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Paul Buckmaster 11/2017

November 7, 2017 – Paul Buckmaster born on June 13, 1946 in London England.

At age four, Buckmaster started attending a small private school in London called the London Violoncello School, and continued studying cello under several private teachers until he was ten. In 1957, his mother, a concert pianist took him and his two siblings to Naples, where he auditioned with cello professor Willy La Volpe, to be assessed as eligible for a scholarship. After Paul’s attending classes over a two-month period, La Volpe determined that Paul was eligible for an Italian State scholarship, and for the next four years, he studied there eight months per year. This was a radically formative period, in which he deepened his love for the music of J. S. Bach, studying the unaccompanied cellos suites. It was during this period in Italy that Paul discovered his love for jazz. He then won a scholarship to study the cello at the Royal Academy of Music, from which he graduated with a performance diploma in 1967.

Shortly after leaving the Royal Academy, Paul received a phone call from his former cello professor, Vivian Joseph, which led to his being invited to tour Germany with the BeeGees’ backing orchestra. During this time Paul also worked as a cellist for Baroque ensembles and groups, and in other backing orchestras for artists such as Paul Jones (Manfred Mann).

Through friends, Paul was introduced to future collaborators, producer Gus Dudgeon, arranger Tony Visconti, and future manager, Tony Hall. These introductions led to Paul’s earliest experiences writing arrangements for various artists’ songs and albums, which he also conducted at studios throughout London, including Abbey Road Studios. By July 1969, he was becoming well-known in recording circles throughout London. Paul was invited to Gus Dudgeon’s office where he was introduced to a young David Jones (better known as David Bowie), and asked to write arrangements, conduct, and play cello on Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud.”

Buckmaster had undergone no formal training as an orchestrator, but he learned rapidly, examining Beethoven and Haydn scores borrowed from the library and doctoring some music manuscript paper to write out his first full scores.

Through Tony Hall, Paul was introduced to Miles Davis, the evening after attending a Miles Davis concert at the Odeon in London. Paul and Miles would go on to establish a firm friendship, and later collaborate on albums On the Corner and Big Fun. While attending a Miles Davis performance with friends at Ronnie Scott’s club in London, Paul was introduced to a young man named Elton John. Aware of Paul’s work, Elton had asked Tony Hall to arrange a meeting with Paul. Elton asked Paul to collaborate with him on his innovative album, Elton John.

Buckmaster helped Miles Davis with the preparation of On the Corner (1972). He wrote the arrangements for the studio sessions, in which he also participated, at Davis’ request, by humming bass lines and rhythms to lead the musicians. The arrangements he wrote were often used as a starting point to be transformed until what was being played bore no resemblance to what he had written. This was in keeping with the Stockhausian approach that Buckmaster had been discussing with Davis in the weeks leading up to the session.

Buckmaster also played with Bowie and his band in the recordings for the original soundtrack to the science fiction film The Man Who Fell to Earth, in which David Bowie starred as Thomas Jerome Newton. Buckmaster himself told in the book 60 Years of Bowie that he had played cello on the original soundtrack recordings. Also Carlos Alomar, J. Peter Robinson and others were involved. 

“There were a couple of medium tempo rock instrumental pieces, with simple motifs and rifly kind of grooves, with a line-up of David’s rhythm section (Carlos Alomar et al.) plus J Peter Robinson on Fender Rhodes and me on cello and some synth overdubs, using ARP Odyssey and Solina. There was also a piece I wrote and performed using some beautifully made mbiras (African thumb pianos) I had purchased earlier that year, plus cello, all done by multiple overdubbing.” Later film-director Nicolas Roeg decided not to use the recordings, but instead existing songs as soundtrack for the movie.”

Buckmaster also wrote some instrumental tracks for the 1974 Harry Nilsson film Son of Dracula, and composed the original score for Terry Gilliam’s science fiction hit 12 Monkeys (Universal, 1995), which starred Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt.

​Many of Elton’s songs with Paul Buckmaster as arranger, conductor and director, are to this day some of Elton’s highest grossing songs, including “Tiny Dancer” and “Your Song.” Elton has said that Paul’s arrangements on “Have Mercy on the Criminal” were “revolutionary”. In January 2016, on the passing of their friend David Bowie, Elton stated “If it wasn’t for David Bowie, I would have never found my original producer Gus Dudgeon and arranger Paul Buckmaster. …when I heard “Space Oddity”, I thought it was probably the most incredible record I’d ever heard, and for a long time after that point. And the production and arrangement of that song…I said, ‘Whoever did that, I really want to work with them.’”
In the 1980s he moved to Los Angeles where Buckmaster arranged many hit songs and albums for artists such as Leonard Cohen’s album Songs of Love and Hate; Harry Nillsson’s singles “Without You” and “Spaceman”; Carly Simon’s “You’re so Vain” and “Haven’t Got Time for the Pain”; The Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” and “Sway”; and The Grateful Dead’s iconic “Terrapin Station.” In 1995, Paul composed and conducted the score for Terry Gilliam’s cult-classic motion picture Twelve Monkeys. In 2002, Paul won a Grammy Award for his orchestral arrangement on Train’s hit single “Drops of Jupiter”, in the category of “Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocal”. The song, which also won “Song of the Year”, was lauded for Paul’s fabulous arrangement.

Buckmaster won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for Drops of Jupiter.

Names as Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Jon Bon Jovi​,Michael Bublé, Kenny Rogers, Katherine McPhee, the Wall Flowers, Idina Menzel, Goo Goo Dolls, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Guns and Roses,Celine Dion, Tim McGraw, Kenny Loggins, Mick Jagger, Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Nicks, the Grateful Dead, Carly Simon, Counting Crows, Heart, Tears for Fears, Julio Iglesias Jr. and so many more crossed their artist road with this genius talent arranger/performer. He continued to employ his skills on the cello as well, on behalf of Yvonne Elliman, Mott the Hoople, Caravan, and Chris Barber, and played electronic keyboards on records by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chi Coltrane, and Leo Sayer. In the midst of a career that had him working both sides of the Atlantic, Buckmaster also found time to take Miles Davis up on an invitation to come to New York and study and collaborate with him. Buckmaster was no less busy in the 1980s, 90s and into this century, working with Mick Jagger, Belinda Carlisle, Nick Heyward, and John Miles, among others, as well as working in recording gigs with old acquaintances like the Third Ear Band and Elton John, Celine Dion, John Wetton, Patti LaBelle, and more.

A classically trained cellist, he started out on course for a future as a soloist on the international concert circui,t before his life was transformed by rock’n’roll and in return he transformed rock and roll.

Paul Buckmaster died unexpectedly on November 7, 2017 at the age of 71.


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