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Jazz as individual expression: an analysis of 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' soundtrack

Biggs, A (2014) 'Jazz as individual expression: an analysis of 'The Fabulous Baker Boys' soundtrack.' The Soundtrack, 6 (1-2). pp. 21-32. ISSN 1751-4207

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Abstract

'The Fabulous Baker Boys' (1989) by Kloves is a fictional account of a frustrated sibling piano duo who, in order to liven up their act, hire a singer. As well as a portrayal of sibling rivalry, the film is a study of the working jazz musician and the suppression and expression of individual identity. The film’s soundtrack, arranged, composed and performed by jazz pianist Dave Grusin, uses jazz standards and original thematic compositions that work as ‘ambi-diegetic cinemusical moments’ (Holbrook), which provide improvisatory contexts for the main character’s emerging individuality and his relationships with the other characters. This article identifies those compositions and using transcriptions, analyses the score in detail, revealing the melodic, harmonic, structural and improvisatory devices Grusin uses to convey the authority of a jazz ‘standard’, particularly by drawing on the work of Bill Evans and Miles Davis; and shows that these improvisational structures enable and act as a form of expression for the main character and his emerging individuality. The film takes its premise from The Fabulous Dorseys (1947) by Green, the biopic of the swing-era bandleaders the Dorsey Brothers, allowing this article to also consider the historical context of the film and the question of authenticity in both films, particularly through the parallel use of Art Tatum/Bill Evans as signifiers of ‘real jazz’ and Duke Ellington as a site of articulacy.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Dave Grusin; Fabulous Baker Boys; character; improvisation; individual; jazz; piano
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2015 15:58
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2016 14:06
URI: http://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/6814
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