Take a Walk on THE WILD SIDE Of Elmer Bernstein

ScoreKeeper digs those cool cats on Varèse Sarabande’s all-jazz tribute album to Elmer Bernstein

One of the leading supporters in re-recording classic film music has been soundtrack label Varèse Sarabande. Their recordings are immaculate and the performances are typically faithful to the original recordings with just enough wiggle room for a little artistic license.

This week Varèse sets their ears on one of the greatest composers in cinematic history. Even though he was just as comfortable composing for a symphony orchestra, Elmer Bernstein has always had a little jazz streak in him. He penned one of cinema’s very first all-jazz big band scores with The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) starring Frank Sinatra as a recovering drug-addict card dealer trying to turn his life around by becoming a jazz drummer. Throughout the late 50’s and into the 60’s, whenever a film called for a special touch of jazz, Elmer Bernstein was at the top of the list.

To help celebrate this side of Elmer Bernstein’s genius, Varèse Sarabande is releasing an album entitled Elmer Bernstein: The Wild Side featuring new arrangements of his most beloved jazz-infused scores. The music was performed by Big Band de Canaries featuring soloists Sara Andon on flute, Kike Perdomo on saxophone and Esther Ovejero on vocals.

I listened to the the entire album myself a few times yesterday and I really dig it. There are so many under-appreciated elements that are celebrated in this album: A) Elmer Bernstein as one of the great composers of all time, B) the use of jazz music in cinema, and C) the artistic interpretation of classic film music.

While most of the tracks do come directly from Bernstein’s jazz scores there is even an  interesting arrangement of Bernstein’s music from The Age of Innocence (1993). Some of the other pieces included are The Rat Race (1960), The Caretakers (1963), the TV series Johnny Staccato (1959), Ghostbusters (1984), Walk On the Wild Side (1962), and Devil In a Blue Dress (1995), and my personal favorite, The Man with the Golden Arm.

“This is an album I have been dreaming about for years,” said producer Robert Townson. “It was when we were in Scotland in 1997 to record some of Elmer’s older scores that we first started talking about an album that would present new recordings of his classic jazz film scores.” The opportunity to celebrate Bernstein’s jazz side, however, wouldn’t happen until years later when Townson produced a concert of this material in Tenerife, Spain as part of the 2013 Fimucité festival.

“Bernstein's unconditional love of all styles and forms of music underscores how the man who composed much of the ballet music in Jerome Robbins' 1954 stage production of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin, as well as the ballet music for the film Oklahoma, could, 30 years later, score the video of Michael Jackson's Thriller.” (ElmerBernstein.com).

The album will be available digitally and on CD December 9, 2014. For more information check out Varèse Sarabande's web site.

Here is an exclusive video produced by Varèse Sarabande for Badass Digest revealing some of the footage and photographs taken during the recording process with snippets of the various tracks featured on the album. Enjoy!