The soundtrack to Woody Allen’s new film, Café Society, is a very nice, very polite affair. Bassist, bandleader and arranger Vince Giordano, who has been involved in the music for many of Allen’s movies, is a longtime custodian of 1920s and ’30s jazz, and he does a yeoman’s job of taking his band, the Nighthawks, through a batch of old tunes, many by Rodgers & Hart. Pianist Mark Shane takes the lead on most, and his playing is tasteful and classy on such standards as “My Romance,” “There’s a Small Hotel” and “The Lady Is a Tramp.” Giordano, guitarist Chris Flory and drummer Christopher Gelb swing nicely too, but beyond niceties it’s just background music.
Alongside nine Nighthawks tunes are period pieces by Benny Goodman (“I Didn’t Know What Times It Was”), Count Basie (“Taxi War Dance”) and Ben Selvin (“I Only Have Eyes for You”), plus newer performances from New York-based Cuban orchestra YeraSon (“The Peanut Vendor”) and pianist Conal Fowkes, another musical collaborator of Allen’s. The one track that makes you sit up straight arrives when Kat Edmonson, a chanteuse whose vocals manage to channel both Blossom Dearie and Billie Holiday, joins the Nighthawks for the Rodgers & Hart tune “Mountain Greenery.”
Download that song. You don’t need the soundtrack to Café Society. It’s not for serious jazz fans. It’s for people who see the film and want to remember it through the music. Readers of this magazine have heard all these tunes before, done in more imaginative ways.