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  American Splendor soundtrack (2003) (enhanced CD)
Artists: Joe Maneri, Jay McShann, Robert Crumb, Lester Young and Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Marvin Gaye, Mark Suozzo, John Coltrane and Chocolate Genius
Label: New Line Records NLR 39026
Running Length: 55 minutes

The film American Splendor is about the life of comic book writer Harvey Pekar (played by Paul Giamatti.)  The series has been running since 1976.  Harvey Pekar really is a jazz fan, and the soundtrack shows it with good selections.

The compilation of jazz music on this CD is wonderfully done and certainly goes with the storyline.  You don’t have to see the movie, though, to enjoy Joe Maneri’s tenor sax in the beginning song, “Paniots Nine” written in 1963.  Then there is John Coltrane’s sax in the free falling “My Favorite Things” or Lester Young and Oscar Peterson in “On The Sunny Side Of the Street” or even Bob Malach’s tenor sax in composer Mark Suozzo’s “Longing Suite” written for this movie.  Ah, saxophone fans, this is for you.  

Lest, I forget, there is Dizzy Gillespie with vocalist Joe Carroll on “Oh, Lady Be Good” or Gillespie on the perennial favorite, “Stardust.”  Kansas City artist Jay McShann shines on “Blue Devil Jump” and “T'Aint Nobody’s Bizness.”  There are two variations of “Ain't That Peculiar.”  One with Marvin Gaye and the other (2003) done by Chocolate Genius.

 What is a downfall here, though it is homage to writer Robert Crumb, is the inclusion of two selections from Crumb’s band (bet you didn’t know he had one) called “R. Crumb And His Cheap Suit Serenaders” (banjo, mandolin and steel guitar).  Actually, Harvey Pekar and Robert Crumb are good friends.  These pieces, “Chasin’ Rainbows” and “Hula Medley” are reminiscent of the 1920’s or even Garrison Keillor’s music on “Prairie Home Companion.”  It doesn’t quite hit the mark, though they certainly try hard enough.

All in all, the soundtrack for American Splendor is a good collection of jazz.  It may serve to introduce novices to jazz or be an addition to collections of regular jazz fans.  Myself, Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” and Jay McShann’s “Blue Devil Jump” are favorites.

Copyright 2003 Marie Asner
Submitted 11/283/03

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