Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sweet Smell Of Success

Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell Of Success is a movie which is in my top 10 of all time for acting, directing, script, set design, locations and pure atmosphere all wrapped up in an indictment of US life in the paranoia of the 50's. The film also has a wonderful soundtrack which has been made available again:

A jazz soundtrack double-header -- one that features both the small combo and larger band version of the soundtrack to The Sweet Smell Of Success! The first half of the CD features the Chico Hamilton Quintet's album of music -- a wonderful bit of cinematic jazz from the 50s. The combo was a key part of the LA scene at the time, but are oddly featured as a regular club act in the movie's New York setting -- but we'll gladly forgive that geographic error, given that the music on the set is so great. The quality's a bit like some of the Hamilton Quintet work on World Pacific -- but there's a slightly freer, more urgent feel here too -- work that's sometimes somewhat driving, and beautifully blended from the guitar of John Pisano, clarinet of Paul Horn, cello of Fred Katz, piano of Carson Smith, and drums from Chico. Side one features a lot of short incidental cuts -- like "Susan", "Cheek To Chico", "Jam", and "Night Beat" -- and side 2 is an extended "Concerto Of Jazz Themes From The Soundtrack Of Sweet Smell Of Success". The second half of the CD features the full orchestral version of the Sweet Smell Of Success soundtrack -- but done in a style that's almost as jazzy and swinging as the small combo one! Elmer Bernstein's at the helm here -- and the music's a wonderful pastiche of modes that's right up there with his sublime score for The Man With The Golden Arm -- done in a similar blend of driving jazz, somber moments, and some slightly more raucous touches! As with that album, the players are all great -- and soloists on the album include Pete Candoli, Ted Nash, and Shelly Manne -- west coast players despite the New York setting of the film, and playing here with a fair bit of grit in their groove. Titles include "The Street", "Hot Dogs & Juice", "Toots Shor's Blues", "Nite Spot Rock", "Love Scene", and "Out Of Darkness". Dusty Groove

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