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Soundtrack review: King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (Joe Kraemer – 2017)

Documentary

Soundtrack review: King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen (Joe Kraemer – 2017)

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Buckle up for the true story of writer, producer, director, creator and all-around maverick, Larry Cohen (BLACK CAESAR, GOD TOLD ME TO, Q THE WINGED SERPENT, THE STUFF, PHONE BOOTH). Told through compelling live interviews, stills and film/TV clips, the people who helped fulfill his vision, and industry icons such as Martin Scorsese, John Landis, Michael Moriarty, Fred Williamson, Yaphet Kotto and many more, including Larry himself, bring one-of-a-kind insight into the work, process and legacy of a true American auteur. Few can boast of a career as remarkable or prolific, spanning more than 50 years of entertaining audiences worldwide! Joe Kraemer wrote the score.

Well my exposure to Larry Cohen might be limited I think to my guilty pleasure like enjoyment of films like “Manic Cop” and “Phone booth” but I am all in for Joe Kraemer scores. I didn’t know what to expect from this score since it’s supposed to tell the story of a chaotic film maker, a story that spans over decades. The opening “Hail Larry” is encouraging as it takes me straight back on wings of nostalgia to the age of disco, more precisely to the edge between funk and disco so let’s say late 70s. I love this sound. My joy increases exponentially with every new cue as it seems this is the sound Joe Kraemer went for, smooth and funky, that seductive and addictive late 70s jazzy haze, with bass guitar and finger snapping occasionally seasoned with more elaborate orchestral motifs. I think that composer went for this sound regardless of the different times from the story as “Growing up in NY” brings the same frantic bass play and soft percussion that made jazz jam sessions so cool.

The music overall is light in sound but this lightness makes it feel positive and pleasant like a balloon floating in the air. The strings are light, the heavier instruments are tones down and there is even something that sounds like a harp. A cue like “Persistence / A performer himself” instantly makes me think of Thomas Newman’s music. The 70s are also present through psychedelic rock passages like “Coronet Groove” and the keyboard heavy “Larry’s theme (Rhodes-Band)”. I sometimes feel as if I am listening to the music from an episode of “Taxi” and this is something positive and nostalgic for me.

The score for “King Cohen: The wild world of filmmaker Larry Cohen” is for sure more layered than I make it sound but I simply revel in the enjoyment of the smooth nostalgic funky sound it brings forth. Here quiet and moody, there more big band effervescent, Joe Kraemer’s composition is yet another showcase of his musical range and of how much fun he has writing these different types of score; I’m sure he does otherwise this one wouldn’t have been so positively enjoyable. His latest three scores have all been projects with some unusual twist to them (one score for a movie made in the 20s, one from a TV show set in 80s Romania where Romanian actors are dubbed by American ones and this present documentary) and he made each of them transmit the essence of the respective story, quirks included. “King Cohen” will surely make you groove and bop your head more than once, with or without simulating air base guitars and trumpets.

Cue rating: 85 / 100

Highlights:
Hail Larry
Larry’s Theme (Solo Piano)
Larry’s Theme (Rhodes-Band)
Who or What Bone Was
Every Movie Is Exploitation
Larry Told Me To
Hail Larry (Reprise)
Midnight (Jazz for Larry)

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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