Friday, 24 November 2017

CrimeWaves: part 8

Title: L’assassino (The assassin)
Year: 1961
Composer: Piero Piccioni

L’assassino was one of cult director Elio Petri’s first films. It is about a man who is incarcerated for killing his wife. For a title as flashy as this, Piero Piccioni’s score paints a whole different picture. It’s a very subdued work which probably works well underscoring the investigation scenes and nostalgic reminiscing of the past. The score for the film could easily be disgarded as mere source music. However there are clearly definable themes that appear constantly throughout the score. The small ensemble of brass, keyboards and percussion forms the core with only a handful of other additional instruments, which just adds to the nightclub like nature of the music.

Piccioni assembled a 5-track EP programme at the time of the film’s release presented as the first five cues on the album. The main theme is heard in Titoli, a darkly intriguing cue which borrows from the jazz music of the era. However there is something mysteriously seductive about the tune and sultry sax performance which lifts it above a standard restaurant source cue. Momento d’amore is the love theme which in a usual fashion for the composer doesn’t stick with you during the first few listens but when you get it memorized, you’ll realize how beautiful it truly is. That first version isn’t really memorable on the long run though but luckily there are several moments of that melody to come. A low sax chorus similar to the main theme forms Notturno but it’s more menacing with its delivery. I get some callbacks to Henry Mancini’s compositions with this cue. The most hopeful tune of the score, Attesa blues is another romantic piece highlighting mellow and jazzy, surprising chord progressions. The last cue of the EP is a chase cue with fast drumset and that crime flick sax section playing in a forceful manner along with trumpet flourishes.

A complete presentation of the score follows and it’s built around the EP material with only a few moments deviating further. Though this might create a somewhat redundant listening experience, luckily there is enough variation to keep things interesting. Notable highlights are for instance two longer versions of Attesa blues with echoy vibraphones and delightful little solos changing from an instrument to another, a harpsichord version of the love theme (tracks 13, 20 & 25) bringing to mind Piccioni’s Emily Jane’s theme from The light at the edge of the world or an extended main theme treatment of tracks 19 and 30. Those new moments I mentioned are Momento misterioso and Indagine both of which are variations of the main theme and feature avant-garde, cold, low rumbling bass and percussion which creates a creepy atmosphere for nocturnal stalking, and Atmosfera sensuale, a new variation of the Attesa blues melody for a wonderful flute solo.

L’assassino isn’t one of the most essential Piccioni scores, but it’s another fine rescue from the golden age of Italian cinema by Quartet Records. If you enjoy laid-back tunes with occasional darkness for small ensembles, this score is just up your alley.

Rating: ****

1. L’assassino (Titoli) (02:44) *****
2. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (02:57) ****
3. L’assassino (Notturno) (02:21) ***
4. L’assassino (Attesa blues) (01:39) ****
5. L’assassino (Inseguimento) (01:35) *****
6. L’assassino (Titoli slow) (01:33) *****
7. L’assassino (Inseguimento) (00:22) ****
8. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (01:27) ****
9. L’assassino (Attesa blues) (01:41) ****
10. L’assassino (Notturno) (01:07) ***
11. L’assassino (Attesa blues) (02:23) *****
12. L’assassino (Notturno) (00:58) ***
13. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (01:05) *****
14. L’assassino (Sospetti) (00:19) ***
15. L’assassino (Atmosfera di sogno) (00:27) ****
16. L’assassino (Momento d’amore piano solo) (02:24) ****
17. L’assassino (Inseguimento) (01:33) ****
18. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (00:57) ****
19. L’assassino (Titoli slow) (02:59) *****
20. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (02:34) *****
21. L’assassino (Sospetti) (00:47) ***
22. L’assassino (Momento misterioso) (02:02) *****
23. L’assassino (Indagine) (01:42) ****
24. L’assassino (Attimo sensuale) (00:17) ****
25. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (00:56) *****
26. L’assassino (Atmosfera sensuale) (01:12) *****
27. L’assassino (Momento d’amore) (02:45) ****
28. L’assassino (Finale versione lunga) (00:45) ****
29. L’assassino (Attesa blues alt.take) (02:24) *****
30. L’assassino (Titoli slow alt.take) (02:52) *****
31. L’assassino (Finale versione corta) (00:26) ****

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