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Richard Baratta has produced some of the most famous – and infamous – movies in the last couple of decades, from The Wolf of Wall Street to The Irishman to Joker. Before he entrenched himself in Hollywood, however, he was a jazz drummer in 1970s New York, and he returned to his first love with 2020’s Music in Film: The Reel Deel, a tribute to movie music both in and out of his sphere of influence. It’s the Hollywood rule that every success gets a sequel, and sure enough, we have Music in Film: The Sequel.
Baratta and his crack band (including pianist/arranger Bill O’Connell, saxophonist Vincent Herring and guitarist/MVP Paul Bollenback) cast a pretty wide net here, taking on “Pure Imagination” from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, “Soul Bossa Nova,” a Quincy Jones tune relaunched into public consciousness via the Austin Powers movies, Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, Henry Mancini’s theme from The Pink Panther, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” included due to its use in Joker, and even the Cantina Band song from the first Star Wars movie. This could have easily devolved into an easy listening cheese fest, but never does. Barbatta and company manage the challenging task of keeping the melodies recognizable while stamping their own swinging identity on the arrangements – rarely does anything sound like the original version, but with solos. That application of effort, combined with the sound of a gang of musicians clearly enjoying themselves, makes Music in Film: The Sequel as much fun to hear as it likely was to make.
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