The phone call came at 3 a.m. on a Thursday, and Ladd McIntosh was up, dressed and out of his North Hollywood house in 15 minutes.
Then, crunched over a desk at the nearby home of his colleague, Bruce Fowler, the two men scribbled tiny black dots on musical manuscript paper, writing pieces for an orchestra.
“We wrote nonstop for 10 hours,” McIntosh recalls. “There were no breaks.”
Three times couriers arrived, taking McIntosh’s and Fowler’s finished work to a music copyist, and by 2 p.m., while the pair were still writing, musicians were on a sound stage, recording the first parts they had completed.
McIntosh is part of the world of film soundtrack orchestration, where music is regularly written under intense deadlines. In this case, he and Fowler were writing parts for individual strings, brass, woodwinds, etc., working from the basic and detailed score by composer Hans Zimmer for the soundtrack to the upcoming Penny Marshall film, “Renaissance Man.”
Known first in the world of jazz education, McIntosh is thrilled to be working in film, a field he wanted to break into when he moved to Los Angeles in 1975, but simply couldn’t.
“I’m the world’s worst person at going out and making things happen for myself,” he says. “I have a lot of ability, but I don’t want to sell myself.”
McIntosh has been orchestrating for film about two years, and his work has been used on such features as “A League of Their Own,” “Short Cuts” and the upcoming Disney animated extravaganza, “The Lion King.” His change of fortune came about through Fowler, whom McIntosh met while teaching in the mid-'70s at the University of Utah, where Fowler’s father, the noted educator William Fowler, ran the jazz program.
For several years, Bruce Fowler has been one of composer Zimmer’s chief orchestrators, and hired McIntosh to help him out.
“Ladd’s really good at orchestrating,” Fowler says. “He’s long been deserving of more opportunities along these lines, so I’ve been glad I’ve been able to call him.”
These days, McIntosh wears several musical hats. Besides his film work, he teaches arranging and jazz improvisation at Cal State Northridge, and once a month--except during football season--he leads his rough-and-tumble big band at Jack’s Cinnamon Cinder in Burbank. The ensemble, which often includes Fowler on trombone and Kurt McGettrick and Glenn Garrett on reeds, plays this Sunday.
McIntosh and big bands go back quite a way. As a teen-ager growing up in Akron, Ohio, he was first “overwhelmed,” he says, by the sound of Stan Kenton’s band. And, later, as a student at Ohio State University, he wrote all the music for the school’s jazz band. The ensemble won first place at the National American College Jazz festival in Miami, Fla., in 1967, and was recorded on an album by Impulse! Records.
Relishing the sounds that his players are getting as he stands in front of them at the Cinnamon Cinder is one of life’s high points, McIntosh says. “Next to sex, there isn’t anything better.”
McIntosh’s music, heard on his 1992 Seabreeze CD, “Bulbous Garlic Blues,” covers a wide range of styles, reflecting such influences as Gil Evans--"his colors and textures"--Duke Ellington--"his creativity"--and Bela Bartok, whose music represents “clarity, logic and imagination.”
Unpredictability is a mark of a McIntosh performance. “Anything can happen . . . " he says. “I give the guys a lot of leeway. The charts are challenging, and they have to make the chord changes, but in terms of how they create the feel, that’s pretty much up to them.”
Soon McIntosh will be working on a new film score for the June release, “Speed.” “This work is kind of crazy, but it’s wonderful to put 30 years of writing experience to use,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun to be involved in something big, where I’m making a contribution.”
WHERE AND WHEN
Who: Ladd McIntosh’s Big Band.
Location: Jack’s Cinnamon Cinder, 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank.
Hours: 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Price: No cover.
Call: (818) 845-1121.