Backbeat: Score to Johnny Depp's 'Rum Diary' Makes Live Debut @ L.A.'s Catalina Bar & Grill
Backbeat: Score to Johnny Depp's 'Rum Diary' Makes Live Debut @ L.A.'s Catalina Bar & Grill

Portishead
Band of Brothers: Composer Christopher Young, center, is flanked by his agent Vasi Vangelos, left, and Brian McNeils of Lakeshore Entertainment, which released the soundtrack to "The Rum Diary."

The band assembled to perform Christopher Young's score for the Johnny Depp film "The Rum Diary" was considered the largest ensemble to ever mount the stage at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood.

Not that records are kept, but one might wonder how large could that be? Large enough that, when valets were greeting drivers in the club's parking garage, they were asking "are you a musicians or here to see the show?"

The packed bandstand was so overflowing that the front row of the audience was used to accommodate half of the eight-person string section, a conga player, vibraphonist, three trumpeters, conductor Chris Walden and the composer. The two-dozen musicians performed the score in full Oct. 27, the day of the digital release of the soundtrack and the day before "The Rum Diary" opened on nearly 2,300 screens.

In front of a crowd of more than 200 people that included composers Daniel Licht and Elia Cmiral ("Piranha 3DD"), Young guided an ensemble of first-call studio and jazz musicians through a score that echoes jazz and Frank Sinatra recordings of the late 1950s, enhanced with Latin rhythms and the sting of the blues. The music took a few unexpected twists -- a Caribbean Bo Diddley-style rhythm, some organ-driven funk and a free-for-all that could have been "In a Silent Way"-era Miles Davis with strings -- but mostly stuck to Young's reference point: "Imagine it's the late 1950s and you're driving around Puerto Rico in convertible."

Andrew Spence led the trumpeters; Jeff Clayton anchored the saxophones with consistently sensual playing; and Jon Mayer, who recorded with Jackie McLean and John Coltrane in the 1960s, held down the operation at the piano. Young, who introduced nearly all 24 musicians around the vicinity of the stage, sang in a hipster Captain Beefheart style and played various percussion instruments.

Young greeted so many people with hugs and kisses that one could have thought he knew the entire audience. Key members of his team on hand were his agent, Vasi Vangelos of First Artists Management; manager Ray Costa; Brian McNelis of Lakeshore Entertainment, which released the soundtrack; and Beth Krakower of CineMedia Promotions, who is handling promotional activities for the score.

Czech-born Cmiral marveled at the quality of the musicianship onstage. "In Europe you would pay hundreds of dollars to see something like this," he said. "It's amazing that it exists, but it's even more amazing how good it is."

Portishead
T"RUM"peter Andrew Spence plays Christopher Young's score for "The Rum Diary," starring Johnny Depp opening Friday, Oct. 28.

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