Known professionally as Joel Evans, he's the go-to guy for music that rings with romantic realism, whether heard in Hollywood blockbusters, hip indie films, network or daytime TV dramas. The hit film Wedding Crashers ranks among Evans' highest profile music usages, but with over 400 television episodes and 90 big screen credits there's no shortage of exposure for Cinemasters, Evans' burgeoning library of custom music that spotlights swing, jazz and big band.
Mentored by a former radio pianist who encouraged his ear training, when Evans repaired an old FM radio the airwaves delivered another revelation: the improvisations of Erroll Garner.
Taking up flute, Evans enrolled in studies at Cal State University at Hayward. After graduating cum laude, he performed with a series of groups, but quickly realized the fortunes of a jazz flutist were capricious at best. A stint on piano backing Bobby Freeman ("Do You Wanna Dance") took Evans to Tahoe and Reno, and watching the rock godfather reiterate the same patter night after night inspired him to improvise.
Possibly his best training ground came from performing regularly in upscale hotels. Life imitates art; in the film Rumor Has It, as Kevin Costner and Jennifer Aniston share an intimate conversation in a hotel bar, the Joel Evans Combo paints the aural backdrop.
Unlike many instrumental composers, Evans also co-writes complete songs. "Until it Happens to You" from Mini's First Time provided an improbable soundtrack to a fight scene with stars Jeff Goldblum and Alec Baldwin.
A self-professed team player, Evans enlists first call musicians who can deliver the requisite tones; veterans like Bernadette Peters' favorite bassist, Mario Suraci and David Rokeach from the Ray Charles band; seasoned authorities who helped invent the genres his compositions reference. Co-writers like Nashville-based Lisa Aschmann and pop/theatrical writer Adryan Russ add to the sterling credibility of the songs.
Evans confides that the key to his success has simply come by exploring the sounds and styles he most identifies with: the wealth of classic American music. "I do excavate that mine; it's like a vein of gold."