November 2001

Pollack - Original Soundtrack
Unitone Cinema Series CD 13702-5301-2
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Within the first few bars of Pollack, jazz trumpeter Jeff Beal pays homage not only to Aaron Copland (whose musical style pervades the soundtrack to Pollack), but also to the Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaborations. Beal, who both composed and produced this music, has found a way to make a musical whole out of the film soundtrack, a form that is usually a collection of scattered parts.

Trying to portray the life of iconoclastic artist Jackson Pollack musically is such a daunting task as to be nigh on impossible, yet this is the very job that Jeff Beal set out to accomplish. Pollack, whose artistic style opened up a whole new field of art, was a man who could not be easily categorized, yet, the music written to enhance the story of his triumphs and failures requires accessibility as well as complexity. That is precisely what Pollack  - Original Soundtrack offers. Mr. Beal seems to feel that Pollack and Copland shared much in common, and he draws on Copland’s musical style throughout this CD. But Beal is also a jazz artist, and, therefore, he understands the spontaneous creativity that infuses both Pollack’s art and jazz itself. This makes for a potent combination.

This would just be one more classical jazz recording if the sonics weren't up to snuff, but I’m glad to report that that the sound on Pollack is as surprising as the score. The strings sing sweetly, there is bite to the horns, the dynamics swing up and down like a yo-yo, and the tonal shadings are correct. Both the power and wistfulness of the score seem appropriate, for the most part. My only reservations are the disc's overall lack of depth and its limited soundstage -- which only stretches only from speaker to speaker, not providing the enveloping sound one would expect. But -- and this is important -- those problems never got in the way of my enjoyment of this music. And who could ask for more than that?

Having not seen the movie, I can’t comment on how well the soundtrack supported the film, but I enjoyed the music on its own. All the emotions that seem to be an integral part of the score (as gleaned from the somewhat skimpy liner notes) are easily heard. If you have seen Pollack, then this CD will probably bring back enjoyable memories. But whether you have or not, this is still a worthwhile CD. The music speaks -- and what it has to say, it says powerfully.