Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fourplay “Let’s Touch the Sky”

Sometimes it’s enlightening to consider the passage of music time in human terms. For example, kids conceived during their parents’ grooving to Fourplay’s first album in 1991 – a classic of its kind – have probably all left the nest for college as the indefatigable Fourplay’s twelfth album, Let’s Touch The Sky, heads out into the world in 2010.

Once and probably always considered a “smooth jazz” collective, this daddy of what’s now known as “contemporary jazz” presents founders Bob James on keyboards, Nathan East on bass and occasional vocals, Harvey Mason on drums and the group’s newest addition, Chuck Loeb, replacing Larry Carlton on guitar. Each boasts an impressive résumé as a studio musician and accompanist while perhaps only James and Mason have had notable, nee legendary, front-line success in the jazz world. But together, this foursome produces its very own sound, a tight lock of four like-minded musicians fronted by James’ varying keyboards (mostly piano) and the guitarist’s mellifluous counterpoint.

Each member of the group contributes material to the program, but usually the best material emanates from Bob James, a much stronger and more prolific writer than any of the other Fourplay members with the exception of former player Lee Ritenour. That’s true of Let’s Touch the Sky too. Here, James contributes the nicely conceived title track, the lovely “Gentle Giant (For Hank),” a warm and loving tribute to the late pianist Hank Jones offering superb commentary from all involved, and the album’s jazziest and very best track, “Golden Faders.”

Just as the group’s album titles have evolved from suggestive puns to motivational platitudes, James has provided compositions to Fourplay that raise the bar a bit more each time too. Ever since 2002’s Heartfelt, James has seemingly endeavored with his compositions to push the group beyond its smooth expectations and rather by-the-book delivery, the unfortunate byproducts of a successful synergy.

Too often elsewhere, there’s a tendency for complacency, as the group wallows in Fourplay retreads (Loeb’s ironically titled “Above and Beyond” is this disc’s seemingly obligatory “Bali Run” rerun) or crowd-calming sound-alikes (Loeb’s “3rd Degree,” East’s “I’ll Still Be Loving You” and “A Night in Rio” are all signature Fourplay forays).

Harvey Mason, on the other hand, provides two particularly nice compositions that evoke more of the drummer’s work back farther in time with James, with the lovely “More Than A Dream” recalling 1979’s Bob James/Earl Klugh classic One on One and the breezy fusion of “Pineapple Getaway” suggesting the underrated 1982 Bob James/Earl Klugh follow-up Two of a Kind.

Chuck Loeb is an inviting, though hardly unpredictable, addition to the group, adding quite a bit more spark of personality than Larry Carlton provided on nearly all of the previous seven Fourplay albums. Loeb, who is frequently associated with Bob James elsewhere, often recalls Lee Ritenour here. He is especially fleet fingered and surprisingly, given his admittedly pretty tone, adds a little more spice of the jazz fire to Fourplay.

This is particularly evident on the guitarist’s post-fusion redux “3rd Degree” (a reference to the place Loeb plays in the group's guitar chair), “Gentle Giant,” “A Night in Rio” and the excellent “Golden Faders.” On acoustic guitar, Loeb suggests a cross between the pretty sound of Earl Klugh and the slightly meatier approach of Lee Ritenour, a perfect foil for James, who has worked extensively with all three guitarists, and most notable on “Let’s Touch the Sky,” “More Than a Dream” and “Pineapple Getaway.”

Nathan East – whose bass solos are captivating on all three of the Bob James pieces – vocalizes in his inimitable Fourplay way on his own “A Night in Rio,” briefly during his solo on the title track and sings his own lyrics to his own very Stephen Bishop-sounding “I’ll Still Be Lovin’ You.”

Second season American Idol winner Ruben Studdard is featured on the group’s agreeable cover of “Love TKO,” a nicely considered tribute to the late Teddy Pendergrass, while Anita Baker takes a smokey and especially winning vocal on the particularly torchy sounding “You’re My Thrill,” perhaps the single best vocal piece ever heard on any Fourplay album (the singer appeared with the quartet at the JVC Jazz Festival in Oakland in 2009).

If more Fourplay albums sounded like what the group and Anita Baker achieve together on “You’re My Thrill,” I wouldn’t mind such vocal intrusions to these discs. More often than not, the Fourplay vocal songs are commercial distractions which seemingly have nothing whatsoever to do with the remainder of the record. Not so with “You’re My Thrill.”

After twenty years and a dozen albums, Let’s Touch the Sky may prove that Fourplay still has something left to say. Longtime Bob James fans will certainly appreciate some of the composer’s better recent compositions and the hefty dose of fine acoustic improvisation he provides.

Fans of Fourplay will hear plenty here to like too, including a higher-than-average abundance of notable music. And the addition of Chuck Loeb to the group signals what drummer Harvey Mason hopes “opens up new opportunities and new potential” for the group. If they don’t quite touch the sky here, they’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lalo Schifrin “Le Concert à Paris”

Composer, conductor and pianist Lalo Schifrin presented a concert of film music for the Festival du Film Jules Verne Aventures (aka Festival Jules Verne) on April 23, 2007, at Le Grand Rex theatre in Paris, France – the city’s biggest movie theater – that was caught superbly by Festival leaders for this 73 and a half minute CD presentation.

It’s a pristine recording of an above average performance that captures Schifrin in a rare “Jazz Goes to Hollywood” concert mood. It also evinces several rarely heard nuggets that the composer’s fans will want to hear.

While Le Concert à Paris bears many signs of illegitimacy (no label, no catalog number, limited pressing, no press), it sounds official, it looks official (the nice digipak sleeve bears the concert poster’s artwork) and it bears an introductory note by the Festival’s co-founders, Jean-Christophe Jeauffre and Frédéric Diedonné.

The Los Angeles-based Jules Verne organization’s web site also lists a heady honorary board including Buzz Aldrin, Tippi Hedren, William Shatner, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick Stewart, James Cameron, Patrice Leconte, Christopher Lee, Harrison Ford, Malcolm McDowell and Jane Goodall. But, oddly, the site has no readily apparent listing for this CD.

Schifrin’s program expectedly covers his own well-known film and TV themes (“Mannix,” “Bullitt,” “The Fox,” “The Cincinnati Kid” and, of course, two versions of “Mission: Impossible”) as well as the equally well-known Monty Norman James Bond theme (which, oddly, suggests what might have happened had Neal Hefti scored Goldfinger). While Schifrin’s piano factors heavily on many of these pieces, the arrangements of “The Fox” and “The Cincinnati Kid” heard here, and the soloing Schifrin provides, are surprisingly fresh and wonderfully inventive.

