This soundtrack was recently nominated for two NAACP Awards - Outstanding Album and Best Duo, Group or Compilation. We will find out if we win the award on February 1, 2013.
Writing the music for this film was an exhilarating and rewarding task. Kareem’s direction was clear: He wanted the score to reflect the big-band era of the late 1920s and ’30s, during the Harlem Renaissance. So I dug deeply into the music of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford and the early Count Basie records. The music of that time was almost all “two-beat” music, bass playing on 1 and 3, very danceable, with a slightly smaller horn section, often something in the range of four saxes, three trombones and three trumpets. Guitar, and sometimes banjo, was used, in addition to piano. I went through a real Fats Waller period in my youth, and I put that to good use in the solo-piano tracks.
I used a lot of my friends from the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, whose members have an excellent feel for this sort of playing — a little tighter, more precise, than the later ’50s and ’60s big-band work that I’m used to. Jeff Clayton on alto, Kye Palmer on trumpet and Ira Nepus on trombone, in particular, contributed outstanding solos that reflected the style of the music convincingly.
Of course, my favorite drummer, Joe La Barbera, was brilliant; although he comes from the school of Elvin Jones and Philly Joe Jones, he’s equally versed at Big Sid Catlett and Papa Jo Jones. I grew up with the Globetrotters and the ’60s and ’70s Boston Celtics. When I saw the clips of the film with the “boom-boom” of the ball hitting the floor, I immediately knew that the sound of the tom-toms of the big-band drummer was critical to the sound of the movie.
As with many film projects with which I’ve been involved, the music was considered last and so it was a mad rush to get it done, but even so, I was thrilled with the result.