How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The moody "Theme from Blonde," with Roy Hargrove's mellow trumpet in the spotlight, sets the stage for an album of relaxed swing and throwbacks to an earlier, comfortable period. Marilyn Monroe was a product of the big band era. It affected her tastes in music ... and other things. She later helped launch Playboy magazine. Now, a television mini-series based on the life of Monroe helps launch Concord's Playboy Jazz label. Patrick Williams' songs and arrangements depict a life of glamour and fabled success that is undermined by nagging questions and mystery. Suave tenor saxophonists Scott Hamilton and Plas Johnson recall an era when jazz was "cool" and simple. Like the life of Marilyn Monroe, jazz was not over-analyzed, back then, to the point of trivialization. How times have changed.
Gregg Field and Warren Luening lead a terrific selection that recalls the mesmerizing power of Gene Krupa. Bill Watrous and Plas Johnson trade solos on a mellow big band ballad. Similarly, Kenny Burrell and Mike Lang trade off in a heated Count Basie kind of affair. James Moody's conversation with the orchestra on "Me and my Baby" changes the scene slightly, as the veteran smokes an improvised affair to heat things up. The jazz standard "Three Little Words" features Watrous and clarinetist Terry Harrington. Luening's ballad feature, "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," adds a touch of class, while Dennis Rowland's vocal selection summarizes the film's searing passion and lonelier moments.
Concord Records has selected from the finest of L.A.'s big band artists to produce the soundtrack for this mini-series and inaugural Playboy label release. The mood that Patrick Williams captures is both genuine and fresh.
Track Listing: Theme fromBlonde; Party Time; The Blues for Norma Jean; The Road to My Heart; Cool Pads; Heat (The Slow Burn); Chelsea Bridge; The Big Time Bounce; One Sunny Day; Firelight; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; You're My Dream; Easy Street; Me and My Baby; Three Little Words; The Road to My Heart.
Personnel: Ray Brown- bass; Kenny Burrell- guitar; Roy Hargrove, Snooky Young- trumpet; Bill Watrous- trombone; Plas Johnson, Scott Hamilton, James Moody- tenor saxophone; Dennis Rowland- vocal; Orchestra: Mike Lang- piano; Chuck Berghofer- bass; Gregg Field- drums; Mundell Lowe- guitar; Larry Bunker- vibraphone; Warren Luening, Wayne Bergeron- trumpet; Dan Higgins- alto saxophone; Terry Harrington- tenor saxophone, clarinet; Lee Callett- baritone saxophone; Endr