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Artwork copyright (c) 2003 Silva Screen Records Ltd.; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Excellent compilation


It's surprising that there haven't been more high-profile compilations like this one: a jazz band playing some of the finest film themes.  Silva Screen, always willing to jump into any niches they spot in this marketplace, brought the talented National Youth Jazz Orchestra together in London and gave them a dozen great jazz pieces to play, many sporting brand new arrangements for this album.  With a top-notch recording from Mike Ross, what is here is a good package (apart from the inevitable lack of punctuation in the liner notes, an amateurish problem that seems to plague all of Silva's releases - I'm sure they could find a few fonts with apostrophes in them, if they looked hard enough).

The impact Alex North had on the world of film music when he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire cannot be overstated.  Its sleazy, jazzy tones were unlike anything that had been heard in film beforehand, and things would never be the same again.  North repeatedly wrote amazing jazz music for film, which worked equally as well as pure music as it did as dramatic underscore.  Therefore, the absence of North from this collection seems entirely bizarre, though his influences clearly shine through on some of the other composers featured.  Titles included are not always obvious, and there are some notable absentees besides North (like Peter Gunn, though I suppose that was composed for television, and anything by the greatest modern-day composer of jazz in film, Mark Isham).

Let's focus though on what is here.  Things open with John Dankworth's bouncy, infectious Modesty Blaise, before going onto a title that may be more familiar to many listeners, Lalo Schifrin's classic Bullitt, one of the all-time-coolest scores.  It's a healthy ten-minute suite that nicely sums up what the score has to offer.  Henry Mancini's Touch of Evil is a slightly darker piece (and the North influence is obvious).  Cinderella Liberty is one of John Williams's least well-known scores but does, I suspect, present a much more personal side of the composer than most of his more successful efforts; it's certainly a piece that whets the appetite for a full release of the score (which will surely happen someday).

There is a lengthy tribute to the late Dudley Moore, who was perhaps an even finer composer and pianist than he was comedian; the highlight is his delightful theme from Bedazzled.  Jerry Fielding's loungy, lazy The Gauntlet is wonderful listening; and an enormous contrast to David Shire's magnificent main theme from The Taking of Pelham 123, with all the energy and excitement in the world.  The inclusion of Alan Silvestri's Who Framed Roger Rabbit? seems a little odd.  It's the only recent title on the album (unless you count Austin Powers, whose Quincy Jones theme was written forty years ago) and surely isn't among either Silvestri's better efforts or any list of great jazz pieces in film over the last couple of decades.

The great Elmer Bernstein's The Man With the Golden Arm is one of the all-time-greats, though unfortunately this track is probably the only one where the performance doesn't quite match up to the magnificent music.  There just seems to be a little something missing, the driving energy that exists in the best recordings of the piece.  The same composer's Walk on the Wild Side is almost as good, and this time the performance is nicely enthusiastic.  Lalo Schifrin's Dirty Harry music (there are themes here from various films in the series) is stylish and funky, great stuff with a good performance.  The album concludes with Quincy Jones's groovy Soul Bossa Nova, later used as the theme for Austin Powers.


  1. Modesty Blaise (John Dankworth) (3:26)
  2. Bullitt (Lalo Schifrin) (10:00)
  3. Touch of Evil (Henry Mancini) (5:57)
  4. Cinderella Liberty (John Williams) (4:00)
  5. 30 is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia / Field Day for Shirley / Bedazzled (Dudley Moore) (8:07)
  6. The Gauntlet (Jerry Fielding) (6:35)
  7. The Taking of Pelham 123 (David Shire) (7:05)
  8. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Alan Silvestri) (5:02)
  9. The Man with the Golden Arm (Elmer Bernstein) (5:28)
  10. Walk on the Wild Side (Elmer Bernstein) (4:32)
  11. Dirty Harry (Lalo Schifrin) (7:34)
  12. Austin Powers (Quincy Jones) (4:33)