Branford Marsalis and other Jazzers Hiding in Movie Soundtracks

Posted February 22nd, 2013 at 8:55 pm (UTC+0)
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By Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC

With the Oscars this weekend, I’ve been thinking about movie music. It’s such  an important tool for screenwriters and film-makers to tell their story. From the opening credits of a film, the music prepares the audience — or at least should — for the movie to come. A few days ago, I was listening to the main title of “Sneakers,” a 1992 thriller starring: Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, and Ben Kingsley.

The movie is an early take on what has become a big issue — computer espionage. The soundtrack — written by composer James Horner, famous for the scores to such films as Avatar and Titanic — isn’t really what I expected to hear. For a cyber-spy thriller about secrets, it was airy and almost whimsical.

Essential to the sound of the soundtrack is the soprano saxophone, which just happened to be performed by the celebrated jazz musician Branford Marsalis.  It’s hardly the first time great jazz musicians have contributed to movie soundtracks — perhaps most famously there is the Johnny Mandel and Gerry Mulligan score for “I Want to Live,” which featured Mulligan on baritone sax, Art Farmer on trumpet, and Frank Rosolino on trombone. (They also had cameos in the film.)

How many other great jazz musicians have contributed — perhaps without screen credit — to memorable movie music? Take to the comment thread below and let me know your favorite example of a jazz musician hiding in a Hollywood score.

My twitter: @voajazz

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site,

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