I’ve always been fascinated by the music filmmakers used, detached from the films themselves. Get those actors, children, animals, props out of the way: remove the dialogue, let us hear the sounds.
The very imaginative and lyrical string bassist Joe Policastro has created a new CD, SCREEN SOUNDS, that is more than gratifying. With Joe are guitarist Dave Miller and drummer Mikel Avery, and their music is as good as any film that holds viewers spellbound.
You can tell from the cover — serious and whimsical at the same time — that this is no trip back to the Fifties, LEROY HOLMES AND HIS ORCHESTRA (or the 101 Strings) PLAY MOVIE THEMES, but neither is it MUSIC TO TORMENT YOUR HOUSEMATES WHO DISLIKE JAZZ.
This project is a happily inventive — and I would say audacious — creative enterprise. It’s not nostalgia, although the themes from famous films and television shows are initially recognizable. But the trio thoughtfully “re-imagines” the original music which is, in most cases, evocative. Audacious? For one thing, the original music was almost always scored for larger ensembles, so that reinventing it for this trio is both ingenious and loving (you’ll note that “irony,” or deconstruction is not their purpose). “We put such a personal stamp on it [the original material] that these things belong to us” stands as a meaningful comment in the video above.
Here is the trio’s fascinating look-from-the-inside-out at the theme from YOJIMBO, as thoughtful and deep as a film on its own, mixing lyricism and strangeness (and that’s a compliment):
YOJIMBO’s dark brooding is, however, not the one musical theme of the CD. EVERYBODY’S TALKIN’ mixes melancholy and swing, sweetness and forward motion: the end result seriously danceable. But it’s not pandering to an imagined audience in any way: even when the Trio is respectfully sounding out the melody, theirs is not cocktail music for the reception: you have to provide your own hors d’oeuvres. (You’ll want to.) The theme from THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS has its own dramatic arc, but it’s not like anything that came out of anyone’s television on a weekday afternoon. COOL HAND LUKE is surprisingly light-hearted (it works its way into a shuffle) helping me imagine an alternative screenplay where the convicts form a band and get paroled to gig.
I’ll stop here (although I am writing this blog having listened to the CD several times with great pleasure) so that you can find out the lyrical pleasures of this imaginative travelogue for yourselves. Popcorn optional. You’re on your own.
May your happiness increase!