VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
06 DEC 08 CHRIS SLAWECKI
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is a film about the direction in which history moves. The songs on its soundtrack place jazz -- and in particular one of its recognized founders, Louis Armstrong -- in the context of its own historical development, and also reminds of a lesson that modern jazz can sometimes seem to forget: At one time, jazz was dance music. More than this, it was wildly popular dance music.
Such as the "Ostrich Walk," which spotlights one of the first jazz soloists, Bix Beiderbecke. The historic Preservation Hall Jazz Band swings out the equally historic "Basin Street Blues," with clarinet and cornet, then banjo and piano, dancing and calling jazz and the blues back to their one shared home. Armstrong's warm horn and warmer vocal lead "If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)" and he plays the trumpet blues in "Dear Old Southland" with such volcanic rhythm and bounce that his blues sounds more like jazz. Sidney Bechet's "Out of Nowhere," a mixture of Dixieland rhythm with more modern jazz-like lead improvisation, nestles in between.
Other dance numbers include Perez Prado's "Skokian" and The Platters' slow dance favorite "My Prayer." Its closer, Scott Joplin's beautifully sensitive "Bethena (A Concert Waltz)," like several other songs on this soundtrack, also illuminates the neglected connection between the counter-rhythms of ragtime born from American classical music (jazz) and fugues from European classical. The release also features a second disc with the score from the film, composed by Alexandre Desplat.