Louis Armstrong & His All Stars, Red Nichols & His Five Pennies, Gene Krupa Combo, Studio Orchestra arranged & conducted by Leith Stevens, Alexander Courage, Benny Carter, Heinie Beau (arr)
Reference: BMCD 3511
Two original soundtracks on one CD + 16-page booklet
THE FIVE PENNIES was one of the most commercial jazz films of 1959 featuring Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong, and also one of the most celebrated jazz soundtracks of all times. It was based on the biography of legendary cornet player Red Nichols (Kaye), a small-town musician who moved to New York City in the 1920s and formed his own Dixieland band called The Five Penniesa play on Nichols name, since a nickel equals five pennies. The film deftly captures the flavor and color of an era, contains several scenes with good music, and ends up being a very moving story about a family.
THE GENE KRUPA STORY is a picture of great dramatic depth that brought to the screen the fascinating and controversial life of a musician that was more than a famed jazz drummer. He was the symbol of a frenetic era, the pulse-keeper of his time, the embodiment in rhythm of the unique American spirit. Ideally cast in the drummers role is Sal Mineo, who works wonders matching his movements to Krupas soundtrack drumming. Shelly Manne portrays drummer Dave Tough, and Anita ODay appears as herself when she was a vocalist with the Krupa orchestra. Through the decades, Gene Krupa still remains a symbol of jazz rhythm.
"[...] The Five Pennies et The Gene Krupa Story. Les titres en disent assez les thèmes respectifs: le premier, la biographie, romancée façon Hollywood, de Red Nichols, incarné par Danny Kaye. Un cornettiste légendaire, chef, dans les années 20, dun des groupes newyorkais les plus célèbres. Occasion de brosser une peinture assez fidèle de lépoque [...] Sans doute, le groupe qui entourait Satchmo à lorée des années 60 nétait pas le meilleur quil eût jamais recruté. Mais luimême joue et chante avec un tel enthousiasme quil emporte ladhésion. A noter que cest Nichols lui-même qui double Kaye pour les soli de trompette.
Le second film, tout aussi mélodramatique, conte la vie «fascinante et bouleversée» (sic) du spectaculaire drummer de Benny Goodman. On y entend un orchestre de studio dirigé par Leith Stevens [...] En dépit de ces brillantes individualités, on ne saurait affirmer que le swing est toujours au rendez-vous. Quelques belles envolées des uns et des autres justifient, toutefois, que lon ne boude pas son plaisir."
Jacques Aboucaya (April, 2014)
"As a part-time jazz musician, I often think that a good film could be made by following musicians in their working lives. However, Hollywood producers never seem to think that this is enough: they have to add unbelievable plot devices which they think will make a good story. So in movies we have Glenn Miller presenting June Allyson with a string of pearls while his band plays a tune called guess what! A String of Pearls. And someone says to Benny Goodman Dont be that way, Benny, whereupon Goodman plays a song called Dont Be That Way.
This CD contains the music from two musical film biographies, both released in 1959. of Red Nichols and Gene Krupa. The Nichols film was called The Five Pennies because that was what Nichols called his various bands, even though they often contained twice as many as five musicians. The Nichols story might have had some mileage in it but the producers had to sentimentalise the story, as one can tell from the titles of such songs as Good Night, Sleep Tight. And having cast Danny Kaye in the role of Red Nichols, they had to give him the chance to show his comic talents with a couple of gibberish songs. Red Nichols himself played the cornet solos which Kaye was shown miming on screen.
The saving grace of the film is Louis Armstrong, who sings and plays on several numbers, including After Youve Gone with his All Stars (though it only lasts for one-and-a-quarter minutes) and The Five Pennies Saints (which is mainly the excuse for a comedy duet with Danny Kaye). Just the Blues contains some classic Satchmo soloing, but for less than two minutes. With a line-up that includes such great jazz names as Matty Matlock, Eddie Miller, Benny Carter and Shelly Manne, one might have expected a far more jazzy soundtrack than we have here.
The Gene Krupa Story is much better at least, from the jazz fans point of view. Krupa himself played most of the drum solos which Sal Mineo mimed so skillfully on the screen. Not everyone likes drum solos (I do) but it was educative to see in the movie what Gene probably looked like in his young days. And those sequences suggest that Krupa became an icon because of the visibly energetic way he attacked the drums. Most of his solos were based on the single-stroke roll but he added a visual component which was novel as well as exciting. The CD conveys some of that dynamism, although you really need to buy the DVD to get the full impact.
There is also a brief jam session on Indiana which includes short solos from Benny Carter and Jess Stacy. Red Nichols appears as part of the Gene Krupa Combo on Way Down Yonder in New Orleans. It is also good to hear Anita ODay singing Memories of You.
From the jazz enthusiasts point of view, the Krupa soundtrack is superior to the Five Pennies one, but this is a well-packed CD lasting 70 minutes."
Tony Augarde (March, 2014)
Editor of www.musicweb-international.com
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