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Q Applause For Mr. Jones and Mr. Hefti: “Enter Laughing” and “Synanon” Come to CD

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If you don’t know the name Neal Hefti, you undoubtedly know the man’s music…whether it’s the indelible, insinuating, harpsichord-and-brass theme to The Odd Couple, or the frenetic, groovy Batman theme from the Caped Crusader’s campy television show.   And Quincy Jones, the man known as Q, needs no introduction.  Like Hefti a veteran of jazz and big band, Jones’ trailblazing productions on landmark albums such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller (to name just one) ensured his place in the pantheon.  Today, the Kritzerland label announced the CD debut of two rare soundtrack recordings on CD: Neil Hefti’s 1965 Synanon and Quincy Jones’ 1967 Enter Laughing.  Though the films themselves are quite different, the pairing of these two cool sixties scores makes for a cohesive listening experience.  Hefti and Jones shared many experiences, and as Hefti was writing the score for Synanon, Jones had just replaced the older gentleman at the podium for Frank Sinatra’s second collaborative album with Count Basie, It Might As Well Be Swing.  Hefti, of course, had conducted the first Sinatra/Basie recording and was a veteran of the Basie band.

Director Richard Quine’s 1965 Synanon was named for the real-life drug rehabilitation center it depicted.  Edmond O’Brien depicted Charles E. Dederich, the center’s founder, while the film is dotted with stars like Eartha Kitt, Stella Stevens and Chuck Connors.  TV Guide wrote that “a realistic portrayal of drug addicts trying to kick the habit is obtained by Quine and company through the use of the actual rehabilitation house which served as the inspiration for the film, Synanon House in Santa Monica, California,” and lauded O’Brien for his “commendable” performance.  Hefti’s score was only his third, but he already had a firm grip on a signature melodic sound.  He contributes an atmospheric main theme befitting the drama, but the score also incorporates jazz, swing and ballads.

Quincy Jones made his film scoring debut the same year as Neal Hefti, 1964.  The multi-talented Jones was, like Hefti, an accomplished arranger, composer and conductor with roots in big band jazz.  He was signed to pen the score for Carl Reiner’s Enter Laughing, based on Reiner’s own novel (subsequently adapted into a Broadway play by Joseph Stein, who later musicalized it with a score by Stan Daniels of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  We’ll save that one for another column!)  Reiner, already a comedy giant thanks to The Dick Van Dyke Show, assembled an A-list of actors: Janet Margolin, Jose Ferrer, Elaine May, Jack Gilford, Don Rickles, Shelley Winters, and Michael J. Pollard among them!  (How refreshing to see Reiner, Rickles and May all still very active today!)  Reni Santoni stepped into the role of David Kolowitz, the Reiner analogue.  Richard Deacon (of the Van Dyke Show) made an appearance as did Reiner’s young son Rob!  The 1967 film was noted by The New York Times as Reiner’s “jovial reminiscence of his experiences as a stagestruck New York lad,” and Jones’ upbeat score captures that spirit perfectly.  Mel Carter (“Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me”) performs the title song, and Carl Reiner himself has two vocals!

Synanon/Enter Laughing is available now for pre-order from Kritzerland for $19.98 plus shipping.  The 1,000-copy limited edition is due to ship the third week of December, but those who have pre-ordered in the past from Kritzerland know that the label ships one to five weeks earlier than that date.  Hit the jump for the full track listing with discography, plus the label’s press release with plenty more tidbits on these films!

In 1965, director Richard Quine made a film about Synanon, a real-life drug rehabilitation center, called, not surprisingly, Synanon. The film starred Edmond O’Brien as Charles E. “Chuck” Dederich, founder of Synanon, and the denizens of Synanon were played by Alex Cord, Chuck Connors, Stella Stevens, Richard Conte, Richard Evans, and Eartha Kitt. Shot on location in Santa Monica at Synanon, the film is filled with the usual soul-searching, bad withdrawal, falling off the drug wagon, romantic entanglements, more bad withdrawal, really bad withdrawal, more soul-searching, and, of course, some more bad withdrawal – and music. Lots and lots of very cool music composed by the very cool Neal Hefti. Hefti, who began in big band and jazz with Woody Herman and then Count Basie, wrote his first film score in 1964 for Richard Quine’s comedy, Sex and the Single Girl. It was classic Hefti right out of the gate and introduced a fresh, melodic, and, yes, cool voice into film scoring. He followed that with How To Murder Your Wife (released by Kritzerland), which was followed by Synanon. Some of his most famous work lay ahead – the following year he’d work on TV’s Batman, do brilliant scores for two Neil Simon comedy films, Barefoot in the Park and then his iconic music for The Odd Couple, whose theme was also used in the TV series based on the play and film. Hefti’s score for Synanon opens with a moody and evocative main title, and the rest of the score consists of variations on that main theme, along with some swingin’ ups, bluesy ballads, and even a couple of vocals – all in the unique Hefti style and loaded with his usual melodic invention. There was no one like him.

Enter Laughing began life as a semi-autobiographical novel by Carl Reiner, about a young man longing to break into show business. It was adapted for Broadway by playwright Joseph Stein and opened in 1963 to excellent reviews. In 1967, Enter Laughing was brought to the screen, this time written and directed by Reiner himself. The film version starred Reni Santoni, Janet Margolin, Jose Ferrer, Elaine May, Jack Gilford, Don Rickles, Shelly Winters, David Opatashu, and, repeating his stage role, Michael J. Pollard. Enter Laughing is a frequently hilarious movie filled with expert turns by expert actors, especially Ferrer and May, who are both brilliant in the film. Capturing all the fun and spirit of the movie was its score by the great Quincy Jones, another of the cool set of composers from the 1960s. Jones, like Hefti, started out in big band and jazz as an arranger and composer. And, like Hefti, Jones wrote his first Hollywood film score in 1964, for Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker. He instantly became a sought-after and very prolific film composer, scoring such 1960s films as Mirage, Walk, Don’t Run, The Deadly Affair, In The Heat Of The Night, In Cold Blood, Mackenna’s Gold, The Italian Job, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Cactus Flower and many others, as well as his great theme for the TV series Ironside. The 70s were no less fruitful, producing such great scores as The Anderson Tapes, $, The Hot Rock, The New Centurions, The Getaway, Roots, and, in 1985, The Color Purple. Jones was a completely fresh voice in film scoring – he combined the best of all worlds – big band, jazz, and classic film scoring, into his own unique sound. While his score for Enter Laughing is on the more traditional side, it is infectiously tuneful, fresh as a daisy, and fits the film like a glove. It’s the kind of score no one really knows how to write anymore. Both Synanon and Enter Laughing were originally released on Liberty Records and this is the first CD release for both. They are mastered from the original two-track album masters housed in the Capitol vaults – they were in pristine condition and both have that spectacular 1960s stereo sound.

This release is limited to 1,000 copies only. The price is $19.98, plus shipping. Go to the item page and click on the link to find out about it. CD will ship the third week of December – however, never fear, preorders placed directly through Kritzerland usually ship one to five weeks earlier (we’ve been averaging four weeks early). To place an order, see the cover, or hear audio samples, just visit www.kritzerland.com.

A pre-order link follows with the track listing!

Neal Hefti and Quincy Jones, Synanon/Enter Laughing: Original Soundtrack Recordings (Kritzerland KR-20020-9, 2011)

  1. Zankie (Main Titles)
  2. The Perfect Beginning
  3. Main Street
  4. Blues For Hopper
  5. Hope
  6. Tonight’s The Night
  7. Zankie and Put Your Little Foot
  8. Open House
  9. Put Your Little Foot
  10. Zankie
  11. The Whiffenpoof Song
  12. Main Title
  13. Exit Crying
  14. Pennies From Heaven (vocal by Carl Reiner)
  15. David Dooze It
  16. Enter Laughing (vocal by Mel Carter)
  17. Enter Laughing
  18. Ha-Cha-Cha (vocal by Carl Reiner)
  19. Vienna Wails
  20. I Hear You Calling
  21. Enter Laughing (End Title)

Tracks 1-11 from Synanon: Original Soundtrack Recording, Liberty LP LST-7413, 1965
Tracks 12-21 from Enter Laughing: Original Soundtrack Recording, Liberty LP LOS-17004, 1967

Written by Joe Marchese

November 22, 2011 at 11:01

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