David Grusin's score for Sidney Pollack's The Yakuza (1975) (starring Robert Mitchum) is a strangely compelling and seductive amalgam of Eastern and Western musical influences, laced with mystery and passion and an immense lyricism. The movie, which may have been made too soon -- its Japanese subject matter was too outré for mid-'70s American audiences to absorb easily -- was never hugely successful and the release of this CD, which comes complete with unused sections of the score (recorded but dropped from the final edit of the movie) and variant takes of some key sections, is almost miraculous in that context; no one thought that much of the music at the time it was new. The score benefits greatly from the contributions of top session players, including Lee Ritenour's electric guitar and Jerome Richardson's bass flute, but it is mostly Grusin's ability to shift between and also to meld the sounds of East and West that make this work as well as it does, and the source material has held up across three decades -- the timbres and textures of the music here are very close and rich, and the CD is exceptionally successful for a body of music that was never necessarily supposed to be heard fully exposed in this way.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
|The Yakuza, film score|