The great jazz soundtracks—The Sweet Smell of Success, Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder, I Want to Live—were performed by a small group or an orchestra, sometimes both at once. Regardless of instrumentation, they were at their core true jazz works, as unmistakable as a swing beat. Along comes self-described “visionary” and pianist Daniel Szabo, with his contemporary take on the jazz soundtrack performed by a small group and an orchestra. Co-produced by Peter Erskine and released on his Fuzzy Music label, Visionary “integrates jazz, classical, film and folk musics,” Szabo writes in the liner notes.
Performed by a crew including Erskine and saxophonists Kim Richmond and Bob Sheppard, Visionary swings lightly and shines as sweetly as a California sunset. (No surprise, since it was recorded in Glendale, California.) It recalls such Hollywood blockbusters as Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Competition, and The Soloist, heart-wrenching tales of love, laughter, and occasional intrigue. Frothy, light, sometimes dramatic, Visionary seems serious enough—or is it simply a vehicle for Szabo to garner soundtrack work? James Newton Howard and Friends (1983) was a similar album, cut with crack L.A. musicians and aimed at breaking Howard into the competitive world of Hollywood soundtracks. It worked.