Jazz in Film

National Youth Jazz Orchestra

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Jazz in Film Review

by William Ruhlmann

Producer Rick Clark surveyed more than 40 years of filmmaking in his search for worthy big band jazz music from movie scores to be played by Great Britain's National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Of course, there is plenty of such music to be found in films of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, since many of the movie composers of those decades came out of the swing era. (Although this collection technically spans 1955 to 1997; in fact, the 1997 title, the sole one from the '90s, is a ringer, since Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova," adapted by George S. Clinton for the Austin Powers movies, was actually composed in 1962.) Clark makes some obvious choices, such as clearly jazz-influenced writers Jones, Lalo Schifrin ("Suite from Bullitt," "Dirty Harry Suite"), and Henry Mancini ("Touch of Evil"). But he also finds jazzy music from what would have seemed less likely contributors, such as John Williams ("Cinderella Liberty") and David Shire ("The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3"). And as a British project, the album naturally boasts some native talent in John Dankworth ("Modesty Blaise") and Dudley Moore, who, though best known as a comic actor, did do some of his own scores, notably Bedazzled and 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia, included as a medley with other material in "Dudley Moore Tribute." Whatever the source, however, the music has been arranged by members of the orchestra, who turn it into convincing big band jazz with swinging rhythms, strong horn charts, and a lot of soloing. Much of this music sounds very different from the way it does underscoring the quite varied sorts of films it accompanied (a lot of thrillers and crime pictures, plus the animated comedy Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the spy spoofs Modesty Blaise and Austin Powers). But it works cohesively as an album, which is to say that the orchestra has imposed its style on the material.

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