Chet Baker / Piero Umiliani

Smog [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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The soundtrack to Franco Rossi's 1962 film Smog is the second-to-last collaboration between famed Italian composer Piero Umiliani and then self-exiled trumpeter Chet Baker. The pair had previously worked together on 1958's I Soliti Ignoti, 1959's Audace Colpo dei Soliti Ignoti, and 1960's Urlatori Alla Sbarra, and later collaborated on 1964's Intrigo a Los Angeles. On Smog we get the best of both worlds: the composer and arranger is featured prominently; his charts for "Dawn" and the title track -- both excellent vehicles for vocalist Helen Merrill -- are the stuff of dreams. Umiliani's sense of timing, space, texture, and color is magnificent. In addition, his sophisticated sense of humor is displayed on "California in the Summer," as it fully engages Latin rhythms in a hard bop setting (not to mention deliberate quotes from "Tequila" in one section). Baker's soloing is as meaty and muscular and as it is on his Roulette sides from a year later. (Check "Tension," with the orchestra kicking in on the back of the quartet delivering a mean Latin bop groove, or his soulful flügelhorn on the noir-ish fingerpopper "Smog II.") That said, whenever his requisite expressiveness is called for -- as on "Twilight in Los Angeles" -- he delivers big. And though Baker doesn't solo on every track, Umiliani's tunes are so hip and his charts so imaginative that he doesn't need to. Schema's Rearward imprint has done it again in reissuing this priceless gem. (A note for audiophiles: the sound on this single volume is far better than on the box set of the complete film scores from the Moochin' About label.)

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