September 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /Sept01/

Howard SHORE The Score OST VARÈSE SDARABANDE VSD-6267 [38:37]



Here is a film with a title designed to make life awkward for the soundtrack reviewer. I'll leave the jokes to others and just mention that The Score is a well received new hit thriller starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett and Marlon Brandon, and is directed by Frank Oz, better known for his work with the Muppets, directing a string of successful light comedies and providing the voice of Yoda in the Star Wars saga.

Initial plays of the score to The Score suggest a classy orchestral jazz work which is prone to repetition. It is a repetitive score, dominated in many instances by a driving descending six note theme and propulsive rhythm. However, there is also a lot of atmosphere, some truly superb playing and various riveting and thrilling variations on the limited core material. Charnett Moffett's double bass anchors the music with a real sense of unease, of momentum, of a shark-like musical world which will die if it stops going forward. Over the rhythmic foundation, built equally on the agitated shuffle of Steve Schaeffer's drums, Tim Hagan's trumpet sings with the sort of urban intensity found in the best of Mark Isham - whether it be his film or pure jazz work. Meanwhile there are eloquent vibes from Dave Sammuels and sharp guitar from celebrated modern jazzman David Torn. All of which boils down to a fusion of some of the best modern jazz playing bonded to tightly structured suspense writing. Track 5, "Sapperstein" may follow track 4, "Recon" with the same basic material as introduced in the "Main Title" but it builds to a fever pitch which surely results in blistering on-screen suspense.

Besides the jazz soloists there is a full 65 piece orchestra, every player is named in the booklet, and some small use of electronics. There are six percussionists, who can be heard to full effect on the majestically dark and powerful "The Score Begins", music of a rare dignified complexity given the current stated on "dance-inspired" film soundtracks sweeping the multiplexes. The album climaxes with two long cues, "Run Late", with vibes adding to the urgency before the rich brass kicks in, and the seven minute "Suspended", an exceptional suspense-action set-piece so compelling it makes one wonder if this isn't really the soundtrack to Brian DePlama's return to top thriller form.

If you like film music and you like jazz from the 1950's onwards chances are you are going to find this a very rewarding album. This is not typical contemporary thriller music, but many cuts above. It may take a few plays to really come to appreciate, but this high calibre scoring filled with the fatalistic foreboding and inevitability which makes the best thrillers so compelling. After an album like this, The Score had better be one hell of a movie. It may well be Howard Shore's most gripping disc since The Silence of the Lambs, and bodes very well indeed for the forthcoming The Lord of the Rings. Play very, very loud.

Gary S. Dalkin

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