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Mark Adler: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2006)

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Mark Adler: Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

As one might reasonably deduce from its title, this isn't a big band album as such (even though it employs a full orchestra), but theme and background music for the film of the same name, scored and in some cases composed by Emmy Award-winning writer Mark Adler. It's an eclectic mix, as most film scores are, incorporating a handful of standards ("Over the Rainbow, "Begin the Beguine, "On the Sunny Side of the Street ), facsimiles of old favorites by Harry James ("Ciribiribin ) and Tommy Dorsey ("I'm Getting Sentimental Over You ), recordings by neo-swingers Royal Crown Revue ("Zip Gun Bop ), Cherry Poppin' Daddies ("Dr. Bones ) and Moody Rivers ("Swing Tango ), and a number of scenic fragments by Adler and others. The closing number, "Sunny Side, is performed by trumpeter Louis Armstrong and his orchestra.

"Rainbow, by the way, isn't the Judy Garland classic from The Wizard of Oz but a new version performed by vocalist Kaulana Kanekoa and guitarist Vince Esquire, and it suffers greatly in comparison to the original. "Ciribiribin is performed by the studio orchestra with one of the familiar jazz names in the lineup, trumpeter Warren Luening, doing a credible job subbing for James. Other soloists include trombonist Charlie Loper (sitting in for Dorsey on "Sentimental ) and clarinetist Dan Higgins (doing the same for Artie Shaw on "Beguine ). There's also an uncredited tenor solo on that number, and my assumption is that it's Higgins too, as no tenor is listed among the personnel. Even so, the jazz musicians in the orchestra are confined for the most part to reading, which is something they do well, otherwise they wouldn't be in a studio orchestra.

Assessing this music isn't easy, as it skitters from place to place like the spheroid in a pinball machine. For a film score, the sound is surprisingly variable, with several numbers seeming out of place, but one must presume that will be corrected before the film is released. Adler's brief compositions are soft and dreamy, quite unlike the other music he has chosen, and one can't help wondering how the pieces will fit together. The film, according to a press release that accompanied the album, is "a story about a widowed man's life turned upside down when he embarks on a journey to find a dying man's long-lost love. Its stars include Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg, John Goodman, Sonia Braga and Mary Steenburgen.

I can't recommend the soundtrack to jazz or big band enthusiasts, and as is the case with most film scores (there are some exceptions from Hollywood's Golden Age), it doesn't stand well on its own, separated from scenery and story line. Those who see the film may want the hear the score as well—I'd guess they would be the main audience for it, providing the rationale for preserving it on disc. It's by and large pleasant music; more than that I cannot say.

Track Listing: Frank Cries; Over the Rainbow; Zip Gun Bop; Bella Luna; Cha Cha Charlie; Ciribiribin; Joyous Shades of Brilliant Magenta/Hey Bread Man; Begin the Beguine; Steves Story; Pedro Goes to Town; Dr. Bones; Ritas Clothes; Im Getting Sentimental Over You; Scattering the Ashes; Moonbeams; Swing Tango; Baile Fresco; Frank & Meredith; On the Sunny Side of the Street (58:41).

Personnel: Mark Adler: composer, arranger, conductor, piano; Wayne Bergeron, Dennis Farias, John Fumo, Warren Luening, Malcolm McNab: trumpet; Bruce Fowler, Charlie Loper, Andy Martin: trombone; Bill Reichenbach: bass trombone; Dan Higgins, James Kanter, Bill Liston, Joel Peskin, Brian Scanlon, Bob Sheppard: clarinet; James Walker: flute; Phillip Ayling: oboe; Michael ODonovan: bassoon; Steve Becknell, Kristy Morrell, James Thatcher: horn; Peter Maunu: guitar; Michael Lang: piano; Nico Abondolo, Oscar Hidalgo, Edward Meares, David Parmeter, Michael Valerio: bass; Gregg Field: percussion; Rene Mandel, Kevin Connolly, Bruce Dukov, Julie Ann Gigante, Laurence Greenfield, Alan Grunfeld, Eric Hosler, Phillip Levy, Lorand Lokusza, Armen Anassian, Marina Manukian, Sid Page, Rafael Rishik, Susan Rishik, Mark Robertson, Tereza Stanislav, Sarah Thornblade, Josefina Vergara, Roger Wilkie, Ge-Fang Frank Young: violin; Samuel Formicola, Matthew Funes, Keith Greene, Darrin McCann, Simon Oswell, Shanti Randall, Carolyn Riley: viola; Dennis Karmazyn, Roger Lebow, Andrew Shulman: cello.

Record Label: Milan Records

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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