Before John Williams moved to California and became a hugely famous composer of film scores, he gigged in numerous New York jazz clubs, performed on Henry Mancinni's recording of the Peter Gunn theme, and served as band leader and arranger for crooner Frankie Laine. He was known then as "Johnny" Williams. And it's to Johnny and this era that Carvin Knowles and the Evil Genius Orchestra dedicate this album of Star Wars covers, Cocktails in the Cantina, clever arrangements for big band orchestra circa the late 50's in styles ranging from jazz and mambo to bossa nova performed by some of southern California's best studio musicians. Knowles is himself a resident of Los Angles and composer for film, the most well known of his projects being music for the comedy, American Pie. Apparently rich in curiosity and all things musical, he has composed, produced and arranged in a number of genres, from big band to jazz to blues, from funk to club. His most recent project is a world beat recording called Hamsa. Despite the obvious appearance, Cocktails in the Cantina is not a commercial knock-off, but a project that shows some musical wit. The Imperial March starts off with pounding tympanis followed by tenor sax and trombones playing the theme down low, with the trumpets coming in a bar later on the high end in a hilarious mambo swing. The well-worn Cantina Band number is slowed down to about half the original speed, a hypnotic lullaby led by xylophone and joined by a torpid tenor sax and scatting chorus. The hipster main title features a rhythm section of snapping fingers over which a muted trumpet plays the theme, accented by a number of sound effects, including mouth harp and what sounds like a theremin (though that instrument is not listed in the credits). Princess Leia's Theme is given a bossa nova shuffle, with flute playing the melody over acoustic guitar chords accented with xylophone fills, and The Throne Room climax is played like a Peter Gun theme, with trumpets calling out the fanfare, and then playing the lead melody over B3 organ and a swinging drum kit.
Porn queen Jasmin St. Claire, graces the cover. But, back to the subject. I found 'Cocktails' to be a surprisingly enjoyable listen. The Evil Genius Orchestra's renditions sounded like they'd fit right in as part of the atmosphere in those classic 40s & 50s detective flick scenes that take place at the local mob-front nightclub! All in all, this collection is a beautifully balanced combo of fast and slow tunes, which can be enjoyed by both 'Star Wars' fans and cocktail tune aficionados alike! For those who enjoy a bit of the unexpected in their music, this will not disappoint.
1. Star Wars Main Title 2. Princess Leia's Theme
3. The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme) 4. Cantina Band
5. Ben Kenobi's Death/The FIghter Attack 6. Han Solo And The Princess
7. Yoda's Theme 8. Lando's Palace 9. The Asteroid Field
10. Parade Of The Ewoks 11. Binary Sunset 12. The Throne Room
13. End Title
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