"I like playing with music and its relationship to the theater, particularly in the supporting role," Duke Ellington remarked in an audio interview from the reissue of his splendid soundtrack to Otto Preminger's 1959 film, Anatomy of a Murder
. "Doing the score for a picture really calls for being along with the action and absorbing all of the atmosphere [of] everything taking place in the picture." But as this CD--which includes 14 alternate takes--shows, the syncopated swing and soul Ellington and his men lay down steal the show. Just as Preminger moves and shapes his actor's characters, Ellington creates musical motifs that bring out the best in his musicians as well as the story line. The orchestra sets the pace with the fanfare-ish "Main Title," with tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves
's candlelight tones. Johnny Hodges
's upwardly mobile alto-sax cries signify the femme-fatale, hip-swinging rhythms of "Flirtibird," which segues into the finger-snapped "Way Early Subtone," with Russell Procope's cool clarinet. Other standouts include the ballad "Low Key Lightly," costarring Ellington's regal piano and Ray Nance's serenading violin, while "Midnight Indigo" is harmonically haunted by Ellington's crystalline celesta chords, Billy Strayhorn
's telepathic piano comping, and Harry Carney's soul-stirring baritone sax. The insightful and authoritative notes by historian Phil Schaap and Wynton Marsalis, along with the alternate and rehearsal takes, give the listener a comprehensive overview into the movie's themes of murder, romance, and intrigue that Duke Ellington so brilliantly augmented and illuminated through jazz improvisation, big-band orchestration, and the blues. --Eugene Holley Jr.
Rarely has such sumptuous jazz been married to a film soundtrack. Written in 1959 for director Otto Preminger's courtroom drama of sex and jealousy, the burnished glow of Ellington's score is undeniably erotic - indeed, the powerfully charged, slow burn of the second track here, "Flirtibird," is among Ellington's most sensual recordings.
Classic film scores build on recurring motifs that identify characters and situations, amplifying their existence for the viewer through the sense of hearing. The "flirty bird" of the title - Lee Remick's Laura Manion - is evoked early on by a six-note phrase, with emotional hues that undergo dramatic changes every time it reappears along the score's course. "Way Early Subtone" expands on that phrase in a passionate, extended coda that tries to rekindle the flame; by the time of "Almost Cried," the melody has taken on a deep, hard-edged sadness.
The Ellington orchestra sounded exquisite in the early summer sessions that produced this soundtrack. With a burnished sonic brilliance reminiscent of the glorious 1940 "Blanton/Webster" edition of the band, and soloists like Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves (whose masterful tenor saxophone solo on "Hero To Zero" is surrounded by some truly adventurous harmonies), Ellington's tightly woven soundtrack took on a life independent of its original context. In doing so, it became one of Duke's most satisfying albums.
--- Larry Nai, JAZZIZ Magazine Copyright © 2000, Milor Entertainment, Inc. -- From Jazziz