Latest reviews of new albums:
Nightwatch / Killer by Night
  • Nightwatch composed by John Williams
  • Killer by Night composed by Quincy Jones
  • Film Score Monthly / 2011 / 59:20

Nightwatch was a pilot episode for a police drama set in Chicago.  It didn’t get picked up as a series, few will ever have seen the pilot (aired on television in the US only twice, and never elsewhere) but it’s notable for since two of the creative talents behind it went on in the decades to follow to become masters in their fields – director Robert Altman and composer John Williams.  They had worked together in television before – and went on to work on two films together in the 1970s – and the two men were good friends.  Film Score Monthly’s album presents the première release of Williams’s music for the show, which precious few people will ever have heard.

It came resolutely during the “Johnny Williams” period, a period which FSM has done a lot to represent on CD.  While the fluffy comedy scores from the 1960s certainly aren’t to everybody’s tastes, the meatier dramatic scores written by Williams in those early days are likely to have broader appeal, with various elements that foreshadow the sort of music that would turn Williams into the world’s favourite composer.  The highlight of Nightwatch is the dynamic, exciting main title music, a typical 1960s tv theme with its pounding brass and percussion and thrilling violin runs.  The score itself is a mixture of action and suspense music, not entirely dissimilar to the composer’s tv work for Irwin Allen, though obviously with a more serious tone.  It’s an enjoyable score, just over twenty minutes long, which should appeal to all fans of early Williams; the sound is decent enough and Jeff Eldridge’s liner notes are informative.

John Williams and Quincy Jones

The second score on the album presents music from another unsold television pilot and again features a score by a music legend, this time Quincy Jones.  Killer by Night was another detective story, this time starring Robert Wagner as “a specialist in communicable diseases” who is searching for a man with diphtheria.  (It’s hard to imagine why it didn’t sell.)  Jones was working regularly in film and television at the time, despite the numerous other strings to his bow, and this score gives a good illustration of why he was so sought-after.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the main theme is the highlight.  A funky, syncopated piece gives a wonderfully atmospheric portrait of a busy city at night.  Indeed, that wonderful atmosphere runs through much of the score, Jones combining dynamic jazz with much harsher, at times dissonant orchestral writing with great skill.  It’s a very fine score, blessed with good tunes and a carefully-crafted overall sound which is very evocative.  While neither Nightwatch nor Killer by Night would remotely be considered major works by their respective composers, both have much to offer and this album comes recommended.  *** 1/2 |

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  1. Allan Blackwell (Reply) on Tuesday 10 January, 2012 at 22:27

    This excellent review captures these soundtracks perfectly. I love Williams’s TV library, but Jones’s music is sometimes astonishing here. There are moments when I thought of Takemitsu’s compositions.