Schifrin premieres a suite for his “Enter the Dragon” score here (something he had done earlier for Cool Hand Luke) as well as a suite I’ve never heard before for the “Dirty Harry” themes, prominently featuring the electric bass work of none other than Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood’s son, Kyle.

Several extremely nice surprises appear as well in the form of “Concorde: Airport 79,” aka “Theme From ‘The Concorde – Airport ‘79’” (only issued on a long-forgotten 45 in 1979 and hardly ever performed by Schifrin in concert); “Rollercoaster Park Theme,” a lovely waltz, better known as the secondary “Magic Carousel” theme from the 1977 film Rollercoaster; “Cotton Club (Echoes of Duke Ellington),” reprised for the first time since Schifrin’s first Jazz Meets The Symphony studio recording in 1993; and a great version of the famous secondary Mission: Impossible theme, “The Plot,” recalling the version heard on the 1968 album issued on Dot Records.

Due to the limitations of CD space, the concert’s performances of “The Four Musketeers” and “The Cat (Les Félins)” were omitted from this presentation. That’s a shame, as both pieces rank highly among the composer’s film work. But one can hardly dispute the high quality of great music present on Le Concert à Paris. It’s a terrific performance that reveals the too-little known caliber of music Lalo Schifrin delivers on the concert stage.

Monday, October 25, 2010

California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium

Masterworks Jazz continues its celebration of the 40th Anniversary of CTI Records with the most complete version of the legendary California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium ever heard, newly re-mastered from the original eight-track masters. The new two-CD set doubles the content of the original five-song, two-LP release with five additional tracks – three of them never-before released – and restores the original concert sequence for the very first time ever. It also represents the best sound these performances have ever had. (As an aside, astute viewers will note that Sony restored the LP's beautiful cover art with the original typography, but the restored CTI logo has been moved for some strange reason outside of the sun.)

After CTI Records became independent in 1970, founder Creed Taylor celebrated the label’s early success by collecting a group of musicians actively recording for the label at the time for summer tours. These tours were package deals highlighting the label’s records and its best-known music. Billed as the “CTI All Stars,” the varying collective assembled each year between 1971 and 1975 playing stadiums and large venues like rock bands and reaching larger audiences than any one of the CTI artists could ever hope to reach on their own.

For this particular occasion, Taylor handpicked a dream team of CTI artists for what would become California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium, one of the label’s first all-star live assemblages. The concert was an absolute success, featuring George Benson on guitar, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Hubert Laws on flute, Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Hank Crawford on alto saxophone, Johnny Hammond on organ and electric piano, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums and Airto Moreira on percussion.

It is one of the finest recordings in the whole CTI catalog and it contains all of the label’s star performers of the time at their very best, in often exciting interplay with one another, playing their CTI hits. Each was as likely as not to be on the other’s studio recordings too. That means great players at the top of their game playing with other great players at the top of theirs. Too few recordings in the whole of jazz have this much star power, this much great - and label-specific - music and this much great playing.

This definitive document of the first and best-known of the CTI All Stars concerts contains nearly all of the entire performance including all of the original 1971 LP’s five tracks, “Fire and Rain,” “Red Clay,” “Sugar,” “Blues West” and “Leaving West,” which though left off the 1987 CD issue of California Concert was included on the 1990 Epic/Legacy CD The Best of Stanley Turrentine.

The new two-disc set is also enhanced with other performances from the concert issued elsewhere, including Freddie Hubbard’s lovely take on “Here’s That Rainy Day” (previously issued on the 1990 Epic/Legacy CD The Best of Freddie Hubbard) and Johnny Hammond’s utterly riveting take on Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” (previously issued on the 2002 CD reissue of Johnny Hammond’s Breakout) as well as three never-before released tracks including “Impressions” (which introduces the entire all-star line up), George Benson’s marvelous take on Miles Davis’ “So What” and Freddie Hubbard’s funkier than expected “Straight Life” (with a great number of soloists including George Benson, offering a snatch of the groove the guitarist laid down for 1973’s “Dance”).

Also on the concert program was Hank Crawford’s never-before issued performance of “Never Can Say Goodbye,” but even though Sony mastered the song with every intention of including it on the two-disc program, it simply didn’t fit. Disc one amounts to 77:50 of playing time and disc two tops out at 76:06.

This sort of all-star jazz concert was not only the exception to the rule back in 1971. It is nearly unheard of today. There are probably quite a number of reasons for this, chief among which is probably the lack of true jazz stars still alive and labels such as CTI Records that house so many prominent jazz recording artists. It’d be hard to gather a comparable line-up of jazz stars on the level of what CTI did for their all-star dates in general and California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium in particular (indeed only Laws, Carter, Cobham and Airto are still with us today). Sure, Hubert Laws and Airto Moriera showed up for several recent CTI All Stars dates in Europe. But it’s not the same anymore.

And many CTI fans may wonder whether Sony will ever release the 1972 Hollywood performances issued on three 1977 CTI LPs, the remainder of the July 19, 1971, concert in Los Angeles that have yielded several bonus tracks on other CDs or other well-recorded, though bootlegged recordings of the CTI All Stars captured live in Munich (1972), Seattle (1973) or New York City (1975). All of these are especially unlikely to ever see official release from Sony or Sony-licensed labels. So I would suggest enjoying California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium, not only the pinnacle of the CTI All Stars, but also the only recording of this assemblage we’re likely to enjoy on an official level.

The masterful California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium is an absolute classic, filled not only with great players playing at or above their best, but also brimming with some of the era’s most definitive music. This is an essential addition to any jazz collection and a strong argument for just how good jazz could be in the early 1970s – especially for those who think otherwise: proof positive that CTI Records not only had much to say to jazz listeners of the day but to true music lovers of all generations.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pat Sounds: The Music of Patrick Williams

[Note: In all fairness, much of this article was previously posted. But I needed to add several important records to the outline that were unintentionally left out of the original article. Thanks to Matthias Künnecke and Stefan Kassel for use of the headline.]

Patrick Williams has lived several lives. He’s also waxed enough music for several lifetimes of spare time to take in.

He is a consummate bandleader who has arranged and composed a variety of recordings that wed jazz with pop and the classics, from the hip and collectable Verve records of the late sixties and his Grammy Award winning magnum opus Threshold in 1973 to the series of records issued on his own Soundwings label in the 1980s and the Grammy nominated Sinatraland in 1998.

He also avidly pursues a career in music education, having held posts as Visiting Professor and Composer in Residence at the University of Utah and The University of Colorado. He’s led many college bands and provided arrangements to a number them and has lectured at many universities including Berklee College of Music, Duke University, Indiana University, Texas Christian University, UCLA, USC and Yale University.

He has composed a number of concert works especially suited to such distinctive jazz soloists as Gerry Mulligan, Dave Grusin, Tom Scott and Eddie Daniels.

He has also worked with practically every singer of the past 50 years. During his early days in the 1960s, he did albums for Steve Lawrence, Edyie Gorme, Dionne Warwick and Diahann Carroll. He went on to work with Phoebe Snow, Billy Joel (The Stranger), Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, Sinead O’Connor, Linda Ronstadt, George Strait and has recently been heard on discs by Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Michael Feinstein, Matt Dusk, Brian Setzer, Barry Manilow, Monica Mancini, Paul Anka, Erin Boheme and Traincha.

In addition to providing arrangements to Frank Sinatra’s Duets, Duets II and Sinatras 80th: Live In Concert Williams has also worked with jazz singers Chris Connor, Mel Torme, Astrud Gilberto, The Singers Unlimited, Diana Schuur and, most recently, Patti Austin (For Ella) and has plied the Christmas trade in a plethora of recordings by Dean Martin, Amy Grant, Barry Manilow, Vince Gill, Gloria Estefan, Martina McBrice, John Pizzarelli and Clay Aiken.

Patrcik Williams is, though, perhaps best known for the many TV shows he’s scored, notably Mary Tyler Moore, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco (and the riveting main theme), The Bob Newhart Show, Lou Grant (and the main theme), Columbo, Monk and After M.A.S.H. (and the main theme).

But he’s also scored dozens of theatrical films such as The Cheap Detective (1978), Cuba (1979), Used Cars (1980), Some Kind of Hero (1982), The Slugger’s Wife (1985), Cry-Baby (1990) and many television films as well (Jesus, Blonde and We Were The Mulvaneys).

Unfortunately, despite all his many accomplishments and awards, Patrick Williams remains something of an insider’s secret, what folks call a “musician’s musician.”

Patrick Williams, for all he’s done and he’s done a lot, seems stuck in the background; someone who’s never made that one key record (though Threshold comes mighty close), scored that one timeless hit (“The Street of San Francisco” is a near miss), or roused any of the cult following that such contemporaries as Lalo Schifrin, Dave Grusin, Quincy Jones or even John Williams (no relation) have (some of PW’s best music has been attached to films that no one’s ever seen and movies whose only artistry was its music).

Regardless, there are quite a number of recordings that reveal a great deal of evidence proving Patrick Williams’ dynamic virtuosity and crafty compositional skill. I’ll try to list a handful of them here. Almost everything under review here is heard on vinyl, with sadly too little of this music deemed worthy to be reissued on CD. In some cases, once available CDs of the material listed here are already long out of print and highly collectable (read: pricey).

Shades of Today (Verve, 1968): Recorded in New York City in late 1967, Shades of Today is the first album under the name of “Pat Williams.” The album falls a little outside of instrumental jazz into that category of adult orchestral music that the Columbia label was profiting with at the time by the likes of Percy Faith and Ray Conniff. Verve never really aimed for this market. But after Creed Taylor’s 1967 departure, the label found it much more difficult to maintain an identity – particularly as rock was threatening to overtake sales of almost every jazz artist recording at the time. Additionally, nearly all of Verve’s orchestral leaders had either gone on to other types of music or other labels. Pat Williams, who was 27 at the time of these Pete Spargo-produced recordings, must have seemed like a cooler avatar of the bachelor-pad style: someone young enough to dig rock and educated enough to respect the jazz heritage. From this perspective, Shades of Today is especially enjoyable. The leader contributes two glitzy pop-ish originals (“Shades,” “Bubbles Was A Cheerleader”) to a program that mixes some slick jazz standards (“Li’l Darlin’,” “King Porter Stomp”) with radio hits (“The Look of Love,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “A World Without Love”) and particularly un-Brazilian takes on then-in bossa novas given especially odd titles, “Laia Ladaia (Reza)” and “For Me! (Arrastao).” The sleeve credits none of the orchestra’s players except several of the well-known soloists: Hank Jones on calliope for “Shades” and piano for “King Porter Stomp,” trombonist Bill Watrous (who sounds a lot like Dick Nash here) on Johnny Mandel’s beautiful “Cinnamon and Clove” (from The Americanization of Emily), Marvin Stamm on flugelhorn for “(Can’t Live In) A World Without Love” and piccolo trumpet for “Bubbles Was A Cheerleader” and little-known session trumpeter Ray Crisara on “For Me! (Arrastao).” While it usually comes off sounding like little more than showy Vegas-styled music, Shades of Today has nuggets of beauty (particularly “Cinnamon and Clove”) to be heard and is an often lovely snapshot of a particular time and a specific musical style.

How Sweet It Is! (RCA, 1968): This is the very first feature film Patrick Williams scored and the first of his soundtrack albums to be issued. It is also a particularly excellent example of the lively and inventive music Williams often brings to film. As liner notes writer Mort Goode says about this James Garner-Debbie Reynolds comedy (written and produced by Garry Marshall), “How Sweet It Is! is a honey of a romping, saucy, uninhibited motion picture.” Williams comes to the fore with a rather delightful orchestral score that mixes much of his clever melodic sensibilities with a great panache for sparkling orchestration. The mood is light to be sure. But every note Williams scores here is well worth hearing. There are the inevitable nods to the light/comedic work of Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin and, most especially, Henry Mancini (check out “Sun on the Beach” or the gorgeous “Jenny”). But there is something that Williams – particularly in a light mood – makes and establishes as all his own. Goode continues “Pat writes with strong melodic flourish and a fresh, frothy feel. His arrangements have a rakish, seductive quality that adds spice to the film’s laugh lines and appeals to the ear, as well.” Jim Webb contributes two utterly forgettable pieces (“How Sweet It Is” and “Montage from How Sweet It Is” featuring the unknown Picardy Singers). But everything worth hearing here is from Patrick Williams. And it’s worth hearing, indeed. How Sweet It Is! is a total joy! Many highlights, but my favorites include “A Pair of Booby-Traps,” “Lonely Afternoon,” “Sun of the Beach” (featuring Bill Watrous in Dick Nash mode again?), “Bugged” (could that be Zoot Sims?), “Face Up To It Baby,” “Jenny” and the groovy “Beach Ball.”

Think (Verve, 1969): Pat Williams displays much more personality and far less showy glitz here than on the previous Shades of Today. Despite a program that more or less replicates the former Verve album, Pat Williams reveals much more of a personified definition here and comes up with a record that has much verve and originality to offer, even though its innate of a pop-ified (though mostly ignored) end. It’s all still brassy, but much more imaginatively so. Williams is developing an orchestral personality here that was lacking somewhat significantly on Shades of Today. The program repeats the structure of Williams’ previous Verve album: Williams originals (“Chicken Feathers,” “What’ve You Got To Lose”), another piece by Johnny Mandel (“Mexican Breakfast” from Harper), another Neal Hefti number (“Girl Talk”), radio hits (“Like Always,” “Think,” “Little Green Apples,” “Hey Jude,” “I Say A Little Prayer”) and some refined bossa nova (“Recado Bossa Nova”). And the entire orchestra is named here in addition to the soloists: Bill Watrous (“Like Always,” “Recado Bossa Nova”), Dick Hyman (“Girl Talk,” “Mexican Breakfast”) and Marvin Stamm (“Think,” notably “Little Green Apples,” “What’ve You Got To Lose?) and the only reed player listed here at all, Zoot Sims (“Think,” “Chicken Feathers,” “Hey Jude”). It’s all still a little too light-footed for jazz. But here Williams chooses some rather perfectly-crafted melodies to express his clever ideas, notably “Like Always,” “Think,” “Recado Bossa Nova,” “Little Green Apples” (!), “Chicken Feathers,” “Hey Jude” and “Mexican Breakfast.”

Heavy Vibrations (Verve, 1970): Pat Williams’ third and final Verve album is probably among his best for the label, though it’s quite a bit different than the two Verve records that preceded it and the two Williams albums that followed it. It still runs the popular gamut, mixing brassy covers of AM radio hits of the day (“Get Back,” “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Whiter Shade of Pale,” “River Deep-Mountain High”) with another Brazilian cover (Edu Lobo’s “Ponteio”) and slightly more originals than usual (“I Will Wait for Love” and “Variations on an Autumn Theme,” both from the long-forgotten film A Nice Girl Like You, and “Catherine”). The tunes are pretty decent and Williams’ arrangements are meaty and muscular, although – for some unknown reason – the great Al Cohn arranges the thoroughly funky take on “Son of a Preacher Man” (featuring Eric Gale and, notably, Chuck Rainey) and the gorgeously considered take on Edu Lobo’s “Ponteio” (first known through Sergio Mendes’ 1967 recording and probably better known now in the version done on CTI by Astrud Gilberto). Fun as all of it is, the album’s real highlights are Williams’ own “I Will Wait for Love,” prominently showcasing a terrific flute choir, and the far too brief “Variations on an Autumn Theme.” Strangely, there’s less than a half an hour’s worth of music here and, unsurprisingly, not much room for soloing. Sadly, too few of the great New York studio musicians listed take any solos other than such brief spots for Dick Hyman (“Get Back,” “Whiter Shade of Pale”), Marvin Stamm (uncredited for “Don’t Leave Me”) and flautist Julius Baker (the one-and-a-half minute “Variations on an Autumn Theme”).T he Howard Roberts Chorale are heard nicely on Edwin Hawkins’ “Joy, Joy” (featuring Milt Grayson) and “River Deep-Mountain High” (featuring Shirley Garrett), also contributing to the sense that this is not entirely Pat Williams’ own record - or a lot of fiddling was done at the last minute to try and spark up what was considered not too much music or something not commercial enough.

Carry On (A&R, 1970): Billed for the first time here as “Patrick Moody Williams,” the bandleader’s Carry On is virtually unknown and the first (and only?) record on the A&R label – no doubt named for the NYC recording studio where part of the album was recorded (parts were also recorded in L.A., where Williams had relocated to by this point). It’s a fairly well-programmed and well-tailored effort that features three more cutting-edge pop covers (James Taylor’s “Country Road,” Stephen Stills’s “Carry On” and, surprisingly, Paul McCartney’s “Junk,” which was the album’s single release), a Williams original “(“Silent Spring”), a riveting cover of “Long Black Veil” (notable at the time due to The Band and Johnny Cash’s covers), two of Williams’ film themes (“Jennifer” from Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker and the “Love Theme” from the David Janssen/Jean Seberg film Macho Callahan) and a fairly straight rendering of Bach’s Adagio. Williams continues to refine his approach to music, coming up with a particularly clever blend of jazz and pop (”Long Black Veil,” “Silent Spring,” a gorgeous orchestral piece which was used recently in the Bryan Reynolds play Woof Daddy, “Love Theme from ‘Macho Callahan’” and “Carry On” particularly), concocting some persuasive musical combinations and again highlighting some genuinely interesting instrumental talent: Marvin Stamm (“Country Road,” “Long Black Veil,” “Carry On,” and “Adagio”), tenor saxist Pete Christlieb (“Country Road”), keyboardist Mike Melvoin (“Carry On”), guitarist Al Hendrickson and alto saxist Bud Shank on “Love Theme” and drummers Paul Humphreys and Larry Bunker and bassists Max Bennett and Chuck Berghofer on “Long Black Veil.” Sadly, none of the musical contributors outside of the soloists are listed. But Carry On testifies to Patrick Williams’s way with a tune, particularly his imaginatively interesting way with well-known work. Carry On, which seems though it was probably recorded for Verve, was way too cool for Verve.

Threshold (Capitol, 1973): While many record buyers weren’t seeing Pat Williams music in the record stores in 1973, they were however hearing a heaping helping of his music on such weekly TV shows as Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show and The Streets of San Francisco. That all changed with Threshold, one of the very best and best-known of bandleader Patrick Williams’ records. This is the first album under the leader’s name that is made up entirely of his own compositions. And a magnificent bunch it is. The five tracks heard here are all on the long-ish side and represent a stunning orchestral jazz feat that is peopled by (mostly) West coast musicians conversing with some of Patrick Williams’ (up until then) most dynamic writing. Truly, Williams had never written material prior to Threshold that could best this level of invention and excitement. And he’s got some extraordinarily fine jazz talent to bring it on home: reed player Tom Scott (“And on the Sixth Day,” “Threshold” – which has a “Streets of San Francisco” groove to it – and “Mr. Smoke”), trumpeter Marvin Stamm (“And On The Sixth Day,” the riveting “The Witch,” “Threshold,” “Mr. Smoke”), percussionist Larry Bunker (marimba on “The Witch”) and such soloists as violinist Jerry Vinci and flugelhorn player Buddy Childers (“The Witch”), cellist Gloria Strassner (“A Lady Beside Me”) and harmonica great Tommy Morgan (“Mr. Smoke”). Adding tremendously subtle horns and a string section and a sterling rhythm section featuring Mike Melvoin on keyboards, Larry Carlton and Dennis Budimer on guitars, Jim Hughart on bass and – most notably – John Guerin on drums, Williams comes up with a truly dazzling program here that, believe it or not, beautifully mixes jazz with rock and classical in a way that never sounds like a forced fusion and something that Patrick Williams can pretty much claim as his own. Threshold, which won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards presentation in 1975, is without question one of the very best examples of orchestral jazz produced during the seventies. The 1973 Capitol album has since been reissued on CD by the composer himself on his own Soundwings label in the 1980s and, more recently, as part of the ArtistShare cooperative. “A Lady Beside Me” was belatedly issued as a single in 1974.

Capitol also issued two Pat Williams records on 45-only releases that covered some of the pretty groovy, then-in TV sounds of the day: A happening cover of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Police Story” b/w Williams’ own theme to the Bill Bixby TV show “The Magician” (Capitol P-3940, 1974) and “Theme of ‘Streets of San Francisco’” b/w ”California Love Story” (Capitol P-4036, 1975). Only the brilliant “Streets of San Francisco” has found life on CD in various TV and movie compilations such as The Mad, Mad World of Soundtracks Volume 2. It would have been nice to have this music included on subsequent CD releases of Threshold. But, alas, these songs languish in rarefied world of hard-to-get 45s.

Harrad Summer (Capitol, 1974): The long-forgotten and unnecessary sequel to the long forgotten and unnecessary The Harrad Experiment (1973) loses the original’s stars (James Whitmore, Tippi Hedren, Don Johnson, Bruno Kirby – even Melanie Griffith, Hedren’s daughter, in an early and uncredited role) but replaces Experiment composer Artie Butler (who did a great job on the cheesy score for 1972’s What’s Up Doc) with Pat Williams for a fun little score, on the surprising light side, that must have seemed pretty darned uncool to anyone on the south side of 40. Williams’ score here seems a little anachronistic for 1974, sort of in the Burt Bacharach-circa 1967 mode (“Let the Love Begin” reminds me of “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”). Little-known singer Gene Redding, who issued one album on Capitol under his own name in 1974, sings three songs here and while his vocals are mildly appealing, the songs he sings barely register. But there are several worthy moments which register slightly above the (way too) easy-listening fluff that Williams seems forced to conspire to here: the great “Tonight We Swing,” featuring what sounds very much like Tom Scott on tenor sax, is probably the soundtrack’s sole highlight. But it’s a gem. “Double Wedding” offers something of a preface to the light melodic charms Williams provides on How To Beat The High Cost Of Living and according to IMDb, the film’s producer said that the musician playing the Fender Rhodes on the fairly engaging “Welcome Home Harry” is Doovid Barskin, at the time one of Capitol Records' A&R men. "We had to give him a part in the picture," producer Dennis F. Stevens quipped (there’s another nice Rhodes solo in “The Eyes Have It,” but it’s impossible to say whether Barskin performed this). "Otherwise he wouldn't release the soundtrack album.” Harrad Summer offers some of the lightest Patrick Williams on record. It’s a shame he could do this sort of thing so well – which shows that anyone with even a mild interest in Patrick Williams won’t be hugely disappointed by this record. But he’s capable of so much more.

Come On And Shine (MPS, 1977): This ranks among Patrick Williams’ very best; a hidden gem, brimming over with interesting originals (except the covers of “Bob Newhart Theme,” the TV show Williams was scoring at the time, and MPS owner Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer’s “Blue Light”) and some terrific soloists distinctively making ideal musical statements. It was also the first of the bandleader’s album where he was billed as “Patrick Williams,” the name he goes by today. Half of Come On And Shine was recorded in New York City during 1977 (“Come On And Shine,” “One For My Three,” “And We Will Love Again,” “The Late Night Wizard”) and the other half was recorded in Los Angeles (“Lou Grant Theme,” “Sail On,” “Bob Newhart Theme,” Barrio,” “Blue Light”). The album was issued as Come On And Shine on the German MPS label in 1978 and as the bizarrely generic Theme (probably due to the inclusion of the “theme” to two TV shows Williams was actively engaged in at the time) on the American Pausa label. In either case, the album has long been out of print and one of the scarcest of all of Williams’ records. Not necessarily as grand in intent or execution as the previous Threshold, Come On And Shine shows what Williams could have done on his Verve albums given half the chance. The groove-laden title track features Dave Grusin comping on electric piano, Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax and was included recently (at my suggestion) on Universal’s recent Disco Jazz compilation. The scandalously brief ballad “One for My Three” features trumpeter Marvin Stamm, tenor saxist Lou Marini and alto saxist Gerry Niewood. “Lou Grant Theme” (which Williams would also include as “Lou’s Blues” as part of his 1983 album Dreams & Themes with Tom Scott taking the lead) features Jerome Richardson on alto sax. The beautiful “And We Will Love Again” features guitarist Steve Kahn, the immediately identifiable Dave Grusin (comping on electric piano and soloing on acoustic piano) and the harmonica of Toots Thielemanns, who also solos on the clever big-band funk of “The Late Night Wizzard.” The gospel funk of “Sail On” showcases Steve Khan on electric guitar while the surprisingly funked-up take on “Bob Newhart” theme spotlights Sonny Burke on electric piano. The moody “Barrio,” which, like “Blue Light” features the great tenor sax of Pete Christlieb, is surely from one of Williams’ TV or film productions (probably Lou Grant) and is one of the album’s strongest tracks. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out there was a lot more music recorded during these sessions. But we’ll probably never know. In any event, what’s heard here is a joyful noise and sets the tone for the kind of album Williams would do under his own name, at least throughout the eighties.

The One And Only (ABC, 1978): Carl Reiner directed this obscure comedy starring Henry “The Fonz” Winkler between his better known films Oh, God! (1977) and The Jerk (1979). This is one of the first feature films Patrick Williams had scored for some years, as he was tied up in scoring a great deal of episodic television and serving as Composer in Residence at the University of Colorado. Here he comes up with a particularly lovely theme, given lyrics by the estimable Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and voiced by the renowned jingle singer Kacey (Kvitka) Cisyk (1953-98). The song, which is repeated often on the soundtrack album and often voiced by the great Chuck Findley on flugelhorn, is something of a forerunner to “The Rose” (and even the previous year’s “You Light Up My Life,” which Cisyk also sang in the original film). Sadly, outside of a great many variations of the theme featuring Findley’s lovely horn (not to mention the extremely dated use of electric drums!) and several dreadful marches, there is little to recommend The One And Only soundtrack except the often lovely and subtle Bill Byers arrangements (on all except the two vocal pieces).

Casey’s Shadow (Columbia, 1978): Martin Ritt’s deliberately out-of-fashion oat drama featured Walter Matthau as a horse trainer and single father to several boys including the adorably cute Casey (Michael Hershewe), who loves horses and inspires the name for the racing horse of the title, Casey’s Shadow. It’s an unusual picture that inspires a particularly unusual score, particularly for late 70s Hollywood. Sure, it’s melodic and sensitive as something like this story would suggest. But it seems to be trafficking in a sort of country-and-western melodrama that would neither have appealed to the mass populous of the time nor provide a score that would appeal to many looking for a stirring musical experience. Patrick Williams provides a suitable enough musical setting with a soundtrack that only kicks into gear, such as it is, on side two. The “Theme” is enjoyable. “Getting Ready” is pure Allman Brothers kitsch (“Ramblin’ Man” apparently features in the film too). Laurindo Almeida provides the brief and beautiful guitar spots (“Shadow Grows,” “A Time For Tenderness”), Dobie Gray performs the Patrick Williams/Will Jennings song “Let Me Go Till I’m Gone” and Dr. John provides two markedly regrettable pieces, “Jolie Blonde” and “Coon-Ass Song” (the latter, obviously featuring Tom Scott, who would feature Mac on his later solo album Apple Juice). The album’s final tracks, “The Blow Out” and “The Big Race,” offer the only musical glimpses here of Patrick Williams’ musical integrity and compositional virtuosity. For the record, the album cover is one of the strangest – and worst – concepts conceived during this period, especially considering it was a major-label release - but it matched the film poster art too.

Cuba (Kritzerland, 1979): Patrick Williams’ score to Richard Lester’s 1979 Sean Connery-starrer Cuba received one of the composer’s more unusual scores, featuring “a lot of driving percussion and some great dynamic, dramatic cues.” It is also one of the composer’s finest achievements, a serious score brimming over with well-conceived ideas and some of Williams’ most beautiful music. Williams’ creates the proper atmosphere by alternating location-appropriate percussion cues teeming with tense strings or low-end horns, all minimally deployed (“Cuba,” “Truck Drive/Julio Runs For It,” “I Don’t Want To Leave Cuba,” “The Ambush,” “The Preparation / No Explanation,” “Skinner’s Escape,” “Air Rescue”) with gorgeous, reflective balladry (a love theme whose variations can be heard in “First Sight,” “Alex Remembers,” “The Reunion,” “I Adored It / Beach Talk / I Knew You Would,” “The Parting”). Williams also jiggers the percussion enough from cue to cue not only to diversify the potential monotony of it all but to suggest moreover – quite beautifully - changes in mood and the film’s varying mise en scène. The bonus track, an easy-listening big band arrangement of the Fain/Webster standard “A Certain Smile,” is a magical Mancini-esque moment worth savoring. It would be a dream to hear a whole album of Patrick Williams in this mode! Apparently, Patrick Williams prepared his music for Cuba for a soundtrack album release that never happened. Bruce Kimmel produced the music’s first-ever release on the Kritzerland label in May 2010 and writes an enthusiastic and informed liner note for the CD promising more of Patrick Williams’ in the future. Here’s hoping! Cuba is a bravura musical achievement.

An American Concerto (Columbia, 1980): Patrick Williams began “An American Concerto” in 1976, when he was composer-in-residence at the music school of the University of Colorado at Denver. It was performed there by an orchestra made up mostly of students, with other musicians drawn from the Denver symphony. The piece received a Pulitzer Prize nomination that year. For this 1979 recording of “An American Concerto,” composer and conductor Patrick Williams assembled Phil Woods (who featured prominently on a Clark Terry album Williams arranged in 1963) on alto sax, Dave Grusin (who featured on Williams’ 1977 album Come On And Shine) on keyboards, Chuck Domanico on bass and Grady Tate on drums to interact with 78 members of the London Symphony Orchestra on the three movements of this 37-and-a-half minute concerto. While the concerto has its moments, particularly during the improvisational sections, and the orchestral passages are often magisterial, there is a never the aural marriage of the two streams there ought to be in such a concoction. The ostinato funk break in “Out of the Darkness (First Movement)” seems to barge into a Stravinsky section right out of the blue (or the darkness!) and when both Grusin and Woods have finished their solos, the piece tries to bring it all together right about the time it seems to end. “Until The End of Time (Second Movement)” seems like a reasonable effort to jazz up Rachmaninoff a bit, with Grusin’s graceful and lovely piano leading Williams’ charge, until the gears shift two thirds of the way through into some sort of a fusion ballad that traipses off into filmic flourishes of tension and the odd relief of Rachmaninoff again. By the concerto’s third movement, “With The Messengers of Joy,” things seem to approach the sound collages Williams has been known to put together. But even this feels like five or six separate and distinctly different pieces edited together. None of this is meant to minimize the musical contributions of any one of the participants. Fans of either Phil Woods or Dave Grusin will not be entirely disappointed. The trouble is that as beautifully executed as it may be, “An American Concerto” feels unfocused and unstructured and never as compelling as its composer or its participants would suggest that it can be. It simply lacks the drama and conviction that Williams has been known to provide to many film scores (where there is a story that simply needs music to be expressed) and any of his shorter musical pieces.

How To Beat The High Cost of Living (Columbia, 1980): Patrick Williams' score to the 1980 comedy How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a witty, engaging piece of jazz fusion that surely ranks its composer as the Mancini of the fusion generation. Here, Williams puts flautist Hubert Laws, who is the perfect choice to perform Williams' sprite and effervescent little numbers, and guitarist Earl Klugh, who would go on to helm Williams' other soundtracks to Marvin & Tige (Capitol, 1983) and Just Between Friends (Warner Bros., 1986), in the front line. Laws and Klugh are perfect together and backed here by a small group of L.A. session musicians including the ubiquitous Mike Lang on keyboards, Tim May and Mitch Holder on guitar, Neil Stubenhaus (who plays the distinctive slap bass which gives the main theme its drive) on bass, Steve Schaeffer on drums and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion. Great music abounds here, from "Down River," the film's main theme, and the slow funk of "Night Moves" (good solos from Laws and Klugh) to the swinging and jazzy "The Edge" and the soundtrack-sounding "The Caper," which briefly cops a lick from "Rise," Herb Alpert's hit of the previous year that also featured Lang's keyboards. Williams expertly crafts themes that not only work well in the film, but play to the strengths and the advantages of his soloists, notably on "Piccolo Boogie" for Laws and "Dream Something" and "It's So Easy Loving You" for Klugh. Laws, who is at his best here, garners more of the playing time than Klugh gets permitted. But the guitarist makes his parts count for something special each and every time he gets the chance. Read more about this album here.

It’s My Turn (Motown, 1980): Diana Ross scored a big hit in 1980 out of this film’s main theme, written by Michael Masser and Carol Bayer Sager. Predictably the Motown soundtrack album the song comes from contains several variations of the theme, an instrumental of the Ross song and four(!) variations by the composer of the film’s score, Patrick Williams. In the typical fashion of soundtracks of the time, two pop songs are also included, “This Is My Love” by Tony Travalini and “Walk On” by Ozone, neither of which have much to do with anything here. As a result, there’s very little of Patrick Williams’ score to hear. There is the beautiful Grusin-like ballad “An Honest Talk” and some of Patrick Williams’ most enthralling string writing on the brief “Main Title” and “Love Begins” (could that be Phil Woods on sax here?). None of the musicians are listed but “It’s My Turn (Jazz Version)” is worth hearing, particularly as one of the two saxes heard here is possibly Tom Scott, who is heading up a rhythm section that I think includes Eric Gale on guitar and Richard Tee on piano (Steve Gadd on drums?).

Dreams and Themes (Allegiance, 1983): Patrick Williams hadn’t made a record under his own name for some years by the time Dreams and Themes came along in 1983. By this point, jazz was going through an uncomfortable period where fusion jazz was either molting into smooth jazz or turning away from the electric eclectics and dance-floors of recent years to what became known then as “neo-traditional.” And there was absolutely no market for the orchestral jazz that Patrick Williams had mastered on 1973’s Threshold. None of this was to deter Williams, who pares down considerably from his previous effort, An American Concerto (1980), to come up with this engaging and often inspiring orchestral fusion, Dreams and Themes. The program is made up mostly of Williams’ originals, including his TV themes for Lou Grant and The Devlin Connection, and a rather inspired take on Johnny Mandel’s “Theme From M.A.S.H.,” a TV show which memorably aired its last episode in early 1983 and begat After M.A.S.H., a show that got its theme and several scores from Williams. As always, Williams assembles a crack team of soloists to bring his wonderfully charming compositions to life: reed player Tom Scott and trombonist Bill Watrous (“Lou’s Blues,” “Agave,” “Times” – which was co-written with famed lyricist Norman Gimbel, who also composed songs with Williams for the films Seniors (1978) and Used Cars (1980) - and the Grammy nominated “Too Hip For The Room”), trumpeter Chuck Findley (“Agave”) and, refreshingly, an arsenal of keyboardists including Robbie Buchanan (“Lou’s Blues”), Don Grusin and Richard Tee (“Theme from The Devlin Connection”) and Randy Kerber (“Theme From M.A.S.H.”). Grusin’s presence in the rhythm section for all but “M.A.S.H.” gives the album an overall feeling of one of brother Dave’s GRP productions of the era. But Patrick Williams gives Dreams and Themes something more significant than many of those radio-friendly records. Nice to hear that music this good was still being made during some of jazz’s darkest days. Dreams and Themes was also issued on the little-known PCM label, which also issued this album’s singles “Lou’s Blues” (PCM 201) and “Theme From M.A.S.H.” (45 on PCM 204 = 45 and 12 inch on PCM 801).

Marvin & Tige (Capitol, 1983): Patrick Williams reunited with Earl Klugh, who was also heard to excellent effect on Williams’ How To Beat The High Cost of Living(1980), for this little-seen yet sensitive drama of a down-on-his-luck white man, Marvin (John Cassavetes), who befriends a young orphan, a black boy named Tige (Gibran Brown), that develops pneumonia. Williams constructs a typically sensitive score for a fusion group and a delicately deployed string section that perfectly resembles much of Klugh’s own music of the time. Klugh is accompanied by keyboardist Ralph Grierson, guitarist Carlos Rios, bassist Neil Stubenhaus and drummer Harvey Mason and provides enough tasteful intrigue to perfectly aid the film and stand alone as a beautiful musical testament. The lovely “Main Title” theme stands out and while it is recycled several times in various iterations (“Out...Then Back,” “Skating” and “End Credits”) it is a strong and gorgeous fusion melody that sounds like something Klugh’s mentor, George Benson, might well have done himself in the mid 1970s. The Mozart Divertimento (“Romance”) is especially well chosen – as any Mozart piece often is – and also gets woven through the musical text (“Searching”) quite nicely, particularly in its solemn delivery by pianist Ralph Grierson, also a frequent soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the time. Grierson, who probably deserves as much credit for the music here as Earl Klugh, practically owns the second side of the record, magnificently soloing on Williams’ startling “Very Sick,” “A Kiss,” “A Painful Goodbye” and “A Swan,” the last several in quiet conversation with Klugh and Williams’ orchestra. The music from Marvin & Tige deserves to be much better known than it is.

Gulliver (Soundwings, 1986): An unusual album based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels with Sir John Gielgud reading writer Larry Gelbart’s text accompanied by England’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing Patrick Williams’ delightfully rousing, Henry Purcell-like score. Performed in two parts, “A Voyage to Lilliput” and “A Voyage to Brobdingnag,” totaling about 50 minutes, the piece is genuinely entertaining – as much for Gielgud’s wonderful reading as for Williams’ enchanting music. While Swift’s tale has inspired many readings (Michael Redgrave) and frolicking film scores (Bernard Herrmann, Trevor Jones), Gelbart (Tootsie, Barbarians at the Gate, etc.) and Williams conceived a reader-with-orchestra version of the tale that, surprisingly, hadn’t been done before. The two, who had first worked together on the TV show After MASH (1983-84), pull it off quite nicely here. Williams provides Gulliver with one of his most charming orchestral compositions. Indeed the music stands nicely on its own and would justify a performance without narration, so well does the music succeed in telling the story.

Just Between Friends (Warner Bros., 1986): Patrick Williams reunites with guitarist Earl Klugh, writer/director Allen Burns (writer and producer of the Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant shows) and the film’s star Mary Tyler Moore for a horrific 80s chick flick that I’ll wager not too many women even bothered to see – if this film ever showed in any cinema. This is another of Williams’ fusion jazz efforts which sounds, not surprisingly, very similar to guitarist Earl Klugh’s own albums of the time. Klugh is backed by the usual suspects: Don Grusin or Randy Kerber on keyboards, Ralph Grierson on piano, Carlos Rios or Tim May on guitar, Neil Stubenhaus on bass, Harvey Mason on drums, Paulinho da Costa and Steve Foreman on percussion and, on several tracks, a string section. The film centers a lot on horribly dated (and now seemingly meaningless) women’s “issues” of the day and the suspect role of aerobics in all of it. So it seems inevitable the pattern the music will follow. But the whole affair is really quite attractive, if not a little dated, even for 1986. Williams covered pretty much the same territory on How to Beat the High Cost Of Living, with a little bit more wit and certainly a bit more verve, though “Reconciliation” comes close. Still, this really is an appealing set of fusion-y pieces that while practically screaming out “MID 80s!” (I’d call it a mix of Tootsie and Flashdance) also finds the resourcefully melodic Williams coming up with some thoroughly appealing melodies throughout. Sure beats just about everything coming out of GRP at the time. Too appealing? Maybe. But anybody who likes Earl Klugh will no doubt ignore all the period trappings and just enjoy the music, which was probably the point of all concerned. The title song is quite nice – performed once with the ensemble and once with “Just Earl” – and the album really does sound better on repeated listens. Surprisingly, Just Between Friends showed up on CD in August 2009 on the Wounded Bird label.

Someplace Else - Bill Watrous with Patrick Williams and his Orchestra (Soundwings, 1986): Trombonist Bill Watrous appeared on some of Patrick Williams’ earliest recordings in New York City. Williams moved West in 1968 but Watrous didn’t relocate there until the late 1970s. The two rekindled their relationship on such recordings as Williams’ 1983 album Dreams and Themes and Williams, who has long favored Watrous’ dexterous and sonorous abilities on the seemingly unwieldy trombone, gave Watrous the opportunity to record an album on the composer/arranger’s own Soundwings label. Here Watrous’ gloriously expressive trombone is paired with Randy Kerber’s keyboards, Tim May’s guitar, Neil Stubenhaus’ bass, Harvey Mason’s drums and Patrick Williams’ magnificent orchestra for a jazzy take on several off-beat classics and a classical approach to some gorgeous jazz charts. Watrous proves he can man such a monumental undertaking. Williams himself provides the grand opening but far too brief “La Fuerza” as well as “Suite Memories,” an orchestral coupling of the standards “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” and “Yesterdays,” and the arrangement for “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” Williams collaborates with Robert Farnon for the adaptation of “Shenandoah” and (presumably, the conductor) Michael Moores provides adaptations of Massenet’s “Adieu Mon Petite Table” and “A Tribute to Debussy.” The trombonist gets down to business with “There Is No Greater Love” (and “No More Blues” on the CD only) with just the rhythm section, showing he’s no slouch at proving his swinging improvisational chops. It’s all quite stirring and makes one wonder why Williams hasn’t utilized Watrous’ voice on more of his soundtracks. Bill Watrous also waxed a sequel to Someplace Else on Soundwings in 1987 called Reflections, arranged, conducted and produced by Patrick Williams.

One Day/One Night - Tom Scott (Soundwings, 1986): Tom Scott has a long history as a jazz and pop session player, a musical director, a featured soloist on many television and film soundtracks, many TV and film scores of his own (few of which he ever plays on) and as a prolific recording artist for the Impulse, Ode, Epic, Columbia, Atlantic and GRP labels. He’s also been a featured soloist on many of Patrick Williams’ albums and soundtracks. Surprisingly, Scott had never really done an orchestral album prior to his 1986 album with Williams, One Night/One Day, which was recorded between Scott’s 1983 Atlantic LP Target and the first of his GRP albums, 1987’s Streamlines. One Night/One Day is, however, only partially orchestral, with such typical Scott fare as “Nite Bloom,” “La La Land,” the standard “Star Eyes” and Williams’ belabored “New Orleans Knows” (featuring a Ronnee Martin vocal) getting the rhythm+soloist with occasional string flourishes routine. The more orchestral music here includes the Patrick Williams/Will Jennings ballad ”One Day” (from the unbilled 1986 film Violets Are Blue, originally sung by Laura Branigan, and covered again by singer Ronnee Martin on her own 1987 Soundwings album), a rather too-ponderous take on Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” that devolves into a seemingly anachronistic 4/4 fusion romp, heavy on the thumping electric bass, and Williams’ own elegant and eloquently fascinating “Romances For A Jazz Soloist And Orchestra.” While One Day/One Night is meant to display Tom Scott’s musical diversity, the program is a little too eclectic to be appreciated in its entirety. But surely the fusion-y “La La Land” and the ethereal orchestral work of “Romances” stand out here.

10th Avenue (Soundwings, 1987): In one of his all too infrequent orchestral jazz records, Patrick Williams returns to first-rate form for this sterling collection of originals and swinging covers. He also returns to New York to form the “Patrick Williams’ New York Band” featuring pianist Richard Tee, guitarist Chuck Loeb, bassist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist Ralph MacDonald and a terrific orchestra peopled with such soloists as Marvin Stamm and Randy Brecker (trumpet), Bill Watrous (trombone) and Michael Brecker (tenor sax). Surprisingly, Williams offers only two originals here. His title track is one of those classically rousing, infectious and witty concoctions he does so well, a neat little study in how a particularly well-chosen rhythm section (notably Tee, East and Gadd) can hold its own with a charged and horned-up orchestra. The ballad “Her Song,” a feature for Michael Brecker’s passionately endearing tenor sax, reflects Williams’ mastery of the ballad form, no doubt honed from years of providing subtle orchestral palettes for scores of singers. The pop covers here are chosen with a great deal of care and given Williams’ ever affectionate treatment. Pianist Richard Tee is magnificently featured on Paul Simon’s terrific “Still Crazy After All These Years,” a tune he played just like this for years behind Paul Simon himself (this album’s co-producer, Phil Ramone engineered and co-produced Simon’s original). Michael Brecker positively sings on a “New York, New York” styled take on Billy Joel’s now-standard “New York State of Mind,” a song that originally appeared on the 1976 Joel album that proceeded his breakout The Stranger, which was orchestrated by Williams and produced by Ramone (Williams, who arranged Joel’s album the Bridge around the same time, infuses “New York State of Mind” with a particularly great “bridge” here, very much worth hearing). Williams, who covered Paul McCartney’s off-beat “Junk” in 1970, here reflects on the equally off-beat 1977 Wings single “Mull of Kintyre,” gussying up the simple folk lines with Randy Brecker’s terrifically resonant trumpet (in patriotic mode) and those charming orchestra tones that were present on so many of those old Mary Tyler Moore episodes. Williams also covers some refreshingly off-beat jazz material here including Victor Feldman’s “The Chant” (which dates back to 1960’s Cannonball Adderley and the Poll-Winners), Nat Adderley’s familiar “Jive Samba” (also written for brother Cannonball’s group about the same time) and Quincy Jones’ “The Witching Hour,” a superb revival that goes back to an obscure 1965 Quincy Jones album, Golden Boy, that also featured trombonist Bill Watrous, who solos here. Surely, the Grammy nominated 10th Avenue ranks among Patrick Williams’ very best jazz recordings.

Sinatraland (EMI-Capitol, 1998): Patrick Williams insists that Frank Sinatra is a magnet for some of the finest music written during the 20th century and, even more significantly, responsible for collaborating with some of the best arrangers who helped the legendary crooner advance these tunes beyond the ordinary standard covered repeatedly by other singers or jazz players. Indeed. He’s absolutely correct. Aside