It was the late Elmer Bernstein who once observed that movies turn to jazz "when someone steals a car" -- The Wild One was really what he was referring to, and its use of jazz did, in fact, result for a time in the music (especially of the postwar bop variety) being ghetto-ized into crime movies; but overall The Wild One also showed music directors what one could do with jazz as film music, which was a lot more than most of them had thought possible before the movie's release. Bear Family Records' reissue of The Wild One is a surprisingly expansive and enlightening CD, encompassing not only the soundtrack release by composer Leith Stevens (Jazz Themes in "The Wild One"), but also the contents of a related EP by Shorty Rogers. Astonishingly, both sets of recordings somehow managed to elude Universal Music during the first decade and a half of the CD era, in terms of a re-release. Leith Stevens may not have been a giant in the field of jazz, but he knew what he was doing to deliver a score that afforded his players the room they needed to improvise in ways that no prior major studio score would have permitted. There's a surprising degree of unity in the 16 tracks here, which started with Shorty Rogers as leader cutting four of the numbers in July of 1953 for a four-track EP, and then, one month later, playing trumpet under Stevens as leader for a double EP and 10" LP; and, three years after that, cutting a handful more of tracks to fill out a 12" LP. The Shorty Rogers-led versions of "The Wild One," "Blues for Brando," "Windswept," and "Chino" are preferable to the Stevens versions -- not that the latter are bad, but side-by-side they seem rushed in ways that the Rogers-led recordings don't. A lot of the same personnel appear on both sets of sessions -- beyond Rogers, who leads on his own sides without playing, drummer Shelly Manne, saxmen Bud Shank, Jimmy Giuffre, and Robert Cooper, and pianist Russ Freeman appear on both groups of sessions from July and August of 1953, and most were back for the 1956 sessions. The sound is excellent in what was probably the most comprehensive assembly of the session tapes in decades -- the only flaw is the absence of any information in the lavishly illustrated booklet having to do with the music from the movie, other than the sessionography; given the importance of the soundtrack on a musical level, and the jazz figures represented on the album.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder