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Gambit (Rolfe Kent)

August 16, 2014


Rolfe Kent, 2014, Lakeshore Records
17tracks, 37:24

Rolfe Kent does what he does best. His playful melodies and zany orchestrations evoke the era of Henry Mancini. But… does it offer anything new or is it just more of the same?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Gambit” tells the story of an art curator who decides to seek revenge on his abusive boss by conning him into buying a fake Monet; but his plan requires the help of an eccentric and unpredictable Texas rodeo queen. Directed by Michael Hoffman (“One Fine Day”, “Restoration”, “Soapdish”), the flick stars Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Cameron Diaz. The score is by comedy expert Rolfe Kent.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with five songs. Peggy Lee’s “Once” is a sexy loungy cue (with strumming guitar and a whistful flute), whilst Moe Brandy’s and Robby Armstrong’s songs are energetic Country songs.

The remaining 22 minutes belong to Rolfe Kent, who does what he does best. Anyone familiar with Kent’s often whacky style and orchestrations will know exactly what to expect. The flute and tuned timpanis add a touch of ’60s to the “Gambit Overture” – a bit like “The Saint”, but more comedic. A theme is not instantly recognisable. It’s melodic alright, but it’s such a schizophrenic track that the style(s) and orchestrations attract more attention than any melodic content. However, as the score continues several little themes and motifs do become apparent.

Bouncy rhythms, sultry sax and other woodwinds, strings and various mallet instruments (e.g the dulcimer) are amongst the key ingredients for this score. It has a playful jazzy tone to it, like many of Kent’s scores do. On more than one occasion am I reminded of “Sideways”, though I have to be honest and say that it is not quite that good. I am also reminded of “The Pink Panther”, simply because of that ’60s style and that saxophone. Fans of Elfman’s comedic writing may find something to enjoy in “Gambit”, since Kent and Elfman have a similar approach to zany comedy. Kent himself describes his work as being “quite a jazzy/swing score. That came mostly from the way Harry [Colin Firth’s character] moves around the Savoy Hotel; it had such a fun, quirkily nimble flair, and it pushed me in a sort of Mancini direction.

The composer continues: “There are themes for the main characters, and then there are also themes for certain emotions. There is a love theme for the relationship between PJ and Harry, and there’s a big timpani-drum led motif for Alan Rickman’s bold and self-confident Shabandar character. Colin Firth’s Harry has a few different themes, for when he’s pensive, when he’s on a caper, or when he’s simply being himself.

Is it any good?

Rolfe Kent’s “Gambit” is a pleasant little score. Fans of the composer’s zany style will find much to enjoy here; though it doesn’t offer anything new, really. For Kent this is familiar territory. He has done this kind of thing many times before, and he has done it better (in “Sideways” for example). At 22 minutes, the score portion is short. “Gambit” is perfectly adequate, but it’s not quite as inspired or refined as some of Kent’s other works.

Rating [2.5/5]


01. Rodeo – Robby Armstrong
02. Smokin & Drinkin – Robby Armstrong
03. Birthday Happy – Robby Armstrong
04. Once – Peggy Lee
05. Deep in the Heart of Texas – Moe Brandy
06. Gambit Overture
07. I Have a Plan
08. The Auction
09. Harry’s Fantasy Appraisal
10. The Waiting Room
11. The Savoy _ Ming Vase
12. Harry on the Ledge
13. PJ Gets Personal
14. Harry Meets the Lion
15. Zaidenweber Inspects
16. Harry Exposes the Fake
17. Meanwhile


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