Hal Willner

Hal Willner

Hal Willner (born 1957, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American music producer working in recording, films, TV and live events. He is best known for assembling tribute albums and events featuring a wide variety of artists and musical styles (jazz, classical, rock, Tin Pan Alley).

In the 1970s he worked under record producer Joel Dorn. Willner is often credited as the inventor of the 'modern' tribute album with "Amarcord Nino Rota" in 1981. He became music supervisor of "Saturday Night Live" in 1981, a position which he has continued to hold. He was also a producer of the TV program "Sunday Night" hosted by David Sanborn.

Willner has also produced albums for Marianne Faithfull, Lou Reed, Bill Frisell, William S. Burroughs, Gavin Friday, Lucinda Williams, Laurie Anderson and Allen Ginsberg, among others. He produced a live tribute concert to Tim Buckley, that ultimately launched the career of Tim's son Jeff. He has released one album under his own name: "Whoops, I'm an Indian", which featured audio samples from 78 rpm records from the early-mid 20th century.

Tribute albums

*"Amarcord Nino Rota" (1981) Willner's first tribute album salutes Italian composer Nino Rota, and features interpretation of his music for Federico Fellini films by jazz and pop musicians including: Wynton and Branford Marsalis; Carla Bley; Muhal Richard Abrams; Bill Frisell; Steve Lacy; Jaki Byard; and Deborah Harry
*"That's The Way I Feel Now: A Tribute to Thelonious Monk" (1984) features musicians ranging from John Zorn to Peter Frampton
*"" (1985) features musicians ranging from Sting to Charlie Haden
*"" (1988) features performances of songs from Walt Disney movies by a large cast of artists ranging from Sun Ra to Michael Stipe, Ringo Starr, Yma Sumac and Ken Nordine
*"Weird Nightmare: Meditations on Mingus" (1992) is a tribute to Charles Mingus, featuring instruments designed and built by American composer Harry Partch, on loan from his estate. Performers include Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Henry Rollins, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Don Byron, Henry Threadgill, Gary Lucas, Bobby Previte, Robert Quine, Leonard Cohen, Diamanda Galás, Chuck D and Elvis Costello
*"September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill" (1995) re-creation of the previous Weill tribute as a Canadian TV special directed by Larry Weinstein. A CD was issued including performances by Nick Cave and P J Harvey
*"" (2005) another Larry Weinstein TV program. The CD includes performances by Rufus Wainwright, Debbie Harry, David Johansen, Eric Mingus and Sandra Bernhard
*"" (2006) soundtrack for Lian Lunson's documentary film about Willner's Leonard Cohen tribute event "Came So Far For Beauty"
*"" (2006) 2x double CD includes performers ranging from Bono to Van Dyke Parks.
*"The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited" (2006). Recorded at Hal Willner's Harry Smith Project events in London (1999), Brooklyn (1999) and LA (2001), plus a DVD documentary.

Live tribute events

* "Greetings From Tim Buckley" (1991)
* Edgar Allan Poe's writings (1995), which lead to the album "Closed on Account of Rabies" (1997)
* Marquis de Sade's writings (1998)
* "The Harry Smith Project" (1999-2001)
* "Came So Far For Beauty, An Evening of Songs by Leonard Cohen" (2003-2006)
* "Forest of No Return: Hal Willner Presents Vintage Disney Songbook" (2007)

poken word recordings

With the increasing prevalence of tribute albums in the late 1980s (such as "Red Hot + Blue"), Willner decided to turn his attention to spoken word recordings.

*"Dead City Radio" (1990) by William Burroughs has musical backing by Sonic Youth, Donald Fagen, John Cale and others.
*"Spare Ass Annie and Other Tales" (1996) by William Burroughs with music by The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy.
*"The Lion For Real" by Allen Ginsberg features musical accompaniment by Bill Frisell, Philip Glass, Paul McCartney and others.
*"Closed on Account of Rabies" (1997) consists of readings of Edgar Allan Poe poems and tales by Iggy Pop and others. As Willner's only "spoken word" tribute album, it fits in the context of his other music-based tributes.
*"In With The Out Crowd" (1998) by poet Bob Holman.
*"Let The Buyer Beware" (2004) is an authoritative six CD box set of historic recordings by the comedian Lenny Bruce.

Film related projects

*"The Carl Stalling Project": A CD of music composed and/or arranged by Carl Stalling for Warner Brothers cartoons.
* The soundtracks to Robert Altman's films "Short Cuts" and "Kansas City".
* Produced the soundtrack album with Bono and others for the Wim Wenders' movie "The Million Dollar Hotel".

External links

* [http://www.citypaper.net/articles/011598/icepack.shtml An article about Willner's spoken word recordings]
* [http://www.ink19.com/issues_F/98_02/ink_spots/hal_willner_nf.html An interview with Willner]

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