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The Bad and the Beautiful

     I was listening to the local jazz station the other day (which I do only rarely, actually) and on came Oscar Peterson doing a medley of The Bad and The Beautiful and Laura, two themes by a giant of American movie music, David Raksin.

     Raksin, who was born and raised in Philadelphia (Central High and the University of Pennsylvania) was working after college in a New York recording orchestra.  Oscar Levant happened to be the pianist and when a Raksin arrangement of I Got Rhythm was scheduled to be aired on a radio show, Levant alerted George Gerswhin.  Impressed, Gerswhin connected Raksin with the publisher Harms and Chappell to do arrangements and his career was secure.

     None other than Charlie Chaplin lured him to Hollywood to orchestrate Chaplin’s (hummed and whistled) music for Modern Times.  Raksin stayed in California and wrote music for dozens of movies and also taught composition at USC.

     Both Laura (1944) and The Bad and The Beautiful (1952) show off Raksin’s melodic and harmonic adventurism.  The melodies are complex, but beautifully so, and the harmonies tend to shift all about so that the tonal center never quite seems secure.  These are the qualities that have endeared Raksin’s work to jazz musicians.

     I first heard about the The Bad and The Beautiful theme when playing with guitarist Sonny Troy and bassist Ace Tesone, both of whom were keen on it.  And so when I heard it on the radio, I went and fished out the copy that, if memory serves, Ace gave to me.  I never really learned it properly so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  Unlike all of the other tunes on this site, I can’t claim to be doing my own arrangement here.  Raksin’s original sheet is so nicely voiced that I did little more than play it through. (Oscar didn’t mess with it much either.)  Click on the title in red to hear it.  Unlike Laura, to which lyrics were added after the movie came out, The Bad and The Beautiful has never, to my knowledge, had lyrics created for it.

The Bad and The Beautiful


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