Express: The Story of Ernie Davis/Isham

October 15, 2008



Jim Brown, former star NFL running back, recently said on ESPN that it was an excellent film and depicted his life and the times in a positive honest fashion. Ernie, like Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown suffered racial barriers impossible to imagine in 2008. In spite of the obstacles he became the first African-American to win the coveted Heisman trophy as a record setting running back for Syracuse, not exactly a center for racial equality. The Universal film starring Rob “Finding Forrester” Brown as Ernie Davis and Dennis Quaid as coach Schwartzwalder is directed by relative newcomer Gary Fleder and opened in theaters on October 10th in the USA.

Veteran Mark “Black Dahlia” Isham, chose a mixture of orchestral, drum machine, and synthesizers for the score. The accomplished trumpet player offers little in the way of his chosen instrument with only 2 trumpet players in the orchestra and only a small sampling of trumpet solo from Jon Lewis. Don’t look for any jazz style riffs in this score, as you’ll find none. Another notable difference in sound in the score is the absence of woodwinds except for a single oboe and clarinet. No reed section or flutes are to be found. While one might expect some source music of marching band music, you’ll find none of that on this soundtrack.

What you’ll find from Isham is a very structured, high level of heartfelt, action, and suspense cues heard exactly where you would expect to hear that type of music in the particular scene. My first listen/impression is sometimes not a good barometer and this case was no exception. The first spin I heard nothing in the way of any thematic material, only cells of generic landscape music. That did change upon further spins and there are three themes, which are repeated through the score. The further playing also resulted in a lot more appreciation for this soundtrack. There is a very soft and delicate (6) note theme which first appears in “Elmira” from the string section with harmony from the horns and is also heard in “Ernie Davis” “I’m An Optimist” and “The Express.” Holly Palmer gives us a nice wordless solo in a mixed track of styles in “A Good Man.” “Jackie Robinson” is really a heart stopper melody that a variation of is also used in “Lacrosse” with a little more tension in the percussion area. “Rain” is one of those cues that you have to put into the elegiac category. If you enjoy your music depressing this is a must track for you. Cues don’t get a lot darker than this one. “Cotton Bowl” and “Prologue” are the action cues offered and are a nice blend of synthesizers, drums, and orchestral with some nice tension buildup.

This is a score that is going to have the greatest appeal to anyone who is taken with the film. It is well suited to the film and is instantly going to bring back memories of the wonderful and tragic story. Providing the Isham fan has an interest in his scores like “Miracle” there will be some appeal. Keep in mind that this is nothing like his jazz pieces such as The Black Dahlia. This is overall a sentimental and subdued score. If that description appeals to you it will have interest.

Main Titles Rating is ***

Produced by Skip Williamson and Brian McNelis

Orchestra conducted by Pete Anthony

Orchestrated by Conrad Pope, Nan Schwartz, and Clifford J. Tasner

Lakeshore CD# is 340302

Track listing

1. Prologue (01:31)


2. Jackie Robinson (02:06)


3. Elmira (01:57)


4. Lacrosse (02:07)


5. Training (04:17)


6. A Meeting (01:17)


7. A Good Man (05:45)


8. I’m Staying In (01:18)


9. Cotton Bowl (07:36)


10. Don’t Lose Yourselves (04:43)


11. Ernie Davis (01:37)


12. Heisman (01:12)


13. Draft (02:35)


14. Rain (01:51)


15. I’m An Optimist (02:46)


16. What Kind Of Bottle (01:49)


17. The Express (05:02)


Total Duration: 00:49:29








One Response to “Express: The Story of Ernie Davis/Isham”

  1. Don Elliott Says:

    There was a song in the movie that I thought was song by Elvis, not sure lyrics went something like – received your letter today, not real sure something about a letter. could you please till me the name of the song and the artist that is singing it. Ths Much

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