Jason Lee Lazell's boutique label Moochin' About have built up a sturdy reputation for their Jazz On Film box sets in the last few years. Their current release is an epic and immersive time capsule of a mid-century era when the film director and the jazz musician worked in tandem to wide acclaim & interest.
The words wide, acclaim & interest and jazz are now seldom heard or said in the same sentence. So let me take you take you by the hand to my own private time machine. Sit down and pull any lever and i shall transport us to Paris, London, Rome or New York between roughly 1958 & 1962. Look out of the window and you will see that on the Continent future film school favourites Michaelangelo Antonioni, Jean Luc Godard and other dreamers are gaining international reputations for their portraits of the post-war world in radical fresh ways. Cinema's vocabulary is being expanded with new shapes, norms and silhouettes. In the USA similar things are happening with the abstractions of John Cassavettes & his ilk. In the UK, class as ever is our preoccupation and the kitchen sink drama is trending now on the big screen. What unites all of this variety is the use of jazz to underlay and reflect the new sensibilities. That's enough context let's get on with the music.
This mammoth eight CD collection tips its trilby and lends its ears to the celebrated; The Hustler (Kenyon Hopkins), Saturday Night & Sunday Morning (John Dankworth) but often to the exotic; Chateau of Suede (Raymond de Senechal) & the intriguing: Satan in High Heels (Mundell Lowe). A early bullseye is Tubby Hayes score for Patrick McGoohan helmed All Night Long. Its cool, clean, modish, late spot bop at its finest with Mingus & Brubeck pitching in with an easy touch. The ear is easily caught by Swiss pianist George Gruz (with Kenny Clarke & Barney Wilen) airy score for the uncatchily titled Mental Cruelty. Imagine Henry Mancini in combo mode with a few classical ice cube's thrown in to the mixture and you get the flavour. Michel Legrand lends his gift for compact melody and fluid time changes to three films here. The ticker tape finisher is Cleo From 9 to 5 with Corinne Marchand's demi-sec vocals reminding me to brush up on my Franglais. I will give the talent turnstile more more twist and mention Eddy Manson's harmonica travelogue for The Little Fugitive, an influence on Truffaut's The 400 Blows which more or less was the first new wave film.
As you may gather, there are a lot of candles on this birthday cake & I have blown out some of them for you. Its other ingredients include an introduction penned by Mike Leigh, a deluxe booklet with lots of black & white of the likes of Jeanne Moreau & Stanley Baker and a cinephile essay to accompany each disc.
In the mid teens of the 21st century the concept of value for money and good taste being in the same place at the same time is as rare as ashtrays in a doctor's waiting room. For just over twenty of your English pounds this box set is astounding value and deserves a special Christmas welcome in the home of any jazz or film buff. Moochin' About are no slouchers.
Review: Simon Cooney