The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

Archive for the ‘Neal Hefti’ Category

Kritzerland Celebrates “Summer” With Jerome Kern and Alfred Newman, Goes “Hollywood” With Neal Hefti

with one comment

Centennial Summer OSTAt first blush, Kritzerland’s two new releases don’t have much in common – though one celebrates the Golden Age of Hollywood and one is actually from The Golden Age of Hollywood. But both titles hail from celebrated and influential composers, and both of these scores are making their first-ever appearances on soundtrack albums. The composers are the legendary Jerome Kern and the big band great-turned-swinging sixties theme titan Neal Hefti, and the films are Centennial Summer and Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, respectively. And since two Heftis are better than one, the label is pairing the latter title with another treat from his pen: his score to the screen adaptation of (are you ready?) Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad.

1946’s Twentieth Century Fox musical Centennial Summer turned out to boast the final score by Jerome Kern (1885-1945). By the time of the film’s production, Kern had already advanced the art of the musical theatre with his groundbreaking work on musicals such as Show Boat. His work on Broadway and in Hollywood with a variety of talented lyricists turned out a catalogue of standards still performed today, including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “I Won’t Dance,” “A Fine Romance,” “Pick Yourself Up,” and “All The Things You Are.” Though the first part of his career was largely dominated by writing for the stage, Kern had spent several years in California before permanently settling there in 1937 and concentrating on motion pictures. He penned his final Broadway score in 1939 with Very Warm for May but continued to write for the movies.

Centennial Summer, based on Albert E. Idell’s novel, was intended to capitalize on nostalgia in much the same escapist manner as MGM’s Meet Me in St. Louis had two years earlier, in 1944. Otto Preminger directed Jeanne Crain, Cornel Wilde, Walter Brennan, Linda Darnell and William Eythe in the story of one Philadelphia family’s exploits at the city’s 1876 Exposition. Kern was tapped to write the score, with lyrics from luminaries Oscar Hammerstein II, E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, and Leo Robin. He died in November 1945 the age of 60, but not before completing a score that would net him a posthumous Academy Award nomination for the song “All Through the Day,” written with Hammerstein. The film’s underscore and musical direction were both handled by the studio’s chief music man, Alfred Newman, who also received an Oscar nomination for his work on the picture.

Kritzerland’s Centennial Summer, featuring both Newman’s score and Kern’s songs including “Cinderella Sue,” “In Love in Vain” and “Up with the Lark,” is the first authorized release of the Centennial Summer soundtrack. The score has been transferred from original ¼” elements housed at Fox and newly restored by Mike Matessino. Kritzerland’s release is limited to 1,000 units, and is scheduled to ship by the first week of September, though pre-orders placed directly through the label usually arrive three to five weeks early.

Won Ton Ton OSTNeal Hefti (1922-2008) didn’t come to Hollywood from Broadway but rather from the big band world. Serving in the mid-1940s in Woody Herman’s First Herd, trumpet player Hefti became a prolific composer and arranger, moving on to the Count Basie band in 1950. With Basie, Hefti came into his own. He composed and arranged Atomic Basie, considered the great pianist’s finest record, and scored at the Grammy Awards for the album. Hefti’s great gift during this period was the ability to tailor inventive arrangements to the identities and skills of the band’s members, and earned the praise of Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra for his ingenious work. Hefti diversified his efforts working on television with stars like Kate Smith, and when The Chairman enlisted him to arrange and conduct at his Reprise label, he answered. By the mid-1960s, Hefti was in demand in Hollywood as a soundtrack composer, turning out his arguably his two most memorable themes – for the soon-to-arrive-on-home-video Batman television show and for both the movie and sitcom The Odd Couple.

Kritzerland has the first-ever soundtrack release of Hefti’s final film score, for Paramount’s 1976 satire Won Ton Ton, or the Dog Who Saved Hollywood. The label’s Bruce Kimmel explains, “Won Ton Ton seems almost the end of an era. The cast included a huge number of cameos by an amazing array of Hollywood veterans, over fifty of them. The leading cast featured Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Art Carney, and a brilliant performance by Augustus von Schumacher as Won Ton Ton. To the filmmakers, it must have seemed like a film that could not lose. The film came out, received middling reviews, and disappeared until the advent of home video and cable allowed people to find it and enjoy it for what it was – a fun, celebrity-filled lark with some truly amusing sequences. And the producers could not have made a better choice of film composer than the great Neal Hefti.”

After the jump: more on Won Ton Ton, plus the full track listings and pre-order links for both CDs! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 21, 2014 at 10:22

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

leave a comment »

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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 22, 2011 at 11:01