Night Lights Classic Jazz

Don Ellis And The French Connection

We'll hear music from The French Connection's soundtrack, composed and recorded by trumpeter Don Ellis.

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Don EllisThis 1971 crime drama was based on a real-life early-1960s New York City investigation that resulted in what was, at that time, the largest heroin bust ever in the United States. The film, starring Gene Hackman and Roy Schneider as characters modeled on narcotics officers Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, was a box-office smash and won five Academy Awards.

French Connection soundtrackThe soundtrack was composed and recorded by trumpeter Don Ellis, who had worked with musicians such as Charles Mingus, George Russell, and Maynard Ferguson before going on to form a progressive late-1960s big band renowned for its complex time signatures and its use of electronic and rock elements. (One critic once called Ellis “the Stan Kenton of the 1970s.”) In his score Ellis attempted to capture the sounds and feel of New York City circa 1970; ultimately he created not only a musical backdrop of urban drama, but also the sense of a system going dangerously awry, a country in the throes of Vietnam and on the verge of Watergate. (At times it sounds like Stan Kenton having a rather unpleasant psychedelic experience—and I mean that in a good way.)

You can read more about Don Ellis here.

You can also listen to a recent NPR interview with film director Billy Friedkin.

French Connection factoid: Friedkin’s first two picks to play Popeye Doyle, the role eventually taken by Gene Hackman, were comedian Jackie Gleason and New York City columnist Jimmy Breslin. Hackman won a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance.

Watch part of the classic car-chase scene from The French Connection:

Music Heard On This Episode

Theme From the French Connection
Don Ellis — The Connection (Columbia, 1972)
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Theme From the French Connection
Don Ellis — The Connection (Columbia, 1972)
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Main Title
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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Copstail
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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Staking Out Sal
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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Hotel Chase
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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The Car
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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Lincoln Blues
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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Rocker Panels
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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Subway
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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This Is It
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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The Shot
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly)

Notes: Unused music from Ellis' score for THE FRENCH CONNECTION, synchronized here with the scene for which it was meant.

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Heroin
Don Ellis — The French Connection 2 (FilmScoreMonthly, 1975)

Notes: Music from the sequel to THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

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Big Chase
Don Ellis — The French Connection 2 (FilmScoreMonthly, 1975)
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End Title
Don Ellis — The French Connection (FilmScoreMonthly, 1971)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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