Sunday, February 5, 2017

Pretty Baby Soundtrack

After my last post, I'm staying in New Orleans for this one.

I've never seen Louis Malle's 1978 movie Pretty Baby, but the soundtrack LP, never released on CD, is one of my favorite "stealth" New Orleans jazz albums. Among the musical configurations used on the soundtrack are the New Orleans Ragtime Orchestra, a all-star traditional jazz band built around trumpeter Kid Thomas Valentine, and a trio featuring the great Louis Cottrell on clarinet. Pianist Bob Greene contributes sensitive interpretations of Jelly Roll Morton pieces, and if you're a James Booker completist, you have to have this album - Booker sings Jelly Roll's "Winin' Boy Blues."

The ragtime pieces, traditional New Orleans jazz, and early 20th century songs probably enhanced the action on the screen well, but they also stand on their own as excellent music. Veteran producer Jerry Wexler was in charge of the recording sessions, and in at least one case, his influence made for a beautiful, unusual moment. The opening "Honey Swat Blues" begins with two choruses of unaccompanied trumpet by Kid Thomas before the band comes in. This surely would never have occurred to the musicians, and it makes for a welcome deviation from standard New Orleans practice.

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