Like French crooner / composer Serge Gainsbourg, Italian singer Fred Bongusto dabbled in film scoring, and in the crime drama Un detective / Ring of Death Bongusto wrote an addictive main theme for jazz orchestra, featuring piano and vibes.
Detective is essentially a monothematic score, and title theme is oft-repeated, but there are some effective extrapolations which Bongusto uses to underscore violence, deep suspicion, and the personal turmoil of rogue Det. Belli. In “Un detective” he takes a short piano figure and turns it into a freeform chord progression, with keyboards and rippling drums; with “Mystery Version” Bongusto streamlines the melody for trumpet plus edgy sounds from cymbals, drums, and bass clarinet; and in “Murderer Theme” he reworks his melody into a discordant music box variation for piano.
The love theme for Det. Belli and pretty model Sandy is reworked into an intimate piece for keyboards, acoustic guitar, and brushed drums; and later in the film a string orchestra version is used to accentuate the gradual tenderness that develops between detective and his potential murder suspect.
Bongusto’s writing isn’t big on elaborate theme development, but unlike Stelvio Cipriani, he’s more adept in deconstructing a theme for an instrumental ensemble that’s more appropriate to a scene’s mood to ensure its dramatic functionality. There is a heavy element of repetition within the album, but many cues tend to flow between straight and abstract quotations and variations, giving the album a mercurial quality.
In spite of the score’s obvious high quality, it’s only appeared in complete form via a 1997 Japanese CD. The album also includes a few source cues (the rock-styled “Party Music” with funky organ), plus a vocal theme version with Shirley Harmer’s singing style not dissimilar from 007 crooner Shirley Bassey.
As typical of late sixties & early seventies Italian scores, Detective is close-miked and brilliantly engineered, giving the recording a fat analogue quality that’s very soothing.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan