CD: Organization, The (1971)

November 18, 2010 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: Intrada Special Collection/ Released: September 13, 2010

Tracks & Album Length: 9 tracks / (26:40)


Special Notes: 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by James Phillips and Douglass Fake / Limited to 1000 copies


Composer: Gil Melle




Intrada’s release of The Organization marks the second of three (legit commercial) albums that exist of Gil Melle’s film work on CD, which is pretty remarkable, given the artist, composer, musician and jazz man was actively scoring movies & TV from 1968-1993.

It’s maybe a sign of how little interest labels and perhaps Melle himself regarded his film & TV work, because aside from The Andromeda Strain (also written in 1971, and performed on primordial electronic instruments), there were no other soundtracks albums released on LP during his lifetime. As Douglass Fake, Intrada’s CD producer, explains in the disc’s liner notes, after a long search the only extant material from the original recording sessions were 9 tracks totaling less than 27 mins. on a ¼” tape that may have been suggested for a LP release on UA records.

For jazz fans, releasing such a short album is a no-brainer, but film music fans might be a bit tougher to convince of this disc’s value.

Within the Virgil Tibbs franchise, The Organization was the third and final Tibbs film, as played by Sidney Poitier through In the Heat of the Night (1967) and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970). The first two films were scored by Quincy Jones, who by 1971 was nearing his burnout phase, with 5 feature films and a TV series exhausting his creative juices in that one year.

Jones may also have said everything he could’ve said about the character. In the first film, covering Tibb’s arrival in a racist town, the setting mandated blues and jazz – each performed with orchestra and jazz instrumentation, and scat vocals. The second film had Tibbs back in the city, so the style was jazz funk, but Jones seemed either tired or uninspired by the material because the bulk of the score (and certainly on the album) reiterated the new Tibbs theme heavily.

Melle’s approach for the third film was orchestral jazz, somewhat matching the style of Don Ellis’The French Connection (also written in 1971), albeit without the shrill dissonance and weird orchestration. There is an undercurrent of funk in Melle’s writing, but Organization is a rare work that exploits the power of a large jazz band, and gives lots of room for soloists to play around.

The titular main theme (“The Organization”) which bookends the album (and also appears in the hybrid cue “Annie Lost”) emphasizes hardened authority through the use of brass, and the repetition of the brief theme imparts Tibb’s dogged style of never giving up when the quest for justice is at his heart’s center. The bass line, electric guitar, and keyboards gives Tibbs some hip coolness, and decent improv from tenor sax hints at the chases and slimy characters he follows, tackles, and arrests within the film storyline about drugs and organized crime.

It’s quite a contrast – both the film and score – to Connection, because while Don Ellis’ music was a perfect match for that film, Connection’s look was grungy, chaotic, corrupt, and seedy.Organization is visually polished: Tibbs’ personal world has colour and clean furniture, as well as a devoted wife with whom he struggles with emotionally for time and affection.

Whereas Ellis’ title music blares dissonance and immediately assaults the viewer, Melle creates a modernistic crescendo for the opening chase (“Main Title”), starting with a loose bass that sort of swirls in a nondescript time signature before locking into a rhythm, and setting the skeleton for Melle to start his simple thematic motif, adding flutes, sax, tambourine, and keyboards. Every musician gets room to groove, and Intrada’s mastering exploits all the fine nuances that luckily existed on the ¼” tapes. The woodwinds are breathy but smooth, keyboards glide behind the funky electric bass, and tambourine shakes on the right side of the stereo image.

“Virgil’s Theme” is faintly heard in the prior two cues, but in this statement it’s a loose rendition on low flutes, pulsing string bass to the left, and slight ornamentation from keyboards on the right. The emphasis is on human warmth – Tibbs is a good, decent man – as well as slight confusion & frustration, because Tibbs has to balance the needs of his work as a detective and less than perfect marriage. “The Whole World” starts off as a breezy, small jazz combo version of the Virgil theme, and Melle quickly decelerates the piece for odd percussion and wooden rattling. “Mr. Tibbs” provides another theme variant with a mellow mood and slow tempo for jazz orchestra, and tenor sax leading the short theme statement.

“Annie Lost” is comprised of two cues: the same Organization take that starts the album, and a quick edit to the more abstract theme variation where Melle plays with screeching bowed strings, blurting brass, wooden rattles, and a circular high pitch squeal and water bottle taps. The brief “Night Danger” recaps the Organization theme, albeit really mellow, with a slower tempo, smooth bass, light percussion, and several flutes – the perfect cue to underscore Tibbs’ walking across a street or layin’ low under a dim street light.

The album’s last major cue is “Subway Chase” which brings in more string action, as well as timpani, and coarsely bowed double bass. Here the style is more evocative of Ellis’ Connectionwriting, but for the cue’s second half Melle recaps the Organization theme as heard in the “Main Title,” again emphasizing the addition and subtraction of certain instruments cover the drama as Tibbs chases his suspect through a new subway development. The cue builds quickly but runs out of steam, so the album’s original producers reprise “The Organization” cue again to close the score.

Here lies Intrada’s dilemma: one cue is repeated 3 times in the aborted soundtrack album as edited on the tape master, so technically what survives is 21:32 mins. of actual score cuts, and that’s where buyers will have to weigh whether the CD’s full price makes the it worth snapping up.

The jazz orchestra’s size undoubtedly makes this a pricey album to produce, but this one’s basically up to the buyer, because ultimately one is hungry for more, and disappointed so little survived in the intervening decades. Perhaps Melle simply didn’t think enough of his film work to save material for his own archives, since he remained active as a jazz musician and artist.

It’s great music (hence the Very Good rating), but a cruel teaser of a great score that’ll remain unreleased.

Now if Intrada would set their eyes on Larry Cohen’s weird little Bone (1972), or the chilling The Deliberate Stranger (1986) – two forgotten gems that illustrate Melle’s brilliance in jazz and electronica…



© 2010 Mark R. Hasan


Related links:

CD:  TV Omnibus: Volume One (1962-1976)


External References:

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