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A Dry White Season
  • Composed by Dave Grusin
  • Kritzerland / 2011 / 35:59

A blistering look at South Africa under apartheid, A Dry White Season didn’t find an audience when released in 1989 (the country was still following the policy at the time) despite a glowing critical reception.  It has found something of a following on television since, but remains largely unknown, despite boasting probably the most acclaimed performance of Donald Sutherland’s career (as a schoolteacher seeking justice for his gardener, whose son was killed by the secret police after being falsely accused of murder) and a well-regarded cameo by the great Marlon Brando.  Dave Grusin will probably always be thought of first for his jazz work (including his jazzier work in film) – the fact that there’s actually a fair amount of versatility on display through his film music seems strangely forgotten.  A Dry White Season is one of his finest dramatic scores.

A moving (though subtle) main theme is the dominant factor.  Without an ounce of mawkish sentiment, Grusin is able to convey hope and despair in equal measure, a rare skill in a film composer.  Occasionally drums mark the continent in which the film is set (even Grusin unable to avoid that particular film music cliché) and there is just-as-occasional action music, filled with a sense of desperation.  The star of the show is the so very “human” music here – few will not be moved by the outstanding “Father and Son”, and there are several moments of great anguish on display.  This is a short album, but one which leaves an impression – undoubtedly one of Grusin’s finest, and it’s highly recommended.   ****

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