An understandable pall hung over the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra’s season-ending “Lights, Camera, Jazz” program one day after the terrorist attacks upon the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The films accompanying the music on large twin screens flanking the shell had to be re-examined for scenes that might be considered too upsetting (the entire “Mission: Impossible” montage was deleted in favor of a still photo of composer Lalo Schifrin). The regular CHJO rhythm section was stuck in Oklahoma, unable to fly out, so drummer Harvey Mason, bassist Robert Hurst and former CHJO pianist Bill Cunliffe were recruited. And as a concert-opening memorial to the victims and bereaved families, a somber John Clayton offered his version of “Heart and Soul,” which never seemed so much like a mournful dirge.
Indeed, most of the first half of the program — jazz-based film cues and themes by Henry Mancini (“Touch of Evil”), Johnny Mandel (“I Want to Live!,” “The Shadow of Your Smile”), Quincy Jones (“The Pawnbroker,” “Deadly Affair”) and Michel Legrand (“The Windmills of Your Mind”) — couldn’t help but extend the subdued, shaded mood. Even Jones’ perky “Soul Bossa Nova,” which was borrowed for “Austin Powers,” sounded draggy, with trumpet soloist Wallace Roney typically evoking the ghost of his role model, Miles Davis. Only “The Pink Panther’s” animated opening credits lifted the veil, with Charles Owens faithfully echoing Plas Johnson’s sly tenor-sax lines.
The famous chase scene from “Bullitt,” with Schifrin’s score extended throughout the clip, went for an exciting ride, followed by Schifrin’s “Blues for Basie”; the CHJO then took a surprisingly good shot at the loose swing and idiosyncratic warps of Duke Ellington’s music for “Anatomy of a Murder” and “Paris Blues.”
Down the home stretch, the program veered away from film to became a tribute to Davis, who gave his last performance here 10 years ago. After a montage that looked like a Columbia Records promotion — we saw the famous TV footage of the subdued young Miles playing “So What” and “New Rhumba” — and with Roney doing his virtual-Miles act in the right context, the CHJO segued into Gil Evans’ charts for “New Rhumba” and “Gone.” They was close enough to suggest the sound of the originals — and thus, bring back the haunted mood.