A friend recently told me the news that Harvey R. Cohen has died at 55. Harvey was a prolific composer, arranger and orchestrator in film and television. As a jazz writer, he lead his own eighteen piece big band and incorporated jazz into many of his commercial projects.
I became familiar with Harvey’s work when I heard his fantastic score to “A Bullet for Bullock,” a television episode of Batman: The Animated Series that won him an Emmy for “Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Direction and Composition.” In this score, Harvey blended big band textures into the lush orchestral atmosphere of the series, established by composer Shirley Walker. Set against often gritty noir-inspired animation, this was perhaps the most successful pairing of jazz and commercial animation in decades. The combination of original, live-recorded jazz compositions and hand-drawn “cel” animation is unlikely to ever occur again on television, as cels were phased out of television animation in 1999, and as shrinking television budgets and the rise of computer technology have lead to less and less “real” recorded television scores.
I was so enamored with Harvey’s score to “A Bullet for Bullock,” that I got in contact with him and told him, not expecting any sort of reply. Harvey wrote back immediately, and thus began an email correspondence of musical advice and encouragement that I cherish to this day. His kindness and enthusiasm for music was (and still is) hugely inspiring to me. Sadly, I never got to meet him in person.
Here’s a little of what he told me about his score for “A Bullet for Bullock”:
“Shirley Walker, as you know, was the music supervisor/primary composer for ‘B:TAS’ and kind of set the musical tone for the show: lush, dark, similar to the Elfman scores for the first two films (’89 & ’92). With the ‘Bullet’ score, I was told to write a jazz score but not specifically of any time period. The hard-boiled detective ‘film-noir’ style felt right. Also, as luck would have it, I got the assignment 2-3 days after Henry Mancini’s death in July ’94. He and his music were big influences on me, and the score is kind of a tribute to him.”
Here are some sound clips featuring the score from “A Bullet for Bullock.”
See the music in context on the B:TAS Volume III DVD, along with several other scores by Harvey Cohen.