Hitting the Right Notes
Perhaps just as engaging as what's happening onscreen is what's only heard in the film: the music of the time, which sets the tone. Composer Steve Jablonsky, who provided the score, says, "When I first met Ruben, he told me that he wanted to take the classic gangster movie genre and interpret it for modern audiences. I was already a fan of his before I met him, specifically because he has such a unique and fresh approach to telling stories. We discussed the score in a similar way, leaning more toward a modern sound but at the same time acknowledging a few classic rhythms and instruments. It was fun to experiment with Ruben, trying to find a balance that felt right for this movie."
In addition, music supervisor Steven Baker helped pull together a very special group of musicians to perform the songs heard whenever a live band is seen in the movie at Slapsy Maxie's, Club Figaro or Club Alabam. Headed up by saxophonist and music producer Dan Higgins -- a member of the DANCING WITH THE STARS live orchestra who previously played with the likes of Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra -- the group was made up of current first-call studio film musicians with years of experience that aligned perfectly with the filmmakers' call for authenticity.
Dubbed The Gangster Squad Movie Band, the roster included sax players Rusty Higgins and Greg Huckins, who each played with Les Brown and His Band of Renown; trumpeter Gary Grant, who played with Buddy Morrow, Woody Herman and Bob Crosby; keyboardist Randy Kerber and the late jazz accordionist Frank Marocco, both of whom played with Quincy Jones; trombone player Charlie Loper, who played with Jimmy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton and the Glenn Miller Orchestra; the late Warren Leuning, who performed with Pete Fountain as well as for songstresses Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee; trumpeter Rick Baptist, who worked with Ray Anthony; and drummers Steve Shaeffer, who played with Doc Severinson, Sarah Vaughn and Jimmy Rushing, and Peter Erskine, who played with Stan Kenton. Carrying on the family tradition, Dan Higgins' son Dustin also pitched in on guitar.
"The history of these players can be traced back to the great era of music, from the late '40s to present day," Dan Higgins states. "Whether backing up pop singers or traveling the country with dance bands, the members of The Gangster Squad Movie Band are rich with talents developed on the road throughout decades of musical history."
"Every day working on this film felt like I'd gone through a time machine," Fleischer concludes. "It was so authentic it was like being transported to this violent, romantic, pivotal era. The movie tells the story of a battle for the soul of Los Angeles. I think we've made a gangster movie for this generation of moviegoers that fans of the genre's earlier films will also love. Mickey Cohen is our heavy, and the cops are going to take him down, no matter what. It happens a little differently in our film than it did in real life, but thanks to the struggles and triumphs of a few brave cops, organized crime never established a foothold in L.A."
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