Get Carter gets revived and rearranged

Roy Budd's music for the film Get Carter is reimagined for Hammond organ and piano trio plus guest trombonist Dennis Rollins

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Wendy Kirkland at Ronnie Scott's in 2021

Pianist and singer Wendy Kirkland has completed a project with trombonist Dennis Rollins that recalls the Michael Caine film Get Carter and its music, written by British pianist Roy Budd.

Budd, a child piano prodigy, was in his 20s when he composed and performed the score, using a trio featuring Tubby Hayes band stalwart Jeff Clyne on bass and Dudley Moore’s regular drummer, Chris Karan.

Get Carter was based on the book Jack’s Return Home, by Ted Lewis. Commissioned by Monty Martin, founder of the Ted Lewis Society, Kirkland’s Get Carter project is a reworking of Budd’s haunting film score from 1971, with original material by Kirkland.

The music appears in the same order as it does in the film, telling a story and using a stylistic palette of swing, soul, jazz, reggae and late 60s R&B. All the pieces bar the car chase (The Girl In The Car) – which was arranged by guitarist Pat Sprakes (also Kirkland’s husband) – were arranged or composed by Kirkland.

With Kirkland on Hammond organ, acoustic and electric piano and effects, Sprakes on electric and upright bass and Steve Wyndham on drums, the band is graced by special guest Rollins, who adds his inimitable trombone and effects skills.

Originally intended for several performances in 2020, with a première at Hull Jazz Festival, the project faced a Covid postponement until November this year, when the première was performed at Hull Truck Theatre to an audience of over 100 – social distancing meaning this was close to a full house. Now the project is ready to hit the road, with other concerts now in the offing, and a live recording of the concert planned for 2022.

Kirkland said: “I wanted to bring the music up to date whilst retaining the original character of the pieces, especially the theme, which uses tablas as a nod to Eastern influences in music of the late 1960s, especially jazz-inflected crime-film themes of the time – Lalo Schifrin’s theme to Dirty Harry employs them extensively.

“I added a touch of reggae to one of the pieces, too, and knew that with Dennis at the helm we could really go to town.”

Other music included in the film and this project was composed by R&B giant Willie Mitchell and Kirkland herself, who penned the haunting trombone lament Remembering Frank. “We think the result has enough diversity to attract film-music fans and jazz fans as well as lovers of other genres, including world music, such was the pool of influences that Budd used to compose, and which I have expanded,” Kirkland added.

Normally to be found in the piano chair of her trio and other line-ups, Kirkland has been busy touring with her Arts Council-funded 2021 Latin Lowdown Live project featuring Roger Beaujolais on vibraphone. It saw Kirkland on piano and voice performing a raft of Brazilian and Afro-Cuban pieces, often sung in Portuguese and Spanish.

Kirkland returned to her roots with the Hammond organ. “My Organik Trio performed a lot leading up to 2020, featuring Pat on guitar while I provided, in time-honoured tradition, the bass with my left hand as so many other organists have done and continue to do,” she said. “I haven’t played the Hammond so much because of the pandemic, but I missed its sonorous extremes of brashness and subtlety so much that I leapt on the chance of including it in this project. After all, the Hammond and the Wurlitzer stage piano were instruments relied upon by Budd and club players of the time. It felt vital to include them in this set.”

Appearing soon at various music venues. Check out wendykirkland.com or facebook.com/getcarterlive.