Inspired by familiar Los Angeles cityscapes, Fantasia in Groove: Impressions of L.A. is a concert suite of urban impressions. A standard rendition lasts about seventeen minutes and consists of three movements: Mulholland Overlook, Hollywood Intermedio, and Cahuenga Corridor.
My wife Lauren – to whom I dedicate this work – grew up in L.A. near iconic Laurel Canyon and Mulholland Drive, a twenty-one-mile, mostly two-lane arterial road that curves along the ridge of the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains. Mulholland Overlook conjures images of this area’s rugged landscapes and scenic overlooks which dot the road.
The opening measures evoke the panoramic night views from the scenic overlook high above the Hollywood Bowl, with the Downtown skyline in the distance and Catalina Island off the Pacific coast. To the east are the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Park Observatory, to the north the San Fernando Valley.
The legato melody unfolds softly, high up the fingerboard with an intense vibrato. It combines with sparkling arpeggios in the piano accompaniment to recall the romantic sound of classic black and white films. Dissonant bursts of broken chords impose upon the reverie. A frenetic melody then takes us on a journey through deeply wooded canyons and dramatic crags and slopes filled with California coastal sage and chaparral, before returning to the opening panorama.
Hollywood Intermedio is all noir as the colors of day devolve into melancholic shades of night. It starts as a sarabande, a slow dance in triple meter that traces its origins to sixteenth century zarabandas of Central America. The wistful melody turns upbeat as a walking bass line introduces a new jazz-swing groove in a tip o’ the hat to Old Hollywood.
If Hollywood Boulevard is for tourists, Cahuenga Boulevard is for locals. The popular commuter route presents a sleepy face to drivers cutting through the Hollywood Hills from the San Fernando Valley. Cahuenga Corridor captures the stretch between Sunset Boulevard and Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. Here it is all about dining and nightlife – painting the town red without the star-struck out-of-towners on the Walk of Fame.
I composed it on a foundation of rhythmic building blocks of ten beats per measure. The same hard driving piano lick accompanies the violin or cello melody throughout. The effect is repetitive forward movement, brimming with drama!
Part of the conceptual inspiration came from jazz composer Bud Powell’s Parisian Thoroughfare, a standard I have long admired. Like Powell’s verve-filled soundscape (or George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, for that matter), Cahuenga Corridor evokes the fast-paced, stop-and-go groove of big-city life.