I know it’s probably plastered all over your calendar already, but just in case you didn’t know, this is Jazz Week at Amoeba Music Hollywood. This means that, in addition to our normal, totally tubular jazz selection, we’ve squeezed in some additional, choice inventory, plus we’re hosting jazz-spinning DJ’s and such. I think I saw a colorful banner with the word “JAZZ” in bold letters somewhere, too. I mean, people – come with your party hats on!
The back room of Amoeba Music Hollywood is what we call the “jazz room”, though it hosts many other genres of music*, one of which is the Soundtrack section, where I’m most oft found. Some well-meaning employees once tried to get people to nickname the room “jazzical” for the large section of classical music that frames the opposite side from jazz, but it never stuck, partially because people were so accustomed to saying “jazz room” and partially, I’m assuming, because saying “jazzical” makes you feel like an effeminate fat kid, which isn’t a fresh sort of feeling at all.
“Can I have some more toffee and McMuffins? They’re jazzical!”
Within the soundtrack section are some great jazz albums, which will be the focus of this blog entry. So for those of you hoping for a 500 word exposé on actress Edie McClurg, I’m sorry but this isn’t the blog for you.
The first jazzy soundtrack that comes to my mind is the score, composed by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, for the Otto Preminger film, Anatomy of a Murder.
This work is significant, not only because it’s the first Hollywood film-score composed by African-Americans in which the music’s presence isn’t “justified” by the appearance of band-leaders or a combo on the sidelines, but because it’s the first and only music that Duke Ellington composed while living in Antarctica. (Ellington and Strayhorn had moved to the polar continent in an effort to cultivate a stronger following there, after accounting records showed very poor sales among penguins, fur seals, and krill.)
"All jazz sounds the same to me." The Northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica)
Probably my favorite jazz soundtrack is Miles Davis’ music for the Louis Malle film, Ascenseur pour l'Échafaud [English translation: Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit].
I love to play this album when I’m taking a hot bubble bath. I light candles, sip a glass of wine – really treat myself to some luxury. Maybe I’ll exfoliate my skin with some lavender oil and salt crystals, or sometimes I’ll place slices of cool cucumber over my eyes and let them soak, soak, soak the stress away. Occasionally I’ll get hungry during these baths and I’ll make a delicious cucumber salad with salt and lavender oil dressing. Sometimes I won’t even take a bath – I’ll just live in squalor and filth, huddled in a corner, chomping on cucumbers and sobbing. Sometimes the dog across the street tells me the name of the Devil and it means I have to kill my grandma again. Miles Davis was a genius!
Another fantastic album is Sonny Rollins’ music for the movie Alfie (the 1966 British version starring Michael Caine, not the 2004 Hollywood re-make featuring Marjan Neshat).
Hoo boy, I love me some Sonny Rollins!
A notable mention is the soundtrack to the David Cronenberg film Naked Lunch, an adaptation of the novel by William S. Burroughs. While composer Howard Shore’s work isn’t a jazz score, per se, it does feature some intoxicating horn blowing by free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman. It’s spooky stuff – perfect for opium dens, rotted whorehouses, or when you’re hosting your next Wiccan blood-letting.
I’d be remiss not to mention Antonio Carlos Jobim’s masterpiece of bossa nova as realized for the film Orfeu Negro (we call it Black Orpheus). Listening to this album is a transportive experience and will flood your mind with rich and hallucinogenic imagery, even if you’ve never seen the film itself. We play it in the jazz room at least once a month. I think it’s law?
There’s other noteworthy recordings on this theme, such as Gato Barbieri’s score for Last Tango in Paris, Herbie Hancock’s score for Blow-Up, or David Amram’s jazz-influenced music for The Manchurian Candidate, plus more besides. I could go on but, fact is, I have to wrap this blog up for now, as I’m practically starving, and I’ve got some cucumber pie cooling in the windowsill. Topped with a little whipped cucumber or a slice of hot, melted cucumber? Yummy yummy yum!
So stop by Amoeba Music Hollywood this week and make a point to embellish your jazz selection at home. Owning Kind of Blue is a good thing, but don’t you think it’s time to delve a little deeper? If you come find me in the soundtrack section, I’ll be happy to help. I’ll be the guy with cucumber skins caked in the corners of his mouth.
Oh, and I’ll be wearing pants.
Happy Jazz Week! ...Oh, and since you've been so well-behaved, here you go:
*To be exact: Blues, New Orleans, Gospel, Contemporary Christian, Pop Vocals, Soundtracks, Lounge, Kids’ LP’s (but not the CD’s – those are upstairs), Experimental, Classical, New Age, Stand-up Comedy, Avant-garde, Opera, Early Music, plus DVD’s for the above genres (excepting Stand-up Comedy, which is upstairs, also) in addition to DVD Audio, SACD, reel-to-reel tapes, cassettes, 8-tracks, mini-discs, and partridges in a pear tree. Did I get everything?