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First, a round of applause to Lalo Schifrin for having introduced Jazz into so many of his film scores over the years. A number of his charming and well–crafted soundtrack themes have become best–selling hits for such Jazz artists as Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery and George Benson, which is a remarkable phenomenon in light of the fact that music written for films seldom translates well to other media. On Jazz Goes to Hollywood, the composer has enlisted the services of the world–class WDR Big Band and a number of guest artists to present fourteen of his “screen gems” to an audience of happy concert–goers in Cologne, Germany. The result is rather a mixed bag with some themes standing quite well on their own while others are less effective. As a general rule, the transfer is most successful on those selections wherein the Jazz content is heaviest, as on “Street Lights,” “Once a Thief,” “Blues for Basie,” “The Race Is On” or Schifrin’s memorable theme from the television series “Mission: Impossible” (on which he sits in at the piano for WDR’s Frank Chastenier). Also worth noting are alto saxophonist Ernie Watts’ ballad showcases, “The Face of Love” and “Insinuations.” The weakest links in this chain are the five selections that feature vocalist Sandra Booker. Not that she sings badly; she doesn’t. But the material she’s given is less interesting, especially from a Jazz standpoint, and the concert–hall acoustics lend her voice a strident echo–chamber effect that she is unable to overcome. Drummer Wolfgang Haffner was brought in to beef up the WDR’s rhythm section, and he performs splendidly, as do Watts (on alto or tenor) and trombonist Nils Landgren who solos capably on half a dozen numbers. As for the ensemble’s soloists, all of whom are topnotch, not much is heard from them, although there are terse but impressive statements by Chastenier, tenor Rolf Römer, alto Heiner Wiberny, trumpeter John Marshall, baritone Jens Neufang, trombonist Ludwig Nuss and guitarist Paul Shigihara on “Street Lights,” Chastenier (organ) on “The Cat” and “Bullitt,” Chastenier (piano) and trumpeter Klaus Osterloh on “Blues for Basie.” If you’re unfamiliar with all or most of these themes, or if you, like many others, simply appreciate Schifrin’s bright and innovative music for films, you’ll find much to please you in this roomy and well–designed scrapbook.
Track Listing: Down Here on the Ground; The Cat; The Face of Love; The Cincinnati Kid; Street Lights; That Night; Mission: Impossible; People Alone; Once a Thief; Share the Dream; Bullitt; Blues for Basie; Insinuations; The Race Is On (66:21).
Personnel: Lalo Schifrin, composer, arranger, conductor, piano, with the WDR Big Band
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.