Dedicated to reviews and news of music for film, TV and games

Friday, June 02, 2006

CD REVIEW - Checkmate/Rhythm in Motion

Checkmate/Rhythm in Motion
Music by Johnny Williams
Film Score Monthly Vol.9 No.8 (U.S.)
24 Tracks 68:50 mins

For those of you out there who are John Williams completists, you may well want to add this pairing of albums which showcase the jazzy side of the great symphonic composer in his early days of composing. These two albums were released on LP by Columbia records in 1961 and have been remastered from the original stereo master tapes.
Checkmate was a CBS-TV crime show aired in 1960 and was Williams' first solo commission as composer, and though he had contributed here and there to other TV shows, he mostly worked as a session pianist up to that point. From Jeff Eldridge's comprehensive booklet notes, Williams' scoring sounds intriguing and I just wish what we had here reflected that but, sadly, as was often the practice at that time, the album was a re-recording. Not only that but Williams took five themes from the shows and arranged them for jazz band, composing another six cues especially for the album. So, though the album was nominated for a Grammy as Best Soundtrack Album, one can hardly call it that by today's definition. There's nothing wrong with the music. It is in fact a very tuneful and enjoyable listen (but not if you don't like jazz, obviously) and the show's theme is given a good propulsive arrangement, which puts it somewhat at odds with most of the source-like material that follows.
After the success of the album, Williams went on to record another jazz album for Columbia, entitled Rhythm in Motion, which makes up the remainder of this CD. Unfortunately, this is just a series of jazz arrangements of well-known tunes (and some lesser known ones) and is of no interest to film music collectors.


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