Given writer-director Ed Harris’ subdued, yet emotionally raw approach to the subject of abstract expressionist icon Jackson Pollock in last year’s award-winning biopic “Pollock,” the film was arguably one of the most difficult challenge any composer faced last year.
So when Jeff Beal rose to the task with a hypnotic combination of minimalist rhythmic drive, Americana ambiance, and introspective writing for strings, percussion and piano, Hollywood observers alternated between high praise and curiosity about this 38-year-old Northern Californian.
A graduate of the prestigious Eastman School of Music, Beal’s early ’90s career as an award-winning jazz trumpeter quickly shifted to composer of chamber and symphonic works (a bass concerto for John Patittuci, a piece for the Turtle Island String Quartet and orchestra) and a move to L.A. to pursue film work.
After the rigors of “Pollock,” he has completed the music for the Gary Sinise golf movie “A Gentleman’s Game” and TNT’s “Door to Door” (with William H. Macy as an Oregon door-to-door salesman who has cerebral palsy) and is about to score the cable film “Joe and Max,” about boxers Joe Louis and Max Schmeling.
After struggling on low-budget projects, Beal says, “Working on ‘Pollock’ really recharged my batteries and restored my faith in filmmaking as an artistic pursuit. It’s like playing in a band: You’re only as good as the musicians you play with. If I have a goal, it’s to get a chance to collaborate with people who make me better at what I do.”