Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » The Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra West: Postcards from Hollywood


The Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra West: Postcards from Hollywood


View read count
The Scott Whitfield Jazz Orchestra West: Postcards from Hollywood
While many people have been excited or enraptured by the music scores accompanying Hollywood's most beloved films, few know (or perhaps even care) who wrote them. That's a shame, as these composers (and their contemporaries) were musical trailblazers whose names should be enshrined forever in the annals of artistic brilliance. One who does care is composer/arranger Scott Whitfield who has dedicated the latest album by his Jazz Orchestra West, Postcards from Hollywood, to their remarkable (and too-often overlooked) legacy.

Some of the names (Henry Mancini, Johnny Mandel, Quincy Jones, John Williams) may be familiar, others (Elmer Bernstein, Alex North, Jerry Goldsmith, Max Steiner, David Raksin, Miklos Rosza, Bernard Herrmann) somewhat less so. What they have in common is that every one of them is (or in most cases, was) an absolute master of his craft. Haven't heard of Steiner? Well, he wrote the score for Gone with the Wind, among other masterpieces. David Raksin? Think Laura. Elmer Bernstein? The Magnificent Seven (among many others), whose main theme Whitfield and the orchestra use as the first of their colorful Postcards, restyled here as an old-line barn-burner with Bernstein's well-known motif nowhere to be seen or heard (which could be good or bad, depending on one's point of view). What can be heard is splendid work by the ensemble and sharp solos from Whitfield (forgot to mention he's also an excellent trombonist), baritone Brian Williams, trumpeter Kye Palmer and drummer Kendall Kay.

While Mancini is perhaps best known for the haunting melody of "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's, Whitfield has chosen another song, "Sally's Tomato," written for a minor character in that same film, to feature trombonist Gary Tole, alto Rusty Higgins, trumpeter Anne King and bassist Jennifer Leitham. North is next up with the "Entre'act" and "Love Theme" from Cleopatra, showcasing guest Pete Christlieb—one of the West Coast's premier tenor saxophonists—followed by Goldsmith's main theme from The Sand Pebbles, which, like Cleopatra, starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Pianist Jeff Colella, trombonist Ira Nepus and trumpeter Tony Bonsera share solo space.

Even as he shows his respect for these illustrious composers, Whitfield has no qualms about remapping their designs, even Steiner's ardent "Tara's Theme" from Gone with the Wind, arranged here as a breezy jazz samba with solos by Whitfield, King on flugelhorn and Higgins on soprano. The heat remains intense on Mandel's usually even-tempered "A Time for Love" (on which Whitfield solos with tenor Kirsten Edkins and Palmer on flugelhorn), then abates to some extent on Raksin's main theme from The Bad and the Beautiful, a showpiece for the trombones (Whitfield, Tole, Rich Bullock, Ira Nepus) with a brief yet charming solo leading to the coda by ninety-four-year-old guest Dick Nash.

Whitfield (who also sings), does so on a nimble arangement of Rosza's lyrical theme from Spellbound, after which he and the orchestra rebound nicely thanks to a zestful reading of Jones's main theme from The Pawnbroker that encases blazing solos and exchanges by guest tenor Rickey Woodard and Whitfield (this time on trombone). Williams' iconic theme for Star Wars is set to a rhythmic Afro-Cuban beat whose muscular solo is by Williams, with robust percussion courtesy of Kay and yet another talented guest, Brad Dutz. The orchestra lets it all hang out on the smoking finale, charging straight ahead on Herrmann's main theme from the Cary Grant/Eva Marie Saint thriller, North by Northwest. Colella paves the way for heated statements by Edkins (soprano) and Whitfield before the closing shout chorus.

While some listeners may take issue with Whitfield's generally novel approach to these classic film scores, there can be no doubt about his sincerity in honoring the composers' enormous contributions to music in general and film scores in particular, nor of the orchestra's mastery of his perceptive and often formidable arrangements. Add a number of superb soloists and a grade of "excellent" is well-earned and conclusive. And as a bonus: one of the year's best and wittiest liner-note essays, written by Whitfield himself.

Track Listing

The Magnificent Seven; Sally’s Tomato (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s); Entre’act/First Love Theme (from Cleopatra); The Sand Pebbles; Tara’s Theme (from Gone with the Wind); A Time for Love (from An American Dream); The Bad and the Beautiful; Spellbound; The Pawnbroker; The Force theme (from Star Wars); North by Northwest.


Tony Bonsera
Dave Richards
Kye Palmer
Anne King
Rusty Higgins
saxophone, alto
Kristen Edkins
saxophone, tenor
Gary Tole
Ira Nepus
Rich Bullock
trombone, bass
Peter Christlieb
saxophone, tenor
Brad Dutz
Dick Nash
Rickey Woodard
saxophone, tenor

Album information

Title: Postcards from Hollywood | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Summit Records



Support All About Jazz

Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

How You Can Help

To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.


Linda Sikhakhane
To March Is To Love
Janel Leppin, Ensemble Volcanic Ash
Chicken Shit Bingo
Peter Brötzmann & Paal Nilssen-Love
From Me To You
Petra Van Nuis and Dennis Luxion


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.