Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jerry Cotton – FBI’s Top Man

Jerry Cotton returns!

More than 40 years after the last feature of the "G-man" series had been filmed, Jerry Cotton once again explodes across German theatre screens! In response to this exciting cinematic revival the long unavailable music of the original series has been gloriously resurrected for a brand new compilation.

I am extremely pleased to have been involved in this particular collection, celebrating the great series of German films that (along with the Edgar Wallace films of the same period), set the tone for crime cinema in Germany during the sixties and scored by the great Peter Thomas. I wrote the liner notes for this CD, my second most pleasurable occasion to write notes for a Peter Thomas collection (here is my first) – but I actually wrote these notes quite a while ago and before the other set.

Let me explain.

This project started over two years ago. Apparently, there was a book coming out in Germany chronicling the very interesting Jerry Cotton film saga. Universal Music opted to accompany the book with a disc celebrating Peter Thomas’ distinctive wacky-jazz music that featured in all eight of the Jerry Cotton films made in Germany with American lead actor George Nader (1921-2002), who is phenomenal as Jerry Cotton, between 1965 and 1969.

Universal Music had asked me to write notes for the CD, even though I felt thoroughly ill-equipped to write such a set of notes. They wanted an American’s perspective on this Kraut cinema’s music. Then, I watched the films. Wow! I loved them. It was like discovering a whole new language – a whole new form of cinema. How weird. How wonderful. How massively entertaining. And I loved what Peter Thomas’ music added to each film.

Some of Thomas’ music for the series had already appeared on the 1998 discs Film Musik (Polydor) and 100% Cotton – The Complete Jerry Cotton Edition (Crippled Dick) – but neither is necessarily complete or accurately referenced, despite all accounts to the contrary.

It’s probably likely that a complete set of Jerry Cotton music is nearly impossible. Peter Thomas is an exhaustive composer and trying to keep up with him would require someone even more amazingly comprehensive. As I say in the notes, “(t)he films are overflowing with music, it's as if there are eight million stories in the naked city and Peter Thomas has a song for each one.“

Anyway, when it was announced that there would be a film remake of Jerry Cotton in 2008, everything was put on hold. My notes had already been turned in and ok’ed by the powers that be. We just had to wait to find out what was going on with the film remake. The book apparently languished – and I don’t even know if it’s ever been released – and Universal Music lost the rights to the Jerry Cotton music during the lull.

Then, the great folks at All Score Media in Germany, who recently issued the dazzling Peter Thomas set Van De Velde: Die Vollkommene Ehe (The Perfect Marriage)/Das Leben Zu Zweit (Every Night Of The Week): Music From Two German Sex Education Films (1968/69), picked up the Jerry Cotton set. It is All Score Media who has finally made this music available once again.

The track line-up is a little different than I thought it would be, but it is still magnificent. So is the packaging. The cover is just beautiful. And Peter Thomas biographer Gerd Naumann also provides a nice text about the various films (only in German though).

Undoubtedly Peter Thomas' soundtracks to all eight movies, composed between 1965 and 1969, are the highlight of the series. Thomas re-configured American jazz the way the filmmakers reconfigured New York City, mixing it up with sounds that appropriately call to mind the military, the lounge, the chase (of course) and even the circus.

Thomas goes for the jazz jugular and spices up the proceedings with his own brand of ephemera: gunshots, screams, scat singing and wild improvisation that must have made participating musicians happy as hell.

It’s crime jazz at its best! The 28 tracks come with a 24-page booklet, including detailed liner notes by Douglas Payne, presented in both English and German language, a filmography, and numerous full sized color film stills.

Available from my friend Chris' Soundtrack Corner or Dusty Groove.

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