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THE BIG KAHUNA
Funky jazz makes a delightful album
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1999 Franchise Pictures; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
A little-seen, seemingly Mamet-inspired movie adapted from Roger Rueff's play by the playwright himself, The Big Kahuna is about a pair of old salesmen who discuss their latest pitch with a younger colleague, with virtually the whole film taking place in a hotel room. It won much acclaim for its performances, particularly that of Kevin Spacey, but first-time director John Swanbeck hasn't made another film since.
He made a great decision to bring Christopher Young in to provide the music. Presumably the budget was low, and Young uses a small ensemble to provide a sassy, jazzy score, the kind he writes so well. The titular opening cue sets the tone well, with a bouncy, tuneful piece emerging, focusing on fiddle and accordion. The wonderfully-titled "Cheeseballs and Shrimp" offers more of the same mood, but with a heavier focus on keyboards, but then after a break from the score (with a lovely jazzy version of Henry Mancini's theme from Charade performed by Si Zentner) the central section is slightly more dramatic in nature, with the lilting guitar solo of "God's in the Closet" a genuinely touching interlude, helped by the sensitive playing of the ubiquitous George Doering.
It's not long before the more uptempo music returns, and one of the picks is the delightful "Happy Jesus", a deliciously funky little piece. "The Lateness of Things" is a more reflective piece, built around a breezy piano solo, and it's really quite affecting. After that, Young wraps things up with "El Kahuna Grande", a nice reprise of the groovy opening. Young evidently had a blast writing this, and one imagines the performers had a blast at the recording; it's the sort of album which brings a smile to your face and you could listen to over and over again. The three non-score tracks fit in perfectly with the mood, and while few would position it as great art, it's a great deal of lighthearted fun.