Rupert Holmes’ Swing has more than a touch of noir—and its own soundtrack. Set in San Francisco in 1940, vagabond jazz musician Ray Sherwood has been made a very interesting proposition. A beautiful, young Berkley music student wants him in a most peculiar way. She’s won an international contest for composers, and her piece needs to premiere at the Golden Gate Exposition in just a few weeks. What she needs from Ray are his talents to orchestrate her music for many instruments. Ray is enchanted by Gail’s breezy joie de vivre and her snappy patter even as his own troubled past makes him hesitate. But the tenor veers from sweet romance to dangerous liaison when a lovely woman plunges to her death mere feet from the happy couple, changing this composition’s theme from serenade to police siren.
Holmes’ historical and musical settings are extremely well-realized, which is not surprising when one considers that he helmed the beloved 1940s television series, Remember WENN, and has won the Edgar Award for mystery twice and also captured Tony Awards (best book & best musical score) for his musical rendition of The Mystery of Edwin Drood. As to the matter of the accompanying soundtrack promising musical clues, I must confess that unmusical as I am, I skipped it and still found the mystery intriguing on its own, probably as much for characters’ charms and the big band orchestra setting as the clues themselves. I recommend this one to all who like that gritty, dangerous world of noir underscored with the glamour of the nightclub scene and the loneliness of the human heart.