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A Bernstein Bouquet: Cherry Red’s él Label Reissues Elmer’s “Mockingbird” and “Brass”

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Bernstein - Mockingbird ElIn a career that placed him among the most legendary of film composers, Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004) penned the scores to more than 200 films in what seemed like every genre conceivable –comedies (Airplane!), dramas (Sweet Smell of Success), musicals (Thoroughly Modern Millie), fantasies (Ghostbusters) and of course, westerns (The Magnificent Seven). But among his most beloved scores is 1962’s Academy Award-nominated To Kill a Mockingbird. Cherry Red’s él imprint has paired the re-recorded soundtrack album, originally released on Ava Records, with Bernstein’s long out-of-print 1956 Decca album Blues and Brass – two things Bernstein certainly knew all about! The two-fer will arrive on September 15 in the U.K.!

Director Robert Mulligan made many inspired choices in his film adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), but chief among them was selecting Elmer Bernstein to compose the score. Bernstein’s sensitive, multilayered score captured the essence of the rich cast of characters– the noble lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), his children Scout and Jem (Mary Badham and Philip Alford), the unfairly accused Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), the misunderstood Boo Radley (Robert Duvall). The music of Mockingbird evoked Americana through the eyes of the children at the film’s heart, particularly via the subtle, gentle piano lines that recur throughout. But the dramatic score, one of Bernstein’s finest accomplishments, also encompasses tension and fear (“The Search for Boo,” “Tree Treasure”), pulse-pounding danger (“Children Attacked”), triumph (“Jem’s Discovery”) and stately beauty (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” the string-laden “Footsteps in the Dark”).

The 11-track album presentation was recorded by Bernstein for Ava Records, of which Bernstein was one of the founders alongside Fred Astaire, Jackie Mills and Thomas Wolf. Conducting his own score at United Recorders for credited producers Mills and Wolf, Bernstein employed many of the same players who actually performed on the original film soundtrack. The orchestrations of Hollywood vets Leo Shuken and Jack Hayes were used for the album, as well. Fans interested in this period of the prolific Bernstein’s career are advised to seek out Intrada’s recent 3-CD set The Ava Collection featuring all six of Bernstein’s LPs for the label. In addition, the Intrada release presents Mockingbird – and the other five albums – remastered for the first and only time from the original stereo session masters.

The él release, however, has been paired with the CD debut of Blues and Brass. With twelve smoky, seductive compositions composed, arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Bernstein and a stunning Saul Bass-designed cover (reprinted in the booklet of él’s new release), Blues and Brass was an extension of the hard-boiled jazz style utilized by Bernstein for his Academy Award-nominated score to 1955’s The Man with the Golden Arm. The West Coast “cool school” of jazzmen turned out in full force for this LP, with artists including Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Maynard Ferguson, Andre Previn, Pete Candoli, Bill Holman, Dave Pell and Ted Nash all contributing. The original liner notes – reprinted in this reissue – cite the influence of Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton and Count Basie on these sophisticated, urbane “city blues.”

Hit the jump for more, including the complete track listing and pre-order links!

To Kill a Mockingbird/Blues in Brass shows off two distinct sides of the great Elmer Bernstein, with the only similarity being the composer’s unflagging melodic and dramatic sense. This release is made possible via current U.K. public domain laws. The booklet includes uncredited liner notes, full credits for both albums and numerous stills from the motion picture. It arrives on September 15 in the U.K., and one week later in the U.S.; you can order at the links below!

Elmer Bernstein, To Kill a Mockingbird: Music from the Motion Picture/Blues and Brass (él ACMEM278CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Main Title
  2. Roll in the Tire
  3. The Search for Boo
  4. Jem’s Discovery
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird
  6. Tree Treasure
  7. Lynch Mob
  8. Footsteps in the Dark
  9. Children Attacked
  10. Scout and Boo
  11. Summer’s End
  12. Blues at Five
  13. Jubilation
  14. Exotica
  15. The Poor People of Brazil
  16. Central Park – 4 a.m.
  17. Wild and Crazy
  18. Hop, Skip, But Jump
  19. Smooth
  20. Lament in Five
  21. Just a Little Jazz
  22. Nightcap
  23. Return of the Man

Tracks 1-11 from To Kill a Mockingbird: Music from the Motion Picture, Ava LP A-20, 1963
Tracks 12-23 from Blues and Brass, Decca LP DL 8686, 1956

Written by Joe Marchese

September 10, 2014 at 10:32

One Response

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  1. This is SO going into my collection. My favorite movie of all time.


    September 10, 2014 at 22:07

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