North Of Hollywood/North

June 28, 2010

While Alex will be remembered for writing a #1 hit “Unchained Melody,” performed by the Everly Brothers and featured in the film Ghost there are some of us who will remember him for his incredible jazz. This mind you comes from a Russian born American who went to Russia to study music and his mentor was Prokofiev! He wrote some pretty cool daddy- o West Coast jazz that he recorded in a small group setting for RCA (LPM 1445). These have been re-orchestrated by North for this recording.

What the listener will hear is a series of structured jazz compositions featuring the entire combo. Every instrument plays a role in this recording. Keep in mind that many of these pieces were written as underscore for a film, thus there are only brief solos and even then are structured and not open for a musician’s interpretation in an improvisational fashion. Alex makes strong use of a crisp percussion, baritone sax, trombone, sultry sax, bass flute, and soulful clarinet. Don’t look for a lot of thematic material as this is definitely in the category of setting a mood with defined instrumentation to set the scene for the movie. While there are subtle melodies none are sustained with the exception of “French Quarter” as sultry a number as you’ll ever hear. “Unchained Jazz” is not a variation of “Unchained Melody” but a heated passion sax with a dissonant background from the growling brass and piano out of key at times with the solo from the sax. “Monte Carlo” with the bossa nova beat from the bongo drums is danceable in parts but it does stray from the path with off key bars. North certainly knew how to write for a seductive scene making the saxophone ooze the sex. One could compare the style to Elmer Bernstein’s early jazz. The staccato and sax lead are a style that is similar in parts but one familiar with both composers could easily pick who was who.

The recording has been remastered twice to CD, the last being the Spanish RCA division in 2002 and with a little bit of effort can be found. It is also available through Amazon and ITunes as a download. I still enjoy the mono LP I purchased many years ago in a bargain bin at a record store. It is a bit scratchy but a nice warm vinyl sound that somehow never seemed to transfer to the antiseptic sound of the CD.

Track listing:

1. Stud poker (01:29)

From “A Streetcar named Desire”

2. Four Deuces (03:09)

From “A Streetcar named Desire”

3. Trick or Treat (02:32)

From “Wall Street Ballet”

4. French Quarter (02:19)

From “A Streetcar named Desire”

5. Hot Spell (02:22)

From “Hot Spell”

6. Ode to a Western (02:06)

From “American Road”

7. Unchained Jazz (03:57)

From “Unchained”

8. Monte Carlo (01:34)

From “The Racers”

9. Floozie (02:26)

From “The Rose Tattoo”

10. Mardi Gras Bump (01:37)

From “The Rose Tattoo”

11. Magnolia (02:29)

From “Member of the wedding”

12. Ticker Tape (02:25)

From “Wall Street Ballet”

13. Jody’s Lament (03:18)

From “Member of the wedding”

14. Blackjack (02:46)

From “The Racers”

Total Duration: 00:34:29

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