Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2012 July 23 • Monday

Whatever number you might get if you averaged the quality of the Soundtracks of the Week, this 227th one will make it higher. It's Duke Ellington's score for Anatomy of a Murder.

This movie is a template for countless legal thrillers that came after, from The Verdict to The Accused and A Civil Action (not to mention John Grisham movies). This time James Stewart is the underdog lawyer fighting a tough case. (The casting something of a spoiler.)

His character in the movie is into jazz and plays the piano. In one scene he visits a roadhouse and plays piano with Ellington himself.

"Main Title and Anatomy of a Murder" spends the first 50 seconds or so building to a ferocious groove. No doubt director Otto Preminger wanted Ellington to top Elmer Bernstein's theme for Preminger's Man with the Golden Arm. Ellington's main title begins with music that's reminiscent of Bernstein but gives it the Ellington treatment: driving but unhurried with colorful and unexpected flourishes creating space for soloists.

"Flirtibird" is an intensely seductive and sultry piece in which the inimitable Johnny Hodges shines. The first minutes of "Way Early Subtone" is a reprise of "Flirtibird" and then goes into a slinky, swaying blues section.

Fast walking bass starts "Hero to Zero", which features tenor sax player Paul Gonsalves. About halfway through it gets meditative and somewhat atmospheric before picking up