September’s score of the month is Escapades for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra by John Williams, taken from his score to Catch Me If You Can. We are joined by Don Williams, prolific percussionist, composer, orchestrator, and brother of John, as well as woodwind player Dan Higgins. Don, Dan, and moderator David Das lead us through sections of the jazzy, sultry, and at times, dizzying score, lending us their extensive knowledge. Don was a percussionist on this score recording, so we also hear some of his first hand experiences from the recording session.
Donald J. Williams’ vast and varied career as a percussionist, composer, orchestrator and conductor spans popular and classical music while advancing musical education in both America and Europe. His creative work has appeared on thousands of film and television soundtracks and popular music and original cast albums over the past four decades. In fact, he’s been a part of the majority of the world’s biggest movies over the past He has also performed with more than 45 different Broadway productions while also serving as a special instructor for prestigious universities.
A native of Los Angeles, Williams grew up in the suburban San Fernando Valley in a musical family that included his brothers John and Jerry and sister Joan. After graduating from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Williams attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia under a scholarship. Studying with percussion teachers such as Fred Hinger and Gerry Carlyss, he also worked with Alan Abel and Billy Dorn to hone his skills. Returning home to L.A. he continued his studies with noted TV composer Albert Harris, which led to work on stage, episodic television and major motion pictures, plus commercial jingles and other special media projects. Williams has toured or recorded with Bob Hope, Tom Jones, The Supremes, Diana Ross, Sammy Davis Jr., Burt Bacharach and many other stars.
His impressive output in films includes “E.T,” the “Indian Jones” film series, “Jurassic Park, “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” (in fact, in all Stephen Spielberg movies) as well as other box office giants. He’s added his distinct musical accents to a vast array of animated releases in both film and television, including the acclaimed Batman animated series of the ‘90s and contributions to Disney projects. His television credits are also staggering, with shows such as the Emmy-winning “Roots,” “Fantasy Island,” and “Lois & Clark” among the programs to which he’s brought his special touch. On Broadway, Williams’ extensive credits include smash stage shows such as “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Evita,” “A Chorus Line,” and many more.
DAN HIGGINS first distinguished himself as an outstanding saxophonist while attending University of North Texas. He played lead alto in the 1 o’clock lab band and can be heard on Lab 76 and Lab 77. He taught both saxophone and improvisation and was a member of the 1976 State Department tour to Russia. Dan has been a guest at the University of North Texas lecture series and played in the 1997 50th anniversary Alumni All-Star Reunion Band.
Dan has worked with bands and jazz artists such as Louis Bellson, Dave Grusin, Stanley Clarke, Arturo Sandoval and George Duke. As a member of the Toshiko Akiyoshi-Lew Tabackin big band, Dan recorded two albums and toured Europe and Japan. He can be heard on jazz albums with Quincy Jones, Arturo Sandoval, Sammy Nestico, and Pat Williams. Dan contributed 2 arrangements on the 2013 Grammy winning CD of Arturo Sandoval “Dear Diz”.
As a Los Angeles based professional and a member of the “Jerry Hey Horn Section,” Dan has recorded with such noted artists as Phil Collins, Jose Feliciano, Cher, Natalie Cole, Randy Newman, Babyface, Dave Matthews Band, Katy Perry, Whitney Houston, Harry Connick Jr., Christina Aguilera, Ringo Starr, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Queen Latifa, Roberta Flack, Barbra Streisand, Michael Buble, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart and Neil Young. When I Fall in Love, with Natalie Cole, produced by David Foster, features Dan on tenor sax. He is also a featured soloist on numerous albums including Quincy Jones’s Basie and Beyond, Gordon Goodwin’s Swinging for the Fences and Wayne Bergeron’s You Call this a Living.
David Das is a prolific composer, producer, and songwriter based in Los Angeles. His experience covers a vast range of visual and performance media, from feature films, TV shows, cartoons, commercials, trailers to modern music production, choral and orchestral writing/arranging, and more. David has worked on projects for Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox, CollegeHumor, Funny or Die, DirecTV, Dreamworks, Fremantle Media, Intel, BBDO, HBO, PBS, TLC, Telemundo, Weight Watchers, Coca Cola, Hal Leonard, and many others. He has composed music for dozens of TV shows, scored films (such as Lionsgate’s 2014 feature thriller “The Appearing“), and written and produced songs for numerous pop, rock, R&B, soul, and indie artists.
David is a board member of the Academy of Scoring Arts, and is also actively involved with the Society of Composers & Lyricists, BMI and PMA.