Mentor Playlist: Christopher Steller

Mentor Playlist: Christopher Steller

Christopher Steller
Melbourne, Australia

Mentor Playlist: Christopher Steller

We're asking our mentors to tell us their top ten songs of all time, from any genre! Here is Chris Steller's list. We hope you enjoy: you can listen along in our playlist below! What pieces of music are on your top ten?

Moonlight Serenade - Glen Miller

Because: This is where it all began for me: my Dad was a sax/clarinet player and big band arranger, and Mum was a singer. Our house was always full of the ‘Swing Years’. Fabulously dynamic arrangements are the hallmark of Glen Miller’s work.

Diamond Dust - Jeff Beck

Because: I’ve been a fan of Jeff Beck for many years, but this track is from my favourite album, Blow by Blow (1975). He worked so well with keyboardist, Max Middleton, who covered piano, Rhodes electric piano and synth bass. The production and string arrangements were the work of the legendary Sir George Martin. 

Indigo - Jean-Luc Ponty, Al Dimeola & Stanley Clarke

Because: From the album, The Rite of Strings, the violin, guitar and double bass just blend perfectly, with these three masters at their best. Ponty has been my favourite violinist since I first saw him in concert in Sydney, in the late 1970s.

Oceanea - Thomas Dolby

Because: I regard Dolby (Thomas Robertson) as one of the greatest users of technology I’ve ever heard, with his ability to seamlessly integrate any instrument or device into his production, adding thoughtful lyrics and melodies along the way. This is a simple and subtle track, but magnificently crafted. He utilises an Autotune function on the first few lines of his vocal, then subtly fades it out to create a strange, smooth contrast. A great singer/songwriter and musician. Extra vocals on this track by Eddi Reader. Dolby's music has evolved for many years, since his first hit song, New Toy, written for Lene Lovich in 1981.

Senorita - Bela Fleck & Chick Corea

Because: The virtuosity and rhythmic feel of Chick Corea is beyond question, and teamed up with banjo player, Bela Fleck, a certain magic results (banjo? I know). The album, The Enchantment, is stunning.

Pretending to Care - Todd Rundgren

Because: The album version is recorded and arranged by Rundgren, himself, with every part of the track his own voice. Todd is known as a rock guitarist and vocalist, but his lesser known work as a composer and producer is also amazing. A special treat for me was this live recording of the same track performed in London with a string quartet  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ssr78EXeCQc

So Close - Olafur Arnalds

Because: Always a sucker for a good English police drama, this track was part of the Broadchurch soundtrack, and my introduction to this brilliant Icelandic composer. His blend of piano, strings, synthesiser, loops and drum machines restored my faith in modern music. Fantastic vocals by Dutchman, Arnor Dan.

Scenery from a Hallway - Kevin Verwijmeren

Because: Minimal, subtle, beautiful. A modern piece in a new genre. This piece is not available on YouTube, but can be heard on SoundCloud here.

Heroes - Peter Gabriel

Because: A beautiful and passionate treatment of the Bowie track, with the London Scratch Orchestra (John Metcalfe arrangement), by one of the most innovative musicians of the twentieth century. Gabriel is an extreme innovator, and hero of the 'world music’ genre.

Black and White - Barbara Dennerlein

Because: Hammond organist extraordinaire, one of the best on the planet, in fact. I’m still speechless when I hear the dexterity of this woman, the co-ordination involved in creating a progression and solo, plus adding bass with the footpedals. 

Note: this is an extremely difficult exercise in self-restraint: I have another 120 favourite tracks ready to go, if needed :)

Being a huge sci-fi fan, I was also heavily influenced towards electronic music by the original Doctor Who theme, which was created by the amazing Delia Derbyshire (she didn’t actually compose the melody, but she took the original squiggles on paper by Australian composer, Ron Grainer, and turned it into a fascinating piece that would enthrall generations of fans), and also by the pioneers of sci-fi film music, Louis and Bebe Barron, who created the soundtrack to the classic “Forbidden Planet”, currently celebrating 60 years since its release.