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Phillip Johnston and Big Trouble: The Unknown

For the past several years we’ve heard of artists like Bill Frisell and Don Byron crafting live musical accompaniments to silent films. In this case saxophonist-composer Phillip Johnston, a musician and bandleader of interesting wit and dimension, has scored filmmaker Tod Browning’s 1927 silent cinematic vehicle for the great actor Lon Chaney, The Unknown. A tragic tale of self-mutilation by a circus performer with a secret passion for a young girl (played by 18-year-old ingenue Joan Crawford), The Unknown is a story rife with pathos.

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