Media Arts Program
 

Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 7:30 p.m.

Jazz Noir: Alfie

<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>
<em>Jazz Noir: Alfie</em>

(Lewis Gilbert, 1966)

Jazz Noir: 1950–1966

Eight classic films of the '50s & '60s with classic jazz scores composed by and featuring jazz musicians—real and fictional—on screen, off screen, and (in most cases) both.

Curated by Ed Cardoni
The original Mod-era hit British comedy that launched Michael Caine's career may be remembered musically now (at least by us Americans) more for the eponymous song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David to promote the film in advance of its UK release—but wasn't even included anywhere on the soundtrack of the film when it was released in the UK—than for the film's true score composed and performed by "Saxophone Colossus" Sonny Rollins, which gives the actual film its bounce and pacing. If you remember the song being there, that's because, at the insistence of the film's distributor, United Artists—and against the director's wishes—the song was added over the closing credits for the film's US release, having become just too big a hit to ignore in the hands of such recording artists as Cilla Black, Dionne Warwick, and, eventually, a young Cher, among many others.

Don't get me wrong: it's a great song, reportedly Bacharach's own favorite out of all he wrote. But the 1966 Alfie closes season one of this series for the Sonny Rollins score that makes up the entirety of the soundtrack album, a classic jazz recording in its own right.

After a decade and a half of jazz's ascendency as the go-to genre for signifying the contemporary and the urban sonically in film, the films that followed Alfie (and a few just before it, most obviously A Hard Day's Night in 1964 and Help! In 1965) would turn—as some (such as 1955's Blackboard Jungle) had already turned—to the new pop music of the day—rock 'n' roll—and to rockers rather than jazz cats as contemporary exemplars of outlaws and free spirits. (Think Easy Rider just three years later.) One of just two films in the series shot in color (the other was Pete Kelly's Blues), Alfie admittedly doesn't really fit any definition of film noir—despite featuring one of filmdom's most iconic antiheroes and London street locations matching last week's Paris—but oh, that jazz score!

Of local interest, Sonny Rollins's drummer on Alfie (at least the LP) was Frankie Dunlop, born in Buffalo, NY in 1928, frequent sideman for Thelonious Monk and brother of pianist Boyd Lee Dunlop. Other musicians featured on the LP include Oliver Nelson (second tenor sax, co-arranger, co-conductor), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Phil Woods (alto sax), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Bob Ashton (third tenor sax), Danny Bank (bari sax), Roger Kellaway (piano), and Walter Booker (bass). Mod London may have swung "like a pendulum do," but never again quite like this!
 
A Paramount Picture. Licensed for public exhibition through Criterion Pictures USA.