Thursday, October 14, 2004:

Edwards and Mancini

Henry Mancini -- Walkin' Bass
Henry Mancini -- Blue Steel
Two from the Mancini vaults. These were bonus tracks on the 1999 re-release of the Peter Gunn soundtrack. I'm not sure why they weren't released in the first place, as I think they're great.

These won't do much for you if you don't like orchestral jazz, but I love them--the walking bass on, uh, "Walkin' Bass," the flute, the baritone sax--and "Blue Steel" is as fine a bit of orchestral jazz as I've heard, even if the start of that baritone sax solo does borrow a bit from "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else But Me)." (Brubeck borrows--or "samples"--from Glen Miller from time to time also, as well as from Thelonious Monk and countless others. It's very very common in jazz. But never mind about recent brain-damaged Supreme Court decisions).

The liner notes tell a story about Mancini being fired from the studio where he'd worked, and going afterwards to get a haircut. In the next chair was Blake Edwards; they started to talk and Edwards asked Mancini to write for him. And there you have it. If you're an unsuccessful musician, maybe you need to get a haircut more often--you too can write "Peter Gunn" and the Pink Panther theme.

An aside here. Actors used to work under what was called the studio system, which is that, say, Cary Grant was signed on to a certain studio and could not work with any other until the (sometimes decades-long) contract ran out. Actors and directors started making enough noise about it, saying it was an illegal monopoly, that eventually the U.S. filed suit against the studios under anti-trust laws; the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sided with the actors. (Obviously the Supreme Court used to be a bit more serious about illegal monopolies--look at the difference between the scope and reach of the "trust-busted" railroad companies in the early twentieth century, and the scope and reach of Microsoft, which got a slap on the wrist.)

So. About the studio system. There were some brilliant and amazing films produced under the studio system, and any restriction will have its costs and its benefits. Now an actor can work with any director he wants, and a director can work for any studio he wants. Often an actor or director will have the rights to something and shop it around until finding a studio interested in financing it--it's the film they're interested in, not the studio. ... So would things be better or worse in music if the "label system" were abolished and a band could shop any album around until finding a label that liked it?
The Studio System

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