If you’ve ever played your favourite album of film soundtrack music and thought: “Hmmm, if only they’d thrown in some jazz guitar, this would be perfect,” then this is for you.
To make it clear: most of this album is palatable and listenable but it’s not lightweight classical film fare. This is music with gravitas, but melodic and made easy on the ear by the skill of the composer. It’s (mostly) a long way from the jazz/easy listening music of Henry Mancini; it’s not just Mancini with George Benson thrown in, and the jazz is only occasional.
There is a Mancini connection though: Nan Schwartz’s father was Willie Schwartz, whose clarinet created the “Glenn Miller Sound” and who played on nearly every Frank Sinatra recording, before becoming one of Hollywood’s most in-demand studio musicians.
Her mother, Peggy Clark, sang on such chart-topping hits as Sunny Side of The Street and Chicago. Family friends included Mr Mancini.
The opening piece Aspirations opens seriously, with a romantic sound, slightly windswept and dramatic (in a film it would be a woman in a billowy dress striding across the moors). In places it has a spatial majesty (the notes we made mention Holst and Mars) but then towards the end comes an easier jazz section, with the sax of Harry Allen.
Perspectives starts off gently with strings; Schwartz includes a rhythm and percussion section to give the piece a jazz feel and there is a Pat Metheny-inspired guitar.
Praise should go to the Synchron Stage Orchestra, whose members are session players with the skill to learn complicated pieces quickly; the third piece, the lovely Romanza, was equally quickly created. Schwartz needed one more piece to fill the album, and had a piece her heart wasn’t in, so started afresh and gave the starring role to concertmaster of the Synchron Stage Orchestra, violinist Dimitrie Leivici.
Brenton Broadstock contributes the second half of the programme, Made In Heaven, a musical tribute to the iconic jazz recording Kind of Blue (Miles Davis et al). It does not quote any melodies but is a serious composer’s attempt to write a work inspired by jazz. It is orchestral and divided into four movements recognisable from the Miles Davis: So What, Flamenco Sketches, Blue in Green and All Blues. The Davis version of So What has that distinctive opening and Broadstock copies the structure, though without knowing you’d not connect the two. Made In Heaven fits in well with the Schwartz; serious music but listenable and with a spring in its step.
This is out now on Divine Art, DDA 25165. It features the Bratislava Studio Symphony Orchestra and Synchron Stage Orchestra.