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Jeff Beal (born June 20, 1963) is an American composer of music for film, television, recordings, and the concert hall. Highly regarded as a jazz instrumentalist and versatile composer, Beal's music often incorporates a synthesis of improvisatory and composed elements.
Beal was born in Hayward, California, and began trumpet studies in the third grade, after attending a school music assembly at Castro Valley's Marshall Elementary School with his father. Upon hearing the trumpet played, he chose it as his instrument. Beal's grandmother, Irene Beal, was an accomplished pianist, professional silent-movie accompanist, and fan of trumpeter Miles Davis. She gave Jeff a recording of Miles' collaboration with Gil Evans, Sketches of Spain. Beal wrote his first long-form composition for the Oakland Youth Symphony Orchestra while a student at Castro Valley High School. OYSO conductor Kent Nagano had Jeff combine his love of jazz improvisation with an orchestral accompaniment. This merging of improvisation with classical composition has remained a hallmark of Beal's music. Beal went on to study composition and trumpet at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Music degree.
Beal married fellow Eastman graduate, soprano Joan (Sapiro) Beal, and the pair moved from Rochester to New York City. It was there Beal composed and recorded his debut album, Liberation, for Island Records. Beal's jazz band went on to perform at The Blue Note and the Montreaux Jazz Festival. At the request of Chick Corea, Beal composed and recorded a concerto for the virtuosic jazz bassist, John Patitucci, for Corea's Stretch Records label. Beal's signature work, Alternate Route, was composed for improvised trumpet and orchestra. Written fifteen years after his first long form composition, this piece was again premiered by Kent Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, with Beal as trumpet soloist. He has also composed improvisatory concerti for Dave Samuels, Larry Coombs, and Turtle Island String Quartet.
In the mid-1990s, Beal relocated to Los Angeles. His first critical notice came in 2001, for his minimalist Americana score to Ed Harris' directorial debut, Pollock. He has since been nominated for eight Emmy Awards, and has won three, one in 2007 for dramatic underscore to the TNT miniseries Nightmares & Dreamscapes Battleground episode, one in 2003 for his main theme to the USA Network detective series Monk, and the other for a documentary aired during the 2002 Winter Olympics entitled Peggy & Dorothy. Emmy nominations were awarded for his scoring work on HBO's evocative Depression era series, Carnivàle, and the epic drama Rome, also on HBO.
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