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Title - 'Whiplash' (Varese Sarabande)
Artist - Justin Hurwitz & Tim Simonee

The story of ‘Whiplash’ is just as amazing as the actual music, believe me! Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father (Paul Reiser), Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats.

The thing is, in real life lead actor Miles Teller actually learnt how to play drums for the movie. For three solid moths he got himself to such an incredible level of drumming, that even some jazz great drummers were very highly impressed - and told him so more than once. His fingers bled, his hands blistered and yet it didn’t stop Teller from putting the art before the paycheck..

The soundtrack features an original score and big band songs by Justin Hurwitz (‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’) and original big band competition pieces by Tim Simonee (‘Dune’). Just taking one listen to this incredible, truly electric 24 track album and it’s quite obvious that Hurwitz always knew that whilst the jazz would be somewhat straightforward, that the movie’s dramatic underscore was going to have to be a beast of a different musical value.

So, what Hurwitz did was use techniques of electronic scoring, but with real instruments, in a way that would haunt the listener just as much as it does the lead character, Neyman. Ergo, he recorded the score cues one note at a time, which enabled him to layer and manipulate the notes in a way that musicians simply cannot.

Therein, the resulting textures are now rather reminiscent of an electronic score, except every note was either a sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, vibe, or upright base. The majority of the notes in the score are slowed down to about 1/3 time, creating a hellish version of a big band sound. Each character has their own built in, nay woven in familiar melody also, which becomes more apparent as the movie progresses.

As for Simonee, after being the orchestra or of so many films, it’s obvious that working alongside director Damien Chazelle was an experience that enabled Simonee to expand his musical horizons. His knowledge of Big Band Jazz might well have been rather force fed him by the director at the start, but you can tell that come the end it was Simonee who was constructing the compositions - and not the other way round.

Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk