Among Grammy-winning producer-composer-arranger Brent Fischer’s earliest memories is one in which he crawled beneath his father’s grand piano as the elder Fischer tapped out tunes. The man on the keys was famed bossa nova jazz artist Clare Fischer. With such an early and ongoing exposure to the family trade, it’s little surprise, then, that Brent began to play bass alongside his dad when he was 15. Later he went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree in symphonic percussion. The man’s entire life has been one of immersion in music and the business that surrounds it, working with Prince, Michael Jackson and Usher.
In October––deep in the fog of the COVID no-go––Fischer was asked to conduct a small orchestra for L.A. neo-jazz artist April & The Velvet Room at Sphere Studios in North Hollywood. That was only possible, of course, because of rigorous safety measures such as super social distancing, masks and even a purpose-built isolation booth for Fischer himself so that his facial expressions could be seen and understood. “Everything I do in my career has always been detail-oriented,” he explains. “The idea of following safety protocols was just another set of details to work out and you can’t let your guard down for a minute.
“Part of the reason I made this session with only strings, as opposed to adding some woodwinds or brass, is because string players can perform with their masks on,” he continues.
But is in-person performance truly necessary these days? During the pandemic and its accompanying lockdown, it’s been common for producers to work remotely with artists. “You can do a lot of great music that way,” Fischer concedes. “I did some of it even before the pandemic. The one thing that was nice about being in a professional environment was the old adage of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. When you get people playing in the same room, each instrument vibrates sympathetically with the sound waves from all of the others. That’s an enormous boost to the overall vitality of the music.”
When Fischer begins work with an artist, usually his first step is to understand his or her vision for the project. “I was once a session coordinator,” he recalls. “There were two different producers and their styles were completely opposite. Some parts were conducive to getting the job done quickly and easily and others were more based on creating a vibe and making sure that everyone was happy. So find out what someone’s style is. Mine is pretty straightforward. If you put something together with care, you’ll have an effect upon people.”
Fischer has a number of records on the horizon, which will include his own music and, indeed, some of his father’s. He will soon be featured on producer Warren Huart’s YouTube series Produce Like A Pro. Despite the many challenges, he’s also managed to perform in some live shows, all of which were done with maximum attention to safety.