Max Steiner

Young Man with a Horn

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The soundtrack to Michael Curtiz's 1950 film starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, and Doris Day is a landmark in the career of Harry James & His Orchestra. The film was a drama loosely based on the life of Bix Beiderbecke -- though not his death -- this one has a redemptive ending, whereas Beiderbecke died from alcoholism at the age of 28. James himself plays all of the trumpet solos here, and he sounds magnificent in the high register. The music is a mix of popular American tunes from both the standards and jazz canons of the 1930s and early 1940s. Here, Sammy Cahn's "Melancholy Rhapsody," shot through with film dialogue, precedes "Chinatown, My Chinatown," "Moaning Low," and is juxtaposed with Harold Arlen's "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues," and Doris Day crooning ever so sweetly on "The Very Thought of You," all in the first five minutes of the disc. The dialogue creates a narrative through the music, and vice versa, and the entire thing swings beautifully. After the soundtrack is played through, the producers clipped on excerpts -- sans dialogue -- as if the cuts from the film were played in earnest by the James band. Yes, it does make for a choppy little ride at first, but the listener quickly becomes accustomed to the drama in the set. The soundtrack factory has done a first-class job of restoring a seminal movie soundtrack to CD, and it stands on its own.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:01
2 3:48
3 5:48
4 6:37
5 6:07
6 5:52
7 3:31
8 6:22
9 3:01
10 2:58
11 3:15
12 3:07
13 3:02
14 2:19
15 3:09
16 3:03
blue highlight denotes track pick