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JAZZ REVIEW

Big band and L.A. Phil mesh for 'Movies'

The Bowl event marries live music to film clips. Strong musicianship is hampered by program choices and technology.

July 27, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Technology and jazz came face to face at the Hollywood Bowl Wednesday night in "Jazz at the Movies." The basis of their meeting seemed promising enough: a large ensemble consisting of a big band and a full string section performing selections from jazz-based film scores in sync with video clips of scenes from pictures as far ranging as "Anatomy of a Murder," "Bird," "Paris Blues" and others. But neither side emerged intact.

The problems surfaced early, with the first combination of music and film: "Paris Blues." As in most of the clips that followed, the existing audio elements -- dialogue and sound effects -- blasted over the live orchestra, at times to the point of distortion. Nor was the balance aided by the tendency to boost the drums and bass, often overwhelming the subtleties of the music scores.

Fortunately, none of this audio confusion diminished the quality of the playing by an assemblage of L.A.'s best studio musicians, with fine soloing by trumpeter Wallace Roney and saxophonist Bob Sheppard, in particular. Conductor Vince Mendoza ably accomplished the difficult task of syncing all the musical and pictorial pieces together. And English singer Jamie Cullum -- back again after his feature appearances at the Bowl on Friday and Saturday -- made the most of his brief rendering of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man."

But it was hard to understand why so many pedestrian choices were made in the programming: a far too long and musically tedious segment from "Ocean's Eleven"; themes from "Austin Powers," "James Bond" and "Mission Impossible," whose jazz credentials were virtually nonexistent. All this despite the obvious availability of authentic, jazz-based music from dozens of films (to quickly name some possibilities: "The Wild One," "The Man With the Golden Arm" and other such film scores by Michel Legrand, Mark Isham, Terence Blanchard, as well as any number of MGM musicals).

So give the Philharmonic credit for a compelling idea; but let's hope that the next time around, technology, jazz and programming will find a smoother way to come together.

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