Original TV Soundtrack

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Blonde Review

by Jonathan Widran

It was only a matter of time before the success of the two-decade-strong Playboy Jazz Festival led Hugh Hefner to create a jazz label, and the label's inaugural release -- the Patrick Williams-composed soundtrack to the CBS Marilyn Monroe miniseries Blonde -- is a wonderfully realized, bebop-oriented winner. Williams has won numerous Emmys, multiple Grammy nominations, and an Oscar nomination and has done well over 150 scores. His challenge here was to create jazz songs that would evoke the vibe of the era the film is set in, as well as the sensual and seductive personality it showcases. The band he assembles is a stylistic mix of many of the big bands he's always loved, and his horns and orchestra are led on most pieces by some of today's most exciting jazz names -- including trumpeters Roy Hargrove (who draws you in immediately with his smoky lead on the title theme) and Snooky Higgins, saxophonists Scott Hamilton (who swings along with the Basie-flavored band on "Party Time") and Dan Higgins, and guitarist Kenny Burrell. Higgins and Young engage each other playfully on the smoky, late-night mood of "The Blues for Norma Jean," and the graceful "The Road to My Heart" brings to mind a gentle reading of "Summertime." But Williams is not just into minor moods. "The Big Time Bounce" finds trumpeter Warren Luening jumping percussively over a booming drum line and the rising energy of a bold horn section; if you didn't know Williams wrote it, you might search your big-band collection for the source. The only tunes borrowed from the past are Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and the standards "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Three Little Words." This recording should endure far beyond the sweeps month and year the film plays in.

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