Kenyon Hopkins Jazzy Soundtracks 2: The Yellow Canary
We initiated our foray into the land of jazz-inflected soundtracks with a look at the score to the long forgotten Mr. Buddwing , a superb accomplishment of the venerable Kenyon Hopkins . As we continue our survey, it seemed logical to continue with yet another one of Hopkins' luminous accomplishments, this one possibly being his most celebrated. Released in 1963 with a screenplay by mystery master Rod Serling, The Yellow Canary finds as its unlikely lead Pat Boone playing an intolerable singing star whose wife is about to leave him when their baby is kidnapped. Refusing to enlist the help of the police, Boone decides to take things into his own hands with less than ideal results. Rounding out the star-studded cast of this sleeper that has yet to been released on home video are Barbara Eden, Steve Forrest, and Jack Kulgman.
Keeping with the murder and mayhem of the film, it's not surprising that Hopkins' main them has something of a "Peter Gunn" flair to it with brass punctuations and Clark Terry's upper register shouts. This and the majority of the numbers feature a twelve-piece ensemble of studio heavyweights including Billy Byers, Jimmy Cleveland, Kenny Burrell, Ed Shaughnessy, Joe Newman, Milt Hinton, and Lalo Schifrin. By contrast, "Whistling Canary" features just the warbling flutes of Jerome Richardson and Romeo Penque over the rumbling of bongos.
The overall mood is decidedly upbeat with several of the jazzier numbers being the most memorable. For instance, "Bake's Lament" skirts along at a medium tempo with Zoot Sims blowing some fine tenor with just the right amount of echo thrown into the mix. For "Spindrift," Lalo Schifrin makes the most of this sprightly waltz meter by delivering a bluesy, two-fisted solo. Both "On the Roof" and "Santa Monica Blues" are lengthy tracks that allow for several men to step up to the mike. On the former, Sims, Terry, Schifrin, and Kenny Burrell blow over the shuffle beat, while the latter boasts some alto horn riffs by Jerome Richardson along with muted Terry and short statements from Schifrin and Burrell.
In hindsight, it's interesting to note the considerable role that Lalo Schifrin plays in the treatment of these themes. He would go on not long after these sessions to create a considerable name for himself in Hollywood as a composer of film scores. In fact, he would work for Verve and Yellow Canary producer Creed Taylor on Once a Thief before going on to score a large number of other pictures, most notably several of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry yarns.
Recorded by leading producer and one time engineer Phil Ramone, The Yellow Canary is an early example of stereo brilliance that speaks volumes for the warmth and clarity of analog recording. Along with Hopkins' other work for the Verve label, it deserves to be restored to the catalog so future generations can discover its charm.
1. Lissa, 2. Bake's Lament, 3. The Hanging, 4. On the Roof, 5. The Doll, 6. The Menace, 7. Santa Monica Blues 8. Deserted Canary, 9. The Yellow Canary Juke Box 10. Spindrift, 11. Lonesome Canary, 12. The Whistling Canari, 13. The Yellow Canary Juke Box