This soundtrack to a 1977 Clint Eastwood action film is a member of a rare breed of action soundtrack -- i.e., the kind that is melodic enough to stand on its own away from the film. Composer Jerry Fielding was better known for creating avant-garde jazz soundscapes, but he tempers that angle of his approach here with elements of swinging big-band jazz, blues, and soul to create a series of tight, catchy instrumentals that are diverse enough to hold the listener's interest but smooth enough to flow together nicely as an album. The Gauntlet nicely re-creates the feel of a cinematic experience by offering up an effectively balanced combination of gentle, soothing melodies ("Bleak Bad Big City Dawn," which makes evocative use of Jon Faddis' swinging trumpet lines over a mellow, piano-driven rhythm section) and driving, attention-getting action music ("Manipulation on the Center Divider," which pits throbbing, Eastern-flavored percussion against percolating riffs from the horn section). Fielding finds one showcase for avant-garde tendencies on "The Box Car Incident," which builds from synthesizer drones and one-note string lines into a burst of militaristic horns and percussion, but it remains melodic enough to be compelling listening. However, the album's key cut is the title track, a stunning instrumental that combines jazz with traditional film orchestration to create a thrilling synthesis of swinging horns and taut, militaristic rhythms. All in all, The Gauntlet is a strong, consistently engaging album that is well worth a listen for any soundtrack buff whose tastes lean toward the "crime jazz" sound.
AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco