Original Review by Alan Rogers

Michael Meredith’s 2002 film Three Days of Rain takes six stories loosely inspired by the writings of Anton Chekov and transfers them to modern-day Cleveland. The film is very much centred around the telling of human stories with the various vignettes featuring a variety of depressed individuals all who have their own problems to deal with. These gloomy stories are all intertwined with one another through the course of the film and are played out over a three-day rainstorm. One thing linking all the characters is that they are all listening into radio station WLOH during their story. Urban setting, rain-soaked streets, depressing human stories. Ideal setting for a quality jazz score you would think. So, in the film, the WLOH’s DJ (Lyle Lovett) plays jazz as part of a Jazz festival and it is this music that become the soundtrack of the film. American saxophonist, arranger and composer Bob Belden composes an excellent noir-ish jazz score that reflects the characters and their situations and is full of beauty.

This is a score that’s more Taxi Driver (Bernard Herrmann), with it’s downbeat loneliness mood (minus any twisted overtones), rather than the brash and energetic jazz scores of films such as Anatomy of A Murder (Duke Ellington) and Sweet Smell of Success (Elmer Bernstein). Several references have been made to Miles Davis’ film score for Ascenseur Pour L’échafaud as an example of a valid comparison for Three Days of Rain. Whatever the score may sound like, Belden’s score itself, on album, plays as if it were an out-and-out jazz album, free of the constraints of having to score to picture. Not having seen the film it is difficult to really understand how the music fits with the images. A significant proportion of the tracks are long (over 5 minutes long) and I am wondering if these were composed but only a fraction of the cues were actually heard in the film itself. Or perhaps they are character pieces for the main protagonists of the film and the music continues on in a non-diegetic manner. To be honest though, with the flowing quality of each of the tracks, together with the quality of the musicians involved (hand-picked by Belden), it’s an enjoyable experience to just sit back and let the various musical portraits wash over you without considering the finer details of how the music specifically fits a scene, etc.

Belden’s score is melodic as well as emotional. Emotional in the sense that it effectively conveys a mournful feeling, a down-trodden and world-weary character that fits in with the soggy, urban gloom of Cleveland in the rain (typified by the opening track, “Three Days of Rain (Main Title)”). The score can be slow-paced and moody, but there are also more up-tempo pieces. “Falling Down”, an upbeat and energetic piece showcasing some great trumpet playing by Scott Wendholt, has a Latin-tinge to it that gives the track a vibrancy – though a downward spiralling motif on the trumpet reminds us that the gloom isn’t too far away. Track after track, particularly in the first half of the album, is a self-contained piece of jazz of various styles that – overall – feature upwards of ten musicians in various combinations (solo (alto clarinet in “Panic”, trios, quartets and quintets). And it is the strong performances and enthusiasm of the musicians that makes this a particularly enjoyable album. Joe Lovano’s moody saxophone is a prominent and recurring aspect of the score, particularly during tracks such as the title track and “Big Joe”. “Big Joe” is also a good example of where the musicians appear to have been given free reign to play with exuberance. It’s a great track. And the 5-minute track “Tess” (a upbeat and light track) is another example of where the musicians seem to let themselves go and just play. These strong performances from the various musicians means that, for a short and simple track such as “Homeless (Trio)” that features piano, bass and drums, you find yourself admiring even the delicate brush strokes on the snare drum!

Bob Belden’s score for Three Days of Rain is an excellent jazz score that deserves to be mentioned alongside the great jazz scores composed for film. The strength of the compositions and the particularly strong performances from all the musicians involved make this a very worthwhile listen and should appeal to both film music enthusiasts and jazz lovers. The album does lose momentum in the latter half of the score. These later tracks tend to be significantly shorter (2-3 minutes in length) compared with the tracks in the first half of the album. As a consequence, the listener isn’t able to as easily lose oneself in Belden’s compositions. But this is only a minor quibble. Whether you enjoy jazz or not Three Days of Rain is a score that features excellent music and is recommended. The score is available both on CD as a digital download.

Audio samples can be found HERE for samples of the album.

Rating: ***½

  1. Three Days of Rain (Main Title) (7:49)
  2. Falling Down (6:33)
  3. Blues For Dennis (6:22)
  4. Tess (5:29)
  5. Her Lost Smile (4:08)
  6. Big Joe (8:49)
  7. Homeless (Trio) (1:22)
  8. Conscience (4:09)
  9. Panic (2:49)
  10. Homeless (Quartet) (1:01)
  11. Anniversary (2:36)
  12. Tess Montage (1:47)
  13. End Title (Master) (3:35)

Running Time: 56:35

Sunnyside SSC 1153 (2006)

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