Monday, August 10, 2009

Quincy Jones — The Split (1968)

Before he became the platinum producer for the likes of Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones was an ace film scorer, best known for his work on In the Heat of the Night and They Call Me Mr. Tibbs among other Sidney Poitier vehicles. Many of his best scores have been available on LP or CD for many years, but The Split ('68) has been noticeably absent — until now.

The Split is loosely based on The Seventh, a crime novel by Richard Stark (a non de plume for the late great Donald Westlake). The novel's antihero, Parker, has been renamed McClain, and is played by football legend Jim Brown. The Split is just one of several movies based on Stark/Westlake's work, and Jones is the only composer to score films featuring two Westlake characters, namely Parker and Dortmunder (The Hot Rock, '72).

There are a handful of decent but dated vocal numbers, sung by Billy Preston (alone and with Clydie King), Arthur Prysock, Sheh Wooley and John Wesley), but the real draw is Jones' riveting jazz funk underscore, which is stylistically similar to Jones' score for The Lost Man, which came out around the same time.

Raspy, muted brass jostle with soul jazz organ, electric piano and bluesy electric guitar figures over restless percussion and rumbling bass lines. Occasionally, Jones' semi-abstract compositions and textural arrangements open up to let inquisitive flutes and skeptical strings into the mix.

As usual, Film Score Monthly delivers the full score with alternate bonus tracks and in-depth, copiously illustrated notes. The Split is a must-have for crime jazz fans and the perfect soundtrack for reading Stark/Westlake crime novels.

This review was previously published at the author's soundtrack review site

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