Composer Piero Piccioni like his fellow countryman Ennio Morricone worked on numerous movies and television series, but unlike Morricone who seemed to lean to more of a symphonic and grandiose style wen scoring movies, Maestro Piccioni became known for his polished and undeniably masterful use of jazz within his film scores. The composer in interview told me many years ago that jazz was pure music and it was a style and genre of music that his was obviously passionate about. At times he would integrate jazz influences and colours into western scores and also combine jazz textures with dramatic and even epic sounding compositions, which one would think would not gel or work, but surprisingly they did and each of the styles complimented and enhanced one another bringing to the project a fresh and invigorating sound. When I say that Morricone leaned towards the grandiose and symphonic, I did not of course mean that Piccioni did not, many of the composers soundtracks are indeed laden with rich fully symphonic pieces and his works for the cinema are amongst the most melodic and haunting that have ever been written.
THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD for example, is wonderfully atmospheric and has to it lush and lavish thematic content as well as containing tense and dramatic passages that are brought to fruition via the use of sombre sounding strings and edgy stylised percussion and woodwinds. His score for IL MOMENTO DELLA VERITA for me is one of his best scores from the 1960.s with Piccioni fashioning proud and rhythmic sounding pieces using an array of instrumentation which include, organ, brass, strings and various bolero, flamenco and Bossa nova influences which add greater depth and energy to the score. This score was originally released on a CAM long playing record back in 1965, then it was later re-issued on compact disc as part of the CAM SOUNDTRACK ENCYCLOPEDIA, which was a collection of 100 cds representing music from the CAM catalogue and also showcasing the ample talents of many Italian Maestro’s. Many of these have recently been re-issued onto CD again by Sugar music, but separately.
The original collection boasted numerous soundtracks by Nino Rota and also included MINNESOTTA CLAY which was Piccioni’ s first foray into scoring movies and an early Italian western, which starred Cameron Mitchell in the title role. The movie was released in the same year as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS which is probably why it did not attain the popularity it deserved, but in recent years has become essential viewing for devotees of the Spaghetti western genre.
But it is IL MOMENTO DELLA VERITA or THE MOMENT OF TRUTH that I would like to focus upon for this review, sadly I am of the opinion that the wonderfully thematic and driving score has over the years been somewhat neglected, maybe because the composer has done so much in the way of film scores and this early offering just got overwhelmed a little by the composers more jazz orientated works for the silver screen and his veritable landslide of western scores etc. But, saying this IL MOMENTO VERITA too contained a scattering of jazz infused cues, the composer employing double bass, piano and sultry saxophone in places. The main theme too is given a somewhat contemporary sound via the use of percussion and up tempo solo trumpet in the opening track LA HORA DE LAVERDAD which opens in a very serious and powerful way with a church organ creating an imposing atmosphere, this however moves into a more up beat mood with drums, bass, brass and solo trumpet to create a proud and commanding bolero.
The composer then adds strings to the equation, with these giving the piece an even more Hispanic sound, it is a attention grabbing opening, which one is not really expecting, however it is a welcomed and entertaining statement that sets the scene perfectly for the remainder of the score, this is a symphonic work but also has to it a contemporary musical direction, with Piccioni cleverly integrating and fusing the symphonic with the jazz and also the more traditional styles of Spain to create a score that is probably one of his most accomplished. It is a potent combination of styles that are effective within the film highlighting the proud and brave world of the bullfighter and adding to this a modernity via the jazz because of the period that the film is set, the power and daunting sound of the church organ that opened the scored midway through being replaced by Hammond organ that is supported by an easy going flute solo with a samba backing. These themes and musical ideas are also affecting when listened to as music without any images. Piccioni moulds the many styles and sounds into a formidable musical force, that is filled with a vibrancy of colours and textures, epic at times, grandiose in key moments and light and melodic elsewhere. If you have not heard this, it is about time you checked it out.