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  • that_championship_seasonComposed by Bill Conti
  • La-La Land Records LLLCD 1110 / 2009 / 36:11

Directed by Jason Miller from his own play, That Championship Season is about a reunion of five friends who had played basketball together many years earlier, focusing on their complex relationship.  I had never even heard of it, but the cast is impressive (Bruce Dern, Stacey Keach, Robert Mitchum, Martin Sheen, Paul Sorvino).  Perhaps because of its sports connection, Bill Conti scored it (this was 1982, when he was scoring virtually any film with any sort of sports background).  But this is no typical sports film, of course (not least because it doesn’t feature any sport) – which gave the composer what was presumably a very welcome opportunity to write something a little more subtle (well, a lot more subtle) than his usual.

It’s a very nice score, too – serious, dramatic, introspective – “subtle” really isn’t a word I ever thought I’d find myself using in a review of a Bill Conti score, but it really is the operative word here.  Dare I say it? – maybe it’s just a bit too subtle.  All the oboe passages in the middle are pleasant enough, but seem to strive so hard to avoid being intrusive, perhaps they start blending together a little.  Only in the six-minute end title piece does Conti finally shake off the shackles – even here, there are no histrionics, but the beautiful, warm main theme is given a great treatment by piano and trumpet.  The last few years have seen an explosion of interest in Bill Conti, previously one of the most curiously-underrepresented composers on CD.  That Championship Season displays a very different side to him; and while it’s really only that end title piece that makes me recommend this, it’s so strong that recommend it I certainly must.  ***

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