Composer, conductor Charles Gross, was born on 13th May 1934 in Boston Massachusetts, he was educated at Harvard University, the New England Conservatory and Mills college. Gross who is now 87 years of age resides in New York City in the USA. He was a student of Darius Milhaud and was also the main arranger for the Westpoint Band for over three years. After serving in the US army Gross became a composer and wrote music for Industrial movies and animated films.
In 1976, He wrote original music for the Broadway production Eccentricities of a Nightingale. He has composed the music for a wide range of genres and provided themes and scores for motion pictures and TV shows.
One of his most accomplished soundtracks was for the 1971 western Valdez Is Coming which starred Burt Lancaster. In which Lancaster portrayed an ageing town constable Bob Valdez, who is forced to kill someone accused by a wealthy landowner Frank Tanner of being a murderer. It transpires that the man is innocent and his wife a native American is left to fend for herself.
Valdez is an honourable man and feels bad about killing her husband, so he asks Tanner for monetary help for the man’s wife, but he is ridiculed and almost killed by Tanner’s henchmen. Valdez recovers and summons up his days in the U.S. Cavalry so that he can fight them. Valdez wounds one of the henchmen and sends him back to Tanner with the message, “Valdez is Coming”. Charles Gross wrote a highly atmospheric score for the movie, and although it was not overflowing with themes as was the norm during this period for a western, the music was effective and fully supportive in a sparser way.
The composer utilising music sparingly but managing to fashion a sense of apprehension and tension to underline the storyline via ethnic sounding percussion and instrumentation as in the cue The Indian Woman, and at the same time creating subdued themes which were at times short lived but still had to them a hint of melody. The composer also made effective use of the woodwind section, at times lacing these outings with electronic enhancement for effect.
He also combined Timpani with strings and a small brass section in some of the action cues, as in the composition, The Cross.
The score for Valdez is Coming is one that should have been released at the time of the movies release, it is not only inventive but highly original. The central theme is heard in various guises throughout the score, and mostly accompanies Valdez, the most prominent performance being in the films MainTitle which is one of the longest cues within the score, but the composer also employs it or variations of it in cues such as Uniform and Guns but bolsters it giving the theme a more martial sound as we see Valdez preparing to go looking for Tanner and his henchman.
In many ways I have always thought that the score for Valdez is Coming is similar in style to that of the Wild Bunch, at times understated but also effective. Although Charles Gross was a highly sought-after composer there is sadly very little of his film music available on recordings. His film and television scores included Valdez is Coming (1971), The Tenth Level (1976), Blue Sunshine, (1978), The Dain Curse,(1978), Heartland(1979), My Body My Child (1982) to name but a few.