John La Barbera Big Band: Walk on the Wild Side Suite
Walk on the Wild Side Suite
John La Barbera Big Band
On the Wild Side (Jazz Compass JC1007 )
Tom Ranier (keyboards), Tom Warrington (bass).
Composed by Elmer Bernstein. Arranged by John La Barbera.
Recorded: Glendora, CA, 2002
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Maybe it's the genes, or growing up in a musically nurturing upstate New York family, or both; whatever the case, the brothers La Barbera have founded a formidable jazz dynasty. Celebrated trumpeter/arranger/ composer/bandleader/educator John La Barbera made his mark with Buddy Rich, where he survived the gauntlet as a member of the trumpet section to eventually become Buddy's principal composer and arranger, an association that would last for 19 years. Additionally, his works have been recorded by Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Tormé and Phil Woods, among others. His older brother Pat, best known for his nearly three decades of tenor work with Elvin Jones, also performed with Buddy, as well as a range of notables from Woody Herman to Santana. Younger brother Joe forged his reputation on drums with Bill Evans, Chuck Mangione, Art Farmer and Tony Bennett.
Walk on the Wild Side, one of Elmer Bernstein's greatest soundtracks, gave life to the gritty emotion and hard-luck urban struggle of Nelson Algren's 1956 novel, brought to the screen in 1962 by director Edward Dmytryk. Here John La Barbera's electrifying arrangement manages to shed the stiff orchestral baggage of the original film score. After a short bass ostinato, the band swings hard into the now-familiar head, setting the stage for Pat La Barbera's throaty tenor. Growling and threatening, his solo is kicked along by brother Joe's tight drum work and a screaming horn section in a scorching 6/8 romp. As the band transitions into the suite's dreamy, plaintive middle sections entitled "Night Song" and "Rejected," Brian Scanlon's soprano sax poignantly conjures the lament of Algren's "po' buckra" white trash lost in a neon wilderness.
All in all, John La Barbera's "Walk on the Wild Side" is a seamless, volatile stroll down Perdido Street, a steamy detour on the way to Perdition. It is also a reminder of a time not so long ago, when big band jazz ruled the American film soundscape.
Reviewer: Bill Barnes