would say Union is a trainwreck of an album so it's just as well), but an examination of Trevor's overall history reveals so many awards he has probably run out of places to display them, and that is no surprise to those of us who believe there's still plenty for him to obtain.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Coming Soon!

In just nine days Christmas will be here...and so will Grudge Match, which opens on the holiday.  Here is the trailer along with the official synopsis and production details and the one sheet.  I hope to have a Knowing The Score entry for the film completed by year's end.

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Grudge Match" stars award-winning movie legends Oscar® winner Robert De Niro ("Raging Bull," "Silver Linings Playbook") and Oscar® nominee Sylvester Stallone (the "Rocky" films, "The Expendables") as old boxing rivals who come out of retirement for one final match. Peter Segal ("Get Smart") directs the comedy. 

In "Grudge Match," De Niro and Stallone play Billy "The Kid" McDonnen and Henry "Razor" Sharp, two local Pittsburgh fighters whose fierce rivalry put them in the national spotlight. Each had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers. Thirty years later, boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr., seeing big dollar signs, makes them an offer they can't refuse: to re-enter the ring and settle the score once and for all. 

But they may not have to wait that long: on their first encounter in decades, their long-festering feud erupts into an unintentionally hilarious melee that instantly goes viral. The sudden social media frenzy transforms their local grudge match into a must-see HBO event. Now, if they can just survive the training, they may actually live to fight again. 

The film also stars Kevin Hart ("Think Like a Man") as Dante Slate Jr.; Oscar® winner Alan Arkin as Razor's former trainer, Louis "Lightning" Conlon, who gets to put Razor through his paces again; and Oscar® winner Kim Basinger ("L.A. Confidential") as Sally Rose, who was once the love of Razor's life. 

Rounding out the cast are Jon Bernthal (upcoming "The Wolf of Wall Street," TV's "The Walking Dead") as BJ, who becomes The Kid's instinctive but untested trainer; and young film newcomer Camden Gray ("Californication"). 

Segal is directing from a screenplay by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, story by Tim Kelleher. The film is being produced by Bill Gerber ("Gran Torino"), Mark Steven Johnson ("Grumpy Old Men," "Grumpier Old Men"), Michael Ewing ("Get Smart"), Segal, and Ravi Mehta ("The Lucky One"). Jane Rosenthal and Kevin King-Templeton are serving as executive producers. 

Collaborating with Segal behind the scenes are: Academy Award®-winning cinematographer Dean Semler ("Dances With Wolves," "Apocalypto"); production designer Wynn Thomas ("Cinderella Man"); costume designer Mary Vogt ("Men in Black 3"); and editor William Kerr ("Bridesmaids"). Robert Sale, who was the technical advisor on "Rocky Balboa," is serving as the film's boxing consultant. The music is by Trevor Rabin. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Media Watch: talking about Talk

An ongoing series wherein I comment on Trevor's recent publicity.

Yesterday, the In The Studio with Redbeard archives posted an interview from March 1994 with Trevor and Jon Anderson regarding the making of Talk; an interesting (and humorous) detail is that it was recorded the day after the listening party for the album, hosted by veteran DJ Bob Coburn (host of nationally syndicated radio interview program Rockline), held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles, which can be heard here:
...for those who have heard that broadcast, you can appreciate that Trevor was definitely hungover on the day after but he manages to sound fairly articulate even so; gotta love that rock n'roll stamina!  But it seems likely this interview hasn't been heard since it was first broadcast, so it's a nice rarity for Rabinites and YesWest fans to enjoy.  And there's much hilarity at Phil Carson's expense, which was par for the course in the Talk era.  It can be found (with accompanying article) here:

As I've noted elsewhere, Talk was a groundbreaking achievement from a technical perspective, one of the first albums recorded directly to hard disk using Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer.  It was also the only Yes album to be recorded primarily at Trevor's studio The Jacaranda Room.  It's an album which I feel is criminally unappreciated in the YesWest discography (and I was happy to tell Trevor so when I met him last year) but that's an entry for another time...

PS: if you've never listened to the Talk debut listening party, please do, it is hilarious!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fashion Watch: snazzy!

Last night Trevor and Shelley were attendees at the 27th annual American Cinematheque Awards, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, this year to honor producer Jerry Bruckheimer, with whom Trevor has had a long working relationship.

Here are a couple shots - courtesy of Star Sightings - from the arrivals line at the "black-tie preferred" event, and this is rare because I honestly don't believe I've seen any photos of Trevor wearing a tie since...oh...1997!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


For until they've seen there is no other way...

I mourn the passing of a great man and celebrate his legacy: a man who endured many hardships and horrors to help his beautiful nation become a land of equals.  His indomitable spirit lives on in the people of South Africa, and may the world continue his loving example.

Here Trevor is pictured meeting Mandela in Johannesburg in 1997: