Label: A&M Records
Year Released: 1978
Composer/Artist: Chuck Mangione
Genre: Film Score Soundtrack
Today, we are going to take a look at Children of Sanchez (no relation) by jazz flugelhorn player, keyboardist, and composer Chuck Mangione (b. 1940). This album functions as music to the 1978 film adaptation of the Oscar Lewis anthropological novel The Children of Sanchez (1961), but with with a slight change in time period set in 1968 in the film version. Both the book and movie examine thematic materials concerning family relations, poverty, and class struggles in 1960s Mexico.
To offer some context regarding the film, directed by Hall Bartlet, The Children of Sanchez provides a series of glimpses into the daily lives of Jesús Sanchez (played by Anthony Quinn) and members of his family in Mexico City. At times the film can prove difficult to watch due to multiple factors: the slow pacing, strange lighting choices, and the frequent moments of palpable dramatic tension: especially scenes involving the strong-willed and independent-thinking Consuelo versus the belligerent nature of her father Jesús. Sympathizing with some of the characters also presents a challenge given that some of them express distasteful social behavior. Jesús, for instance, is presented as a father who tries to provide for his family as he struggles to win the Lottery so he can build a house and get his family out of poverty, At the same time, though, his physical abusiveness via machismo and philandering antics serve to diminish his sense of humanity.
Concerning the music that accompanies The Children of Sanchez, the soundtrack consists of fifteen tracks on two records (four sides) and lasting over eighty minutes (The digital version of the soundtrack, based on the CD reissue, features two "discs"). In terms of musical style, the album technically functions as jazz with Latin American elements. Listeners get treated to acoustic guitars with Spanish-sounding riffs, brass, percussion, and dotted rhythms: especially in the opening “Children of Sanchez Overture.” Because Children of Sanchez also works as a Chuck Mangione album, the soundtrack showcases his improvisatory skill with the flugelhorn. Another component that also helps to complement the film stems from how Mangione incorporates religious symbolism. Some of the lyrics that appear on the album directly refer to Biblical passages or Christian Catholic prayer, such as in the vocal opening to the “Children of Sanchez Overture,” Pilgrimage, Part I,” and “Pilgrimage, Part II.” This makes sense because the film also incorporates religious symbolism: not just as irony in character development, as with Jesús Sanchez. The film presents viewers with scenes of sacred social customs (from the presence of the Catholic Church/Mass, to the incorporation of Indigenous-- and African-- Spiritism through root medicine ceremonies) and vitriolic commentary on religion from the perspective of the impoverished.
Based on the liner notes to the album, the music heard on Children of Sanchez took Chuck Mangione three weeks to complete at the request of Hall Bartlett. Bartlet contacted Mangione in 1977 right after his promotional tour for the Feels So Good album. Children of Sanchez presents an interesting approach to film scoring. There most certainly are themes included on the soundtrack, such as the slow and mellow “Consuelo’s Love Theme” to the more fast-paced Latin jazz tracks like “Hot Consuelo” and “Market Place.” What differentiates Children of Sanchez from other soundtracks, though, stems from how Mangione intentionally wanted the tracks included in their original forms. That means that the improvisational sections from Mangione include moments that some listeners could interpret as aural mistakes on the records. It also means that some of the album tracks extend well beyond the three-minute mark:
- “Children of Sanchez Overture”—14 min., 7 sec.
- “Consuelo's Love Theme”—17 min., 4 sec.
- “Medley”—8 min., 20 sec.
- “B’bye”—8 min. 27 sec