August 31, 2011
Jack Hayes: An Appreciation
Respected film orchestrator for Mancini, Bernstein, Newman, Hamlisch was top in his field by Jon Burlingame
Jack Hayes, who died last week at the age of 92, was one of the unsung, behind-the-scenes heroes of movie music for more than six decades.
Although he was a fine composer and conductor in his own right, Hayes spent most of his career as an orchestrator: A highly trained musician who takes a composer's sketches (maybe six or eight staves of music) and expands them into a full score (anywhere from 20-plus to 40-plus staves), essentially every note that a symphony orchestra needs in order to perform a piece of music.
In the hectic world of film music, it's a service that has always been needed, a craft that goes back to the earliest days when films were turned over to a composer so late – often with release dates looming – that there was no time for the composer to do his own orchestrations. This was true even in the 1930s for the great Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who relied on Hugo Friedhofer to take his detailed sketches and turn them into fully symphonic scores.
Jack Hayes performed this service for dozens of composers, from Alfred Newman to Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini to Quincy Jones, Marvin Hamlisch to Randy Newman, John Morris to Michael Giacchino – a who's-who of Hollywood composers who relied on Hayes (and, from 1955 to 1976, Hayes' partner Leo Shuken) to help them meet impossible deadlines.
"Talk to anybody, particularly orchestrators, and they'll tell you that he's one of the most respected guys ever," says Randy Newman, who employed Hayes on Ragtime, The Natural, Avalon and several other films in the 1980s and 1990s. "I learned more from him than any single person. Whoever's second is a long way off."
Hayes "worked on my very first film, The Swimmer," Marvin Hamlisch recalled this week. "He conducted that film, but he was also very helpful in showing me how to eventually conduct for a film. But he did it in a very quiet way which I thought was fabulous. He and Leo Shuken did so much for so many." Their orchestration work for him also included The Way We Were and Sophie's Choice, Hamlisch said.
"He listened to composers and knew what composers wanted – but many times embellished it in a way that was in keeping with the composer's wishes but giving it much more in terms of color," Hamlisch added. "I loved him."
Peter Bernstein recalled Hayes' work for his father, Elmer Bernstein: "From The Ten Commandments until the mid-1970s, he worked on just about everything my father wrote. Jack was so unflappable and so fast, and his work always sounded so complete." Hayes and Shuken orchestrated numerous Bernstein classics including The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Escape and Hawaii.
William Ross, who orchestrated and arranged for other composers for years before becoming better known as a film composer, said: "I used to call Jack to get his thoughts on how to proceed with the orchestration of a certain passage or texture. He was always very generous with his knowledge, and the time it took to share that knowledge. So often we would end our discussions having gone over several possible ways to proceed. He was a wonderfully humane mix of humility, courtesy and kindness."
Jack Hayes also worked regularly with a number of other notable composers. Peter Bernstein cited one incident on a scoring stage when his father and some unnamed, difficult director were in a heated discussion about the direction of a score. Peter turned to Hayes, who was completely focused on writing an orchestration, and asked which cue of his father's Jack was working on. Hayes looked up. "This is something for Mancini." And back he went, right to it, "oblivious to the tumult occurring a few feet away," said an amused Bernstein. Hayes (with Shuken) orchestrated such Mancini classics as Breakfast at Tiffany's, Days of Wine and Roses and Hatari!.
Giacchino was Hayes' last regular employer. "Rarely in life are you given the opportunity to learn from a true master," Giacchino said. "Jack not only demonstrated a mastery of his craft, but also showed us the qualities of a true gentleman." Hayes contributed orchestrations to The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Up, among other Giacchino films.
Hayes tackled large projects and small. For composer Bob Cobert, he orchestrated two of the longest, most complex television miniseries ever made, The Winds of War and War & Remembrance. For John Morris, he lent his expertise to such features as High Anxiety and The Elephant Man. For the legendary Alfred Newman, he (and Shuken) orchestrated The Greatest Story Ever Told, Nevada Smith and Airport.
Quincy Jones called on Hayes and Shuken to orchestrate In Cold Blood and Cactus Flower; years later he asked Hayes to join his musical team on The Color Purple and Hayes wound up with one of his two Academy Award nominations. Burt Bacharach brought them to London for Casino Royale and then, back in Hollywood, hired them to orchestrate Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Lost Horizon. When an ailing Bernard Herrmann needed someone to conduct his last score, Taxi Driver, he asked for Jack Hayes.
Society of Composers & Lyricists president Dan Foliart encountered Hayes at Paramount in the early 1980s, "where Jack was active in many of the successful series of that era. Jack's craft became immediately apparent to me, with his masterful orchestrations and the lively spirit embodied in his original compositions that are still playing to this day."
Indeed, Hayes' own original scores tend to be forgotten in all the talk about the many film classics to which he contributed. During the heyday of original music for TV, Shuken and Hayes – on rare weeks off – often wrote Western scores, a genre with which they were quite familiar. They penned numerous episodes of Riverboat, Wagon Train, The Virginian and Gunsmoke among other shows. Hayes also penned a number of classical works including a string quartet, trumpet concerto and two-piano rhapsody.
Hayes was among the most modest and self-effacing of the great Hollywood musical craftsmen, often fending off stories that he and Shuken were really responsible for many of these scores. "It's rumor-mongering and it isn't fair to the composer," he said in a rare interview in 1986. "All the people I've worked with write their own music and each offers a very distinct, unique talent that makes a score what it is."
Hayes attended the San Francisco Conservatory but, as he once told Randy Newman, he was thrown out because "they would harmonize these Bach chorales and at the end he would put in a Hawaiian sixth chord. He was determined to have his joke. Jack is right up there with the best orchestrators there have ever been. We had a lot of laughs, and they weren't just about my voice leadings."
Editor's note: Read Jon Burlingame's formal obituary on Jack Hayes at Variety.com.
©2011 Jon Burlingame