Beat, Square & Cool
Think about what you want from a CD box set. And then reflect on how many just don’t tick all the boxes. There is just so much shameless repackaging going on now that the excitement at finding a new box can quickly turn to disappointment and that distinct feeling that you have been taken for a ride.
This certainly isn’t one of those. In fact, this is all a good box set should be: music you are unlikely to have in your collection – or even have heard before, nicely packaged, with full information, striking pictures and great liner notes, excellently remastered, and all at a reasonable price.
Jazzwise magazine’s film writer Selwyn Harris concentrates on the hip, the gritty and the outlaws of 1950s cinema for his second fascinating set (the first was devoted to film noir) and so we get eight jazz soundtracks over five discs.
Some films are more famous than their composers; some composers’ fame has outlasted the films they wrote for. So who knew the Brando bike picture The Wild One featured music by Leith Stevens; and who knew Charles Mingus wrote music for a John Cassavetes picture called Shadows?
Unexpected treats are Franz Waxman’s ultra-hip orchestrations for Crime In The Streets and Freddie Redd’s hot hard bop tunes for Shirley Clarkes’ The Connection. More predictably rewarding soundtracks come from Johnny Mandel (I Want To Live), Ellington/Strayhorn (Paris Blues) and Andre Previn (The Subterraneans).
Les Tricheurs uses a whole load of great players from one of Norman Granz’s JATP tours who just happened to be in Paris at the right time: Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins, Oscar Peterson, etc. They play up a storm.
And the Mingus tracks are, as you would expect, an absolute joy. The opener to Shadows is a percussion free-for-all, but the other pieces used are familiar ones: Nostalgia In Times Square, Alice’s Wonderland and Self Portrait in Three Colours.
This is clearly a labour of love for Selwyn Harris. He has done both jazz buffs and film buffs proud. Now to see if I can find these films on the DVD hire sites.
This box – and its predecessor – would make fine Christmas gifts.