Original Soundtrack

American Splendor

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American Splendor Review

by William Ruhlmann

Cartoonist Harvey Pekar, whose autobiographical comics serve as the basis for the film American Splendor, and "with a background as a jazz critic since 1959," contributes appropriately illustrated liner notes to the soundtrack album (some of them contained in the multimedia portion of the enhanced CD accessible by computer) in which he helpfully opines that the disc "not only [supports] the film's narrative action, but [is] a collection of entertaining and substantive performances that could stand by themselves without reference to the film's narrative flow." He also informs listeners that composer Mark Suozzo's score, which is sampled in two brief excerpts, "does what a lot of good film music is supposed to do, support the onscreen action without drawing undue attention to itself." (Doubtless Pekar also has reviewed the film itself somewhere, but that is not our concern.) Having gotten these major judgments out of the way, a more independent listener can add that the various-artists collection is a combination of acoustic jazz by the likes of Jay McShann, Dizzy Gillespie, and John Coltrane (the Atlantic Records recording of "My Favorite Things"), with a couple of string band re-creations by cartoonist turned musician R. Crumb, two recordings of the soul hit "Ain't That Peculiar," the original by Marvin Gaye, and one by Chocolate Genius, and the aforementioned score excerpts, which are also in an acoustic jazz mode. The material hangs together well for the most part (Gaye and Crumb do seem to come out of left field for those who haven't seen the movie) and will be particularly appealing to jazz fans, particularly those who have been critics since 1959.

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