Ted Kooshian: Top Cat

Despite his name, Top Cat didn't enjoy much time at the top. His Hanna-Barbera cartoon show was canceled after only 30 episodes. But he paved the way for the Pink Panther's later rise to feline stardom, and left behind a great theme song. It is adopted here by Ted Kooshian's quartet as a spirited blowing number, and makes you wonder why the other cats haven't been calling this song at jam sessions. I don't remember all the modulations in the original cartoon score (by the unheralded Hoyt Curtin of Flintstones and Johnny Quest fame), but they work well in this arrangement. Everybody solos on this track, and the performance captures the loose and easy ambiance of the Top Cat himself. Kooshian takes a lot of chances on this CD and selects some peculiar tunes, but this one is the pick of the litter.

May 07, 2008 · 0 comments


Jerry Goodman: Theme from Perry Mason

In the mid-'80s, violinist Jerry Goodman signed a contract with New Age label Private Music. This was surprising to many of his fusion fans. After all, New Age music was the antithesis of fusion. As far as the jazz and fusion crowd was concerned, New Age was music to take a nap by. But, in character, Jerry slowly rebelled against the wishes of the label. Each succeeding album he put out for Private was more fusion and less New Age. It reached a point on It's Alive that it became the end of the line between Goodman and the label. What his Private Music albums did do for Goodman was to give him the chance to showcase his composing skills, which are highly evident throughout this performance.

Of course, Jerry Goodman did not compose the "Theme from Perry Mason." Fred Steiner did that way back in 1957 for the TV crime drama starring Raymond Burr. Goodman's update is a rollicking blues interpretation with violin and synthesizers taking over for the brass section. A heavy backbeat supports the main theme, which begins as a sinister accusation before the whole case is laid out. Goodman then takes a solo turn that Fred Steiner could never have imagined back in 1957! It is a twisted, distorted, screeching joyous mess. It forces Della Street to leave the room. The music culminates in a rousing surprise confession from the witness box. (Well, maybe it wasn't such a surprise.)

March 06, 2008 · 0 comments


Ray Anthony: The Peter Gunn Theme

When Peter Gunn premiered on NBC-TV in 1958, it was a breath of smoky air. Suave leading man Craig Stevens breezed through the title role of a hip private eye with a sexy, jazz-singer girlfriend. Naturally this clicked with trumpeter Ray Anthony, who knew all about sexpots, having married Mamie Van Doren and costarred onscreen with Jayne Mansfield. Ray's quickie cover of "Peter Gunn" beat Henry Mancini's original to the punch. Oh, Hank gussied his up with French horns, but jazz criminologists weren't fooled. Ray's grittier Gunn had more pop. Maybe it came from hanging out with blonde bombshells. Gussied French horns were no match for Ray Anthony's gleaming trumpet.

November 08, 2007 · 0 comments


Vince Guaraldi: Linus and Lucy

"Twelve drummers drumming?" suggested Linus. "Don't be ridiculous," snapped Lucy, his older sister. They were choosing a gift for her unrequiting sweetheart, Schroeder the toy pianist. "I've got it!" exclaimed Linus, passing Lucy an LP from the stash in Charlie Brown's garage. "Vince Guaraldi?" she hesitated. "Is that classical?" Linus, anxious to finish before Charlie Brown returned from the fool's errand upon which Lucy had sent him, replied, "The classiest!" And that's how Schroeder came to supplement his devotion to Beethoven with a love of jazz. Alas, he still ignored Lucy—one more thing for which she'd never forgive Linus.

November 07, 2007 · 0 comments


Skip Martin: Riff Blues

Man, that Mickey Spillane. Talk about your hardboiled crime scribblers! Mickey turned trash to cash faster than the mug what invented landfill, and spent it, too. Never spotted in public without which a flashy dame was draped around each arm. "Riff Blues" gets it right, with brassy bluster and silky saxes followed by a romantic interlude of flute and tinkling piano to keep the girls interested, then a big swell with kettledrums to wake up the goodfellas, all done with the slow sway of a savvy stripper sashaying down the runway. Highbrows call this ambience. Lowbrows, knowing better, call the ambulance. Either way, it's made music.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


Buddy Morrow: Staccato's Theme

Staccato (1959-60), starring John Cassavetes, eliminated the middleman between jazz and TV gumshoes. Based in a Greenwich Village nitery, pianist Johnny Staccato, like so many real-life musicians, doubled as a streetwise private eye. Elmer Bernstein's theme, recalling his earlier crime jazz classic The Man with the Golden Arm, is déjà vu all over again. Same bunco-squad tempo, jailbird shuffle beat, stiletto-in-the- eardrum trumpets and oversexed saxes. Given Hollywood's passion for formulas, which exceeded Mme. Curie's, crime jazz became so self-referential that everything started blurring together. What are you watching, dear? Mickey Spillane's Wild One With the Staccato Golden Gunn. That's nice.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


Count Basie: The M Squad Theme

Count Basie, photo by Herb Snitzer

Pound for pound, the toughest 1950s TV cop was Lt. Frank Ballinger of Chicago PD's M Squad. No, the M didn't stand for Lee Marvin, who played Ballinger. M stood for murder. During its first season the show's theme was nondescript. Then the producers sprang for 2½ minutes of mayhem by Count Basie and his mob of heavies blasting away like the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, aided and abetted on the soundtrack by squealing tires and gunfire. Go ahead, listen if you have the guts. Just don't go runnin' your mouth when the coppers pump you. You never heard of me. Got it?

October 30, 2007 · 0 comments


Mike Metheny: The Flintstones Theme

They’re getting jazzy in Bedrock as Mike Metheny and his Soundtrek Big Band swing through the theme of the classic cartoon The Flintstones, with Metheny improvising on the well-known melody on muted cornet. An unexpected take on the tune that’s a lot of fun – and just try to keep yourself from shouting, “Yabba dabba doo” when it’s over.

October 29, 2007 · 0 comments


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