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John Stetch: TV Trio

Woodrow Wilkins By

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Pianist John Stetch makes it clear that the Great American Songbook has a sequel: television themes. With TV Trio, Stetch presents a collection of some of his favorite themes from perhaps the most influential period of this music, the '70s and '80s.

Canada-born Stetch earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Montreal and won the Prix du Jazz at the Montreal International Festival in '98. His recording and stage associations include Mark Turner, Charlie Haden, Victor Lewis and others. Accompanying him on TV Trio are Doug Weiss on bass and Rodney Green on drums.

A hint of "Merry Melodies" opens "This Is It," the fanfare that began the popular Bugs Bunny hour. Stetch's arrangement captures the original melody but shakes, rattles and stirs it to new directions; Weiss and Green are very effective in the background, while Stetch carries the show.

One of the more recognizable and often covered themes, if only because the series has remained contemporary since its cancellation after only three seasons is "Star Trek." Even when playing the original melody, Stetch manages to mix in something new, keeping it familiar but at the same time going where—pardon the expression—no musician has gone before; he's taken the song from a show theme to a lively jazz club offering.

In contrast is a rather subdued take on "Dallas," absent are the strings, horns and triumphant pace of the original. This arrangement disappoints, relative to the vigor and creativity shown with the other songs. "The Love Boat," though slightly more upbeat, also lacks the flair of the original; for those familiar with the originals, the slow pace and quiet mood may take some getting used to.

Green's high-speed cymbal play helps highlight the dramatic "Six Million Dollar Man," perhaps the most challenging song in the set. Stetch takes what was a one-minute show piece and turns it into more than five minutes of no-holds-barred jazz. After the faithful opening, the trio takes off into free-spirited play, briefly going back to the theme; the trio then softens, with Green providing extra emphasis on the toms and cymbals.

A few of these titles aren't as memorable as the shows—not to the point where they became radio hits like Bob James' "Angela" (Theme from Taxi), Mike Post's "The Rockford Files" or "L.A. Law." Though some original melodies are more dominant than others, this is straightforward piano-led jazz trio music—enjoyable on its own merits, independent of the shows from which it draws its inspiration.

Track Listing: The Waltons; This Is It (Bugs Bunny); Star Trek; Dallas; Love Boat; The Six Million Dollar Man; Rocky and Bullwinkle; The Mighty Hercules; The Price Is Right; All My Children; The Flintstones; Sanford and Son.

Personnel: John Stetch: piano; Doug Weiss: bass; Rodney Green: drums.

Title: TV Trio | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced

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