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Music Review: Good Night, and Good Luck

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The soundtrack to George Clooney’s new film, Good Night, and Good Luck, showcases the virtuoso performances of Dianne Reeves, a three-time Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist often touted as one of the best jazz singers in the world (yes, the world one that is either “the whole wide” or “small, small,” depending upon your perspective). The film portrays Edward R. Murrow’s confrontations with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the heyday of the Senator’s powerful tenure as the chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Set in the 1950s, the film is shot in evocative black and white, and the smoky, sultry strength of Reeves’ vocals helps to establish the film’s atmospheric mood.

Clooney hand-picked each of the songs, and as such they certainly have an intended meaning in the context of the film. For example, one need only hear the lyrics of “Straighten Up and Fly Right” (in which the buzzard takes the monkey for a ride, intending to toss him off, only the monkey grabs him by the neck and informs the buzzard in no uncertain terms that he better “straighten up and fly right”) to glean that Clooney might be intending the rather innocent lines to take on a more significant meaning in the context of McCarthy’s hunt (or witch hunt) for Commies in the bedrooms and boardrooms of 1950s America. Other songs include such classics as “Too Close for Comfort,” “One for My Baby,” and “How High the Moon.”

One of the intriguing things about modern film is that while they often might seem like little more than a glorified music video at times, they often don’t do more to take advantage of music to invoke a true sense of time, place, and even meaning. I certainly can’t fault Clooney for striving to take advantage of this additional dimension in his film, and the music on this soundtrack album clearly serves his intended purpose. But perhaps more importantly in a purely musical sense, the songs on this album manage to merge together as a cohesive, organic whole even without the film as a contextual backdrop. Reeves’ multiple Grammys are well-deserved; her soulful, sultry voice manages to not only offer a powerful performance but an emotionally charged one as well. She is able to reflect both pathos and joy, playfulness and pain. Many movie soundtracks are a mixed bag of loosely connected (or completely disconnected) songs; Good Night, and Good Luck is that rare exception where the music not only lends itself to defining the film, but stands alone as an exceptionally good jazz experience.

Visit the Diane Reeves Official website.

Author’s Note: This article was originally posted at Wallo World.

This has been syndicated to Advance.net, a place affiliated with about 10 newspapers around the country.

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About Bill Wallo

  • I, too, enjoyed the music featured in the film. I felt like it was a nice complement to the stark severity of the black-and-white images and morose content. The performance scenes were good transitional pieces that gave the film some much-needed momentum.

  • I’ve really been getting into Reeves’s singing lately. She’s definitely the real deal: not only deeply soulful singer with a great voice, but a masterful melodic improviser too, as well as a really interesting artist who’s made a pretty wide variety of compelling albums.

    That said, I don’t think the words to “Straiten Up and Fly Right” are innocent, unless you think it’s naive not o want a monkey off your back.

  • Tim Gavagan

    How can I get sheet music to Who’s Minding The Store??