Most professional musicians are lucky to have one career. Chris Boardman has already had five. He's been a successful composer for movies; an Emmy Award-winning arranger for television; an orchestrator on major Hollywood films; a musical director for top pop acts; and keyboard player and writer for a popular jazz ensemble.
Now, after more than a decade as a much-in-demand composer and arranger in Hollywood, he is poised to re-enter the record business with his own "smooth jazz" album of original compositions, featuring a stellar group of players including Paul Jackson Jr., Eric Marienthal, Gregg Bissonette, Abraham Laboriel, Jimmy Johnson and Luis Conte.
Boardman is already well-known in Hollywood music circles as one of a handful of musicians who can literally write anything. Need a series of jazz arrangements, as director Martin Brest did on "Meet Joe Black"? Running out of time on your movie score and need a top orchestrator, as composer Michael Kamen did on "Lethal Weapon"? Want a film score that's fresh, exciting and original, as producer-star Mel Gibson did on"Payback"? Call Chris Boardman.
Shirley MacLaine, who entrusted Boardman with the music for her directorial debut on "Bruno," praises her collaborator. "I found Chris imaginative, very talented and extremely cooperative," she says. "I would use him again anytime." Director Brest echoes the sentiment, reporting that the composer captured the required mood "with pitch-perfect authenticity, grace and charm." Director Robert Rodriguez, who hired Boardman for "SpyKids," notes: "A great attitude, hard work, and of course talent, go a long way in this industry. Chris has all three." And Grammy-winning composer Kamen adds: "He has saved my life many, many times, and has made my music sound great in the process. He has earned my gratitude and respect. His command of the orchestra is masterful. I never hesitate to recommend him as a great musician and composer."
Boardman's versatility is the result of an ongoing enthusiasm for new means of musical expression; a remarkable mentor in Billy Byers, thelegendary arranger-orchestrator who worked with everyone fromJohnny Mandel to Quincy Jones; and a diverse catalog of experiences throughout the music world over the past 25 years.
He was born in Glendale, California and began playing the piano at the age of 4. His family moved to Ogden, Utah, when he was 13, and within a year he was playing in a rock 'n' roll band and already writing original material. Attending Weber State University in Utah, then returning to his native Southern California to attend Cal State Northridge, he continued formal musical studies while visiting recording sessions at night and on weekends, watching how music in Hollywood was really made...
At the age of 22, never having seen a nightclub act or conducted a band in his life, Boardman became musical director for singer Mitzi Gaynor. Quickly learning that side of the music business, he spent 16 months on the road with Gaynor and followed it with a stint as musical director for Tom Jones. He toured the world for two and a half years as keyboard player for the popular duo Seals and Crofts, later writing all of the arrangements for their Las Vegas act.
Virtually at the same time, Boardman was getting started in film and television scoring. Quincy Jones asked him to arrange songs for the all-star movie musical "The Wiz"; Ralph Burns asked him to orchestrate on movies like "National Lampoon's Vacation" and Bob Fosse's "Star 80." An early career highlight was work on two major films in the same year: Orchestrating Bruce Broughton's symphonic score for the western "Silverado," which received an Oscar nomination; and writing original music for Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple," for which Boardman received his own Academy Award nomination in 1986. Since that time, he has orchestrated more than 100 major motion pictures including such hits as "Lethal Weapon" and "Die Hard."
This same period saw a decade-long, awards-laden collaboration with veteran TV music director Ian Fraser, during which Boardman received six Emmys for music direction on such prestigious specials as "Julie Andrews in Concert" and "Christmas in Washington" (as well as five other nominations
for such high-profile television projects as "Liberty Weekend: Opening Ceremonies").
Quite unexpectedly -- having given up performing in favor of writing music -- Boardman launched a career as a jazz performer when he and Tim Weston started a band called Wishful Thinking. From 1984 to 1991,
Boardman played keyboards, wrote most of the tunes and recorded three albums with this pioneering contemporary-jazz ensemble.
For the past decade, Boardman has been concentrating on original music for movies and TV. He received Emmy nominations for two of his several television film scores, "The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro" and "Johnny Ryan." "The television films were a great training ground," he says. "They gave me an opportunity to write a lot of different kinds of music and learn the job of a film composer."
On the feature side, Boardman created a '70s-style urban-police-drama score for Mel Gibson's hit film "Payback." For Shirley MacLaine's comedy-drama "Bruno," he turned for inspiration to Italian opera. For Martin Brest's drama "Meet Joe Black," he created more than a dozen society-band arrangements to suggest a 1920s ambiance. His big-band sound was heard throughout the Christmas-season hit "What Women Want," and his themes were an integral part of the score for this year's hit movie "SpyKids."
He has also written arrangements for Barbra Streisand (notably her recent concert engagements), producer David Foster and popular saxophonist Kenny G. He also has a platinum record for his contributions to Disney's "Pocahontas" soundtrack (as arranger for the Vanessa Williams-Jon Secada song "If I Never Knew You") and contributed to two major Quincy Jones-produced events: President Clinton's inaugural ball and the Washington, D.C., millenium show.
For every score, says Boardman, his goal is "the creation of melodies and themes that capture the emotions of the characters, as well as the technical ability to `turn it on a dime,' using my arranging skills to develop those themes and matching the emotional content of the picture in a way that makes it seamless. "Creative risks are something that I relish," he notes. "Even though I¹ve been a professional musician for a long time, I still get pumped up every time I sit down to write or play. I still have the same passion."
Boardman resides in Los Angeles with his songwriter-wife Michele. His son Michael is in his second year at Yale, where he is playing Division I NCAA baseball.