With an iconic, Academy Award®-nominated lead performance by Paul Newman as the free spirit who refuses to be broken by cruel Southern justice, director Stuart Rosenberg's Cool Hand Luke has rightly taken its place as a modern American classic. One of the key elements to the film's deft balance of drama and humor is also its most unlikely: the Oscar®-nominated score of Argentine-born composer Lalo Schifrin. As he's done throughout a career that's moved gracefully between jazz recordings, classical podiums, and scoring stages, Schifrin's music fuses seemingly disparate genres–bluegrass, symphonic, rhythmic jazz–into a soundtrack that evokes them all yet becomes distinctly more than the sum of its parts. Given that gratifying sensibility, it's a soundtrack full of surprising twists and turns, crackling with energy. Such is its dynamic nature that one reedited cut ("Tar Sequence") has taken on a second life as the ubiquitous "Eyewitness News" theme music at local TV stations across America.
This advanced hard bop session from 1960 was previously unreleased until it appeared on a Vee-Jay CD in 1994. Altoist Frank Strozier is heard with a Chicago-based trio comprised of pianist Billy Wallace, bassist Bill Lee and drummer Vernel Fournier. The CD really gives listeners two records in one because of the seven songs, all but one are heard in two versions and two of the pieces are heard three times. Strozier is in fine form, the obscure Billy Wallace (mistakenly called Wallace Williams in the liner notes) plays some fiery solos and the performances are satisfying. Still, due to the duplicate titles, one might not want to consume the whole program in one sitting.