CD Review: Moviebrass

When I was a budding clarinetist back in high school and college, I would have killed to be able to play arrangements of film music. Except for the odd band arrangement, like Jerry Goldsmith’s wickedly difficult THE WIND AND THE LION, the opportunities to play film music just didn’t exist, and were certainly looked down on, back in the late 70s and early 80s. That’s what makes MOVIEBRASS such a delight.

The Naxos release contains film and other music arranged for brass quintet. The first half of the album begins with an extended suite for Leonard Bernstein’s classic score to WEST SIDE STORY. Bernstein’s evergreen score retains every bit of the brash vibrancy it exhibited when it debuted on Broadway in 1957. I suspect Bernstein’s music would sound just as fresh with a Klezmer band or gaggle of kazoos. The lively “America” and “Sergeant Krupke” (mistakenly labeled as “Lt. Krupke” on the CD) are particularly vibrant.

An interesting arrangement of Samuel Barber’s popular “Adagio for Strings” follows. It’s hard enough to do justice to this piece when you’ve got dozens of stringed instruments. It’s even more difficult when you rely on breath control for an intense seven minutes in which the musicians hardly ever stop playing. (I still have memories of an awful clarinet choir version that I played as an undergrad.)

The album finally delves into film music territory just the second half.  Most of the film music portion is taken up by a 17-minute suite called “Space Brass.” The suite features music from SUPERMAN, E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, Goldsmith’s STAR TREK TV work, INDEPENDENCE DAY, and APOLLO 13. The arrangement of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, which closes the suite, gives the musicians a chance to cut loose, though it’s a bit jazzy for my taste.

Star Trek TV Series: Chorale
Click Track: Star Trek TV Series: Chorale

The album closes with two particularly delightful tracks. First up is a fiendishly fun arrangement of Danny Elfman’s theme from THE SIMPSONS. The program ends with Franco Micalizzi and Yuji Ohno’s main title themes for LUPIN III.

The Simpsons Theme
Click Track: The Simpsons Theme

The playing of the Gomolana Brass Quintet is energetic and the players seem to having a great time playing the music. Trumpeter Marco Pierobon is responsible for the arrangements, except for the Barber.

While most of us will prefer to hear film music in all its full orchestral glory, it’s nice to see smaller ensembles arranging the genre for their needs and adding new repertoire for the instruments. For fans of brass music, this is one, ahem, “kick-brass” CD.

10 comments

  1. Not to be the big nerd here, but that Star Trek sequence, unless I’m crazy, is Jerry’s theme from First Contact. Which, um, was not part of his TV work. It was a major motion picture, as they say.

    And I’m having a hard time making Lieutenant Krupke scan. “Gee, Lieutenant Krupke, Krup You!” Well, maybe it DOES work…
    .-= That Neil Guy´s last blog ..Grandma’s Mummified Hand =-.

    1. Well, if it is FIRST CONTACT, then that’s mistake #2 on the CD track labeling. I don’t know the score so I’ll take your word for it. :)

  2. I play trumpet, and thus am always intrigued to hear new brass ensemble works. They have a unique, noble, bright and fresh sound, especially when applied to more traditionally “large-scale” works. I must see if my local library has this album, or indeed perhaps look into purchasing it. Thanks Jim!

    1. And that is indeed “Star Trek: First Contact,” not a television theme. It sounds great in brass ensemble!

    2. If the library doesn’t have it, which it might not since it’s so new, it’s only $8.99 or so, even on CD. As a trumpeter, I think you’ll like it.

    3. Brass ensemble is the main reason why I deeply regret playing the saxophone and wish I’d instead played trombone. I wanted to be part of brass ensembles, like the one that got to roam the halls of the high school playing Christmas carols. And I couldn’t be in Orchestra because no one wants a sax in a HS orchestra. This is my one major regret in life. If I had it all to do over again, I would play trombone.
      .-= That Neil Guy´s last blog ..Grandma’s Mummified Hand =-.

      1. I know the feeling. If I had to choose my instrument again, I’d probably pick French horn for two reasons: 1) you get to play some really cool licks in film music, and 2) you get to pour your spit out on the floor. Now that’s what I call cool.

        And you’re right about the sax in an orchestra. And not too many HS orchestras are playing Milhaud’s La creation du monde.

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