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Listening Post: Soundtrack to ‘Cafe Society’ and the O’Connor Family Band ‘Coming Home’


Cafe Society, vintage music and music by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks (Sony Classical). The immortal aphorism by L.P. Hartley is “The past is another country; they do things differently there.” It’s what Woody Allen has so often counted on in the soundtracks to his movies. Even when he is using classic American music in his soundtracks (by Django Reinhardt, say, or Count Basie’s “Taxi War Dance” with Lester Young soloing as he does here), it amounts to nothing more than aural tourism to give his film accurate and charming, if not very impressive, sonic backgrounds. But then the whole point of a movie soundtrack is to be just that– accompaniment to events on screen. Woody’s new film is scheduled to open next week. Most of his soundtrack here, other than a few vintage recordings (Basie, the Benny Goodman Band) is by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, specialists in ’20s and ’30s music reproduced without much in the way of imagination. Woody’s new film is about vintage ’20s and ’30s Hollywood and its echoes in New York City. Pianist Conal Fowlkes comes as close as this disc gets in its newly recorded music to the true musical spirit of the times, no matter how replete it all is with Great American Songbook favorites. ŒŒ½ out of four stars. (Jeff Simon)


O’Connor Band With Mark O’Connor “Coming Home” (Rounder, released very early August). Fiddler Mark O’Connor was 12 when he first performed on the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry. “I’ll always vividly remember Roy Acuff introducing me to the crowd,” he says now. When his family performed with him this time, it was different. But then country and roots music has been full of family bands for many, many decades. A family country band was, for instance, how the late, great jazz bass player Charlie Haden first played music, and it’s something he returned to spectacularly in his final years. What the O’Connor Family band does here is a patch on that incredible Haden Family band record, but it’s reasonably appealing on its own. When it turns into tail-kicking bluegrass (“Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man?”), it’s a lot more fun than it is on a couple of the slack, half-hearted ballads and mid-tempo laments. But O’Connor and his mandolin-playing son, Forrest, can play a ton, and assorted wives and fiancees don’t hurt a bit. The Hadens are still the unquestioned champs at this sort of record, but O’Connor is, when he wants, a sulfurous fiddler and he and his bunch do fine, thank you, just fine. ŒŒŒ out of four stars. (Jeff Simon)

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