Memorable moments come alive in ‘Jazz from the Movies’

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — What does the chick flick “When Harry Met Sally” have in common with the animated feature “The Incredibles?” Both films use jazz to tell their stories.

West Side Story's 'Somewhere' didn't start out as a jazz tune, but the Roger Holmes arrangement takes it there.

West Side Story's 'Somewhere' didn't start out as a jazz tune, but the Roger Holmes arrangement takes it there.

For movie lovers, the first concert of the jazz season for Purdue’s American Music Repertory Ensemble, Lab Jazz Band and Jazz Choir, “Jazz from the Movies,” is filled with musical nuggets from these and other classic films. It is set for 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, in Loeb Playhouse of the Purdue Stewart Center. Admission is free.

“Usually jazz is used to create the feeling of an urban setting or a shady, back alley atmosphere,” says director M.T. “Mo” Trout. “But this concert focuses on jazz used in positive ways and, in some cases, unique ways.”

The range of movie titles being tackled by the bands runs the gamut from Johnny Mandel’s Academy Award-winning “The Shadow of Your Smile” to Disney’s “Mickey Mouse March,” and from West Side Story’s “Somewhere” to The Polar Express’ “Hot Chocolate.”

Clint Eastwood, a jazz musician himself, experiments widely with jazz in his movies, and the concert recognizes his efforts with “Play Misty for Me” from the film by that name. Woody Allen, who plays clarinet in a Dixieland Band, also uses jazz to underscore his offbeat characters. The American Music Repertory Ensemble performs “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me” from Allen’s “Anything Else.”

“Jazz has made use of music from lots of Broadway musicals,” Trout says.

West Side Story’s “Somewhere” didn’t start out as a jazz tune, but the Roger Holmes arrangement takes it there. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz “has been taken over by jazz musicians and is now considered a jazz standard,” he adds.

“Henry Mancini has written many great sound tracks, and they’re all jazz influenced,” Trout adds. “The Pink Panther” might be Mancini’s best known music, but Trout opts to present Mancini’s first foray into jazz with the theme from the TV series ‘Peter Gunn.’ After that jazz became forever associated with private eyes and James Bond characters.”

Jazz also surfaces in biographical movies, and that’s explored in “Straight No Chaser” from Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser and “Beyond the Sea” from the film about singer Bobby Darrin.

Probably the most unique use of jazz in a film comes in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” where a desert caravan comes across the Count Basie Band playing big band jazz in the middle of nowhere. In honor of that classic screen moment, the concert comes to a close with the American Music Repertory Ensemble playing Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg’s 1932 classic “April in Paris.”

“Music from the Movies” is presented by Purdue Bands & Orchestras. For more information on upcoming events visit

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 May 2020