December 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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  composer's promo Original Television Soundtrack
  STONO 10   [41.10]


Little known in the UK, JAG (1995-present) is a successful American military legal drama series revolving around the personnel of the Department of the Navy Judge Advocate General. The composer of this current album, Steve Bramson, who to date has scored more than 100 episodes of the show, is equally little known. Nevertheless, he has worked on such titles as the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and won an Emmy for Spielberg's Tiny Toon Adventures. He has worked as an orchestrator on Apollo 13, Starship Troopers and Lost in Space. While such credentials would suggest a facility for large scale old fashioned Hollywood musical heroics, there is a more direct connection between JAG and the aforementioned heavyweight blockbusters in that Lost in Space composer Bruce Broughton penned the main theme for JAG (as well as scoring the pilot episode), a rousingly heroic Broughton melody which appears in the opening cue on this disc.

It is clear Bramson keeps illustrious company and one listen to the CD suggests he has ample ability to move into the major league. The Broughton connection continues in that the album was mastered by Douglass Fake at Intrada, the label responsible for many of the former composer's promotional releases. And JAG is indeed an official composer promotional release - made for and with notes by Bramson - and not in any sense to be mistaken for an illegal bootleg. Even so, the album is not generally commercially available, being the composer's equivalent of a showreel. For that purpose at 41 minutes the disc does not outstay its welcome; Bramson says, "As I hope this CD demonstrates, action, adventure and courtroom drama are all in evidence as expected. But so, too, are humor, romance and mystery." In other words a demonstration of the composer's talents for prospective employers. Happily, as Bramson also notes, JAG is one of the few shows to employ a full orchestra and the range of stories over so many episodes allows for a diverse range of entertaining musical moods.

The result is television music clearly with ambitions to grace the silver screen. As such it is very well crafted and delivered with flair and polish, if with no particularly strong sense of personal identity. The disc features 16 cues and music from 11 episodes. It spans the moody thriller suspense of "Dog Robber" to the delicate folk textures of "Nobody's Child", incorporating the traditional melody "All the Pretty Little Ponies" with lovely wordless female voice. Much is quietly lyrical and romantic, the gorgeous "Sarah's Truth" from "Second Sight" being particularly outstanding. There is perky comedy in "Yeah, Baby" and military moods from the reflective - the cue "Veteran's Day", from the episode "Above and Beyond" - to the bellicose "This is War" from "Cowboys and Cossacks", a snare filled set-piece which could fit into most any $100 million movie starring Harrison Ford.

As previously noted, there is nothing really distinctive here in the sense of a composer's personal style, but its all effective, solid scoring which equals much of the mainstream work filling recent Hollywood releases. It proves Bramson can deliver the genre goods and with many of the major names such as Williams, Goldsmith, Morricone and Bernstein surely nearing the end of their careers, he may in the next decade find himself alongside such talents as Michael Giacchino, William Ross and Christopher Gordon forming the next generation Hollywood A list.

Gary S. Dalkin<


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