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Jazz, Noir, and Wynton Marsalis Come Together in Motherless Brooklyn’s Multifaceted Soundtrack


Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose and Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “Motherless Brooklyn,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release | Photo by Glen Wilson/Warner Brothers

Motherless Brooklyn is a new noir film written and directed by Edward Norton. It’s about a private eye in 1950s New York, played by Norton, who’s chasing down a case of corruption and conspiracy that got his partner killed. The soundtrack is more pivotal, and more multifaceted, than usual: Norton commissioned a new song from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, “Daily Battles.”

And the story orbits around a jazz club, where a character played by Michael K. Williams plays the trumpet — but the trumpet you hear actually belongs to Wynton Marsalis, who did new arrangements of standards and of the Thom Yorke song.


Cinematographer Dick Pope and actor/director/writer/producer Edward Norton on the set of Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “Motherless Brooklyn,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release | Photo by Glen Wilson


Composer Daniel Pemberton | Photo by Chloe Pemberton

The film’s composer, Daniel Pemberton, had the uniquely challenging task of seamlessly stitching all those elements together with a completely original noir jazz score — in a film full of romance, chase sequences, intrigue, and humor — that feels of the time, but also urgently modern. On top of that, Norton’s character, Lionel, has Tourette’s syndrome — and Pemberton tried to take the score inside his unique mind.

I interviewed Pemberton at the Henson Recording Studio, where he was getting ready to record the score for the DC comic book movie Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.

Hit play below to listen to our Arts Alive feature.  
Jazz, Noir, and Wynton Marsalis Come Together in Motherless Brooklyn’s Multifaceted Soundtrack
  Motherless Brooklyn, with an original score by Daniel Pemberton, is in theaters now.
Written by:
Tim Greiving
Tim Greiving
Published on 11.18.2019

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