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with host JOHN SEMPER JR.

This is Part Two of a two-part interview. Part One is in our Audio Archives.


JOHN ALTMAN is a BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning British composer, arranger, orchestrator, and conductor. Born in London, Altman was introduced to the music of the 1930s and 1940s at an early age by an uncle who arranged and composed music for big bands and conducted for Judy Garland, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy, among others. His only formal musical training was piano lessons as a child, but he found he had inherited the “music gene” which allowed him to understand music and play multiple instruments easily. While enrolled at the University of Sussex he was involved in session work and gigs with Fleetwood Mac and Nico. He also played saxophone in rock bands and with blues and jazz groups with such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Little Richard, and Van Morrison.


In the mid-1970s, Altman began arranging and conducting, and worked with Rod Stewart, George Michael, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Graham Parker, and Monty Python. For the latter, he arranged the music for their "Rutles" television special and later contributed to The Life of Brian, most notably as producer and arranger of the song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” He also produced and conducted the period music for James Cameron's Titanic.


Altman frequently has been a guest conductor for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and is a prolific writer of music for commercials, having scored more than 4,000 international ads.


John Altman often performs in the US and UK with his big band and in jazz groups.


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