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New WSA Compilation Honors Mark Isham

Dirk Brosse and the Brussels Philharmonic explored the work of film composer Mark Isham at this year’s World Soundtrack Awards in this first album to shine a spotlight on the composer’s film and television work. It will be released by Silva. Joining the orchestra for some of these studio recordings include the composer himself on trumpet as well as Thomas Hooten (the LA Philharmonic principal trumpet). The selections include a good number of jazz-infused moments from Isham’s oeuvre and the original work, On The Threshold of Liberty, which was used for the 2000 film Rules of Engagement. There is a good blend of his Americana style coupled with forays into postminimalism and noir all blended into engaging pieces that stand well on their own here in these concert arrangements.

The album opens with the “Prologue” from Bobby (2006) which allows for a blend of the Americana style with a fine trumpet line against warm string harmonies. In the center portion of the program are four cues beginning with music from Judas and the Black Messiah (2021, the jazzy ballad-like “Funeral”) and continuing with selections from Life as a House (2001, “Building A Family”), The Nevers (2015, “The Event Flashback”) and the aforementioned concert work.

Several suites provide more extensive thematic material to be recalled. These longer segments are among the highlights and provide a fine overview on their own of Isham’s career. Music from Eight Below (a brilliant orchestral suite of highlights)and The Black Dahlia (one of the composer’s finest scores, with a gorgeous final thematic segment) round off representation of a fruitful 2006 series of scores. There are also suites from more recent films: 42 (2013; a triumphant conclusion to the album) and Isham’s latest score for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (which features a female vocal thematic statement from what appears to be another impressive score). Music from his earlier projects include suites for The Moderns (1988) with its sensuous, almost Italianate style at times (and great trumpet work), and his wonderful folkish approach on A River Runs Through It (1992) help fill out a larger appreciation of his work. There is also a movement from his work on the American Crime (2015) series.

Every year the Ghent festival surprises fans with these compilations. This compilation skews mostly to recent scores with a few highlights from the past. It is what makes each program a unique snapshot of the composer celebrated at the festival each year. As with previous releases, this one two features engaging, well-played performances that have attention to detail and result in some gorgeous musicmaking. Add another of these surveys to your playlist in a collection of music easily recommendable. The album should become widely available in early November.


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