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Charles Hazelwood’s Top 10 Jazz Soundtracks

Ahead of his appearance in Sounds For Spies and Private Eyes at Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival (16-19 March), Conductor Charles Hazlewood names his favourite jazz soundtracks of all time. Check out his picks below and have a listen for yourself.

Get Carter (1971)

This classic movie starring Michael Caine is underpinned by a beautiful, dark jazz score written by the great Roy Budd. Legend has it that, as the budget was so tight, he recorded the whole score with no overdubs, playing live, along to the film which was being screened in the studio.

The Pink Panther (1963)

A classic example of great big band jazz beautifully written and orchestrated by the legendary Henry Mancini. ‘Hank’, as he was known, was a staff writer at Universal Studios churning out music for whatever movies/TV shows passed his way. A chance meeting with Blake Edwards led to him being commissioned to write the music, under his own name, to the TV series Peter Gunn. Edwards then chose Mancini to score the Panther movies and the rest is history.

Bullitt (1968)

Lalo Schifrin wrote this one. He was discovered in Buenos Aires by Dizzy Gillespie who invited him to the US to work in his group in the early ‘60s. After hearing the work he was producing for Gillespie, MGM approached him and offered him some film score work. He then went on to score such classic as Mission:Impossible, Dirty Harry, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Planet Of The Apes, Starsky & Hutch and countless others.

Our Man Flint (1966)

The ‘Flint’ movies were spoofs on the spy craze that dominated 1960s cinema with music from the pen of Jerry Goldsmith. These days, he’s probably better known for writing the scores for films such as Rambo, Poltergeist and the Star Trek series but this percussion heavy masterpiece full of electric guitars, weird keyboard sounds and big band brass, is loved to this day by cult movie fans and jazz lovers.

Naked Gun (1988-94)

Ira Newborn had already written the music for Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Caddyshack and many others when he got the call to write for the Naked Gun franchise, a spoof on the film noir/private eye genre. His theme sets the standard for writing and orchestrating big band scores and it’s almost impossible to listen to it without imagining Leslie Neilson’s deadpan face!

The French Connection (1971)

This gritty cop drama and its sequel ushered in a new era of edgier cop movies and the producers needed someone equally cutting-edge to score it. They chose Don Ellis who practically reinvented what a big band was capable of during the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Ellis was a genius and a workaholic who died way before his time from heart problems. Such was his drive, however, that he wrote some of the music for The French Connection II whilst recuperating from one of his (several) heart attacks!

The Ipcress File (1965)

John Barry is most famous, of course, for his work on the James Bond series of films and he’s still seen as the godfather when it comes to music for spy movies. So iconic are the Bond films and their scores that his other work from the same time is often overlooked. I’m picking Ipcress File for its smooth, classy jazz soundtrack and its iconic theme played on the cimbalom.

Walk, Don’t Run (1966)

Everyone knows Quincy Jones as the producer and arranger for giants such as Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson but he also scored many movie soundtracks including The Italian Job, In The Heat Of The Night, They Call Me Mister Tibbs and countless others. Quincy was also staff arranger for the great Count Basie and a trumpeter in Dizzy Gillespie’s big band. He provided the lilting, playful jazz soundtrack to Walk, Don’t Run which starred Bristol’s own Archie Leach, better known as Cary Grant.

Anatomy Of A Murder (1959)

Jazz genius Duke Ellington wrote this extraordinary score, widely considered to be one of the great jazz film scores of all time. It’s dark, brooding, moody and compliments Otto Preminger’s vision perfectly. This courtroom drama with its themes of sex and rape was very controversial for its time and represents a truly groundbreaking cinematic achievement. It’s our loss that Ellington didn’t write more for movies as, in my opinion, Anatomy of A Murder is a masterpiece!

Ascenseur Pour L’échafaud (1958)

Released as Eleveator To The Gallows in the US and Lift To The Scaffold in the UK, this movie – featuring an iconic soundtrack by Miles Davis – is a classic piece of crime noir directed by Louis Malle. Davis, who was fulfilling a club engagement in Paris at the time, was approached by Malle’s assistant, a jazz fan named Jean-Paul Rappeneau. After a private screening, Davis agreed to provide the soundtrack. The group he assembled were presented with simple, bare sketches of melody or harmony by Davis and virtually improvised the score on the spot while the film ran on a projector in the studio!

You can hear iconic soundtracks and scores from these and other films and TV shows at Sounds for Spies & Private Eyes – a movie and TV theme spectacular celebrating the spy, secret agent and cop shows that dominated both big and small screens in the ’60s and ’70s. Featuring Charles Hazelwood’s 21-piece jazz orchestra, Adrian Utley of Portishead, Will Gregory of Goldfrapp and the Army of Generals string orchestra. Saturday, March 18th, 21:00. Tickets £20-£30.

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