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Composer Spotlight: Laura Karpman

Composer Spotlight: Laura Karpman

For this month’s Composer Spotlight we’re honored to welcome the five-time Emmy-winning composer Laura Karpman as our featured guest playlist curator! A longtime jazz aficionado who spent her early days in New York playing piano in neighborhood clubs, Laura brings a vibrant soundscape to the boldly original (and hilarious) new film American Fiction, based on the the novel Erasure by Percival Everett and directed by Cord Jefferson (Succession, The Good Place).

To celebrate tomorrow’s soundtrack release and the film’s debut in select theaters, Laura has curated a playlist of some of the wide-ranging inspirations and influences that shaped the American Fiction soundtrack and some of her other recent compositions. Of her playlist selection, Laura commented:

“I am so excited to share music that continues to inspire me. I’ve never been bound by genre, and I hope that you will unearth some of the amazing connections that I hear. Between the rhythmic play of Thelonious Monk to the new tango of Astor Piazolla, the jazz villain theme from The Marvels, to the piano concerto of “My Pafology”, this is all music that pushes edges and has tons of heart.”

For Laura, the music of American Fiction matches the moods, moral dilemmas, an defining moments of main character Thelonious “Monk” Ellison. “When you have a title character named Monk, you must acknowledge the namesake,” Laura says of one of her main influences, noting, “The score is about the music of Thelonious Monk, filtered through the brain of the main character, Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison.” Laura’s musical upbringing lent itself well to crafting a jazz-infused score, the Juilliard-trained composer noting she grew up on the music of Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Wes Montgomery and performed in jazz clubs around the city. “As mid-century modernist as I can be, jazz runs through every note. The harmonic and melodic structures underpin my music in every genre, from concert music to scores for visual media.”

Featuring as a pianist on the album’s 22 pieces, Laura collaborated with a cadre of skilled musicians to bring the American Fiction soundtrack to life. Hoping to echo the depth of the film’s main character, Karpman enlisted pianist Patrice Rushen to join her in recording the album’s piano portions, with each’s unique playing style creating variety and depth to the music. Another key contributor to the score is renowned flutist Elena Pinderhughes, who has lent her jazz expertise to artists including Herbie Hancock, Common, Esperanza Spalding and more.

Of Elena’s contribution to the score, Karpman notes, “Her rich, warm, delicate playing is so deeply a part of the family story and family theme. You can hear her breath and you can her sing through the instrument. When she needs to, she can blow it out and have edge and incredible power.” Karpman also worked with longtime collaborators on the album’s recording, including John Yoakum on saxophone, Bart Somalis on bass, A.J. Minette on guitar and M.B. Gordy on drums, as well as a large string ensemble, whose portions were recorded at Vienna’s Synchron Stage.

Originally premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award, American Fiction makes its highly-anticipated arrival in select theaters tomorrow, December 15, with a broader release slated for January.

Check out the full playlist below, and don’t miss the full soundtrack, out tomorrow!

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