The late NEA Jazz Master Clark Terry was known for his brilliant playing and sense of humor, the latter which first came into wide recognition when he introduced his "Mumbles" routine in two original blues on the album Oscar Peterson Trio + 1Clark Terry (Mercury, 1964). By the early 1970s, he was well established and had briefly led a big band as well, though his primary focus remained on small groups. This previously unissued session of television themes was suggested by Colorado Jazz Party host Dick Gibson when Terry performed there one year. It features three of Terry's frequent collaborators, pianist Don Friedman, bassist Victor Sproles and drummer Mousey Alexander.
The CD starts off going for laughs with Terry playing two hot choruses of Steve Allen's theme song, "This Could Be The Start Of Something Big." Then he introduces his Mumbles routine, which Allen might have enjoyed had he heard it. Shifting to "I Dream Of Jeannie," Friedman's bop introduction sets up a breezy tempo to feature the leader on flugelhorn, with Sproles' intricate bass line and Alexander's crisp drumming transforming the piece into something completely new. For "Get Smart," Terry alternates between muted trumpet and flugelhorn, adding a comic touch by deliberately fluffing the final note and whispering, "Missed it by that much." Although "Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)" became a favorite of many jazz musicians, especially pianist Bill Evans late in his career, Terry takes a different path by playing it as a jazz waltz, minimizing the sense of melancholy typically heard.
With its ominous vamp and catchy theme, "Peter Gunn" was a big hit in the early 1960s and later recorded and performed by the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Terry's version switches things around, with Sproles introducing the vamp on bass, Friedman playing funky and Alexander on brushes, as the leader's muted trumpet delivers three solid improvised choruses after stating the theme. "The Name Of The Game" was played by a big band in the original TV theme, then later recorded by jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty with Gerald Wilson. Terry makes it work with a quartet, shining on open trumpet with Friedman egging him on with his effective comping. Terry would end up recording "Meet The Flintstones" a number of times throughout his career, though this version stands out, played as a mid-tempo samba on muted trumpet. One of the biggest surprises is the presence of the television theme to "The Rockford Files," which is taken at a tempo similar to the original but with a boppish flavor, though its high point is Terry's reprise of "Mumbles" which simulates him being hauled out of a club for drunkenness, as he exclaims, "Whadya mean I'm goin' to jail, you keystoneshkopishamankliegvrew.. ." as the band fades out behind him.
With the popularity and appeal of Clark Terry, it is hard to imagine why this recording never saw the light of day.
This Could Be The Start Of Something Big; I Dream Of
Jeannie; Get Smart; Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is
Painless); Peter Gunn; The Name Of The Game; Meet The
Flintstones; The Rockford Files; plus many more.
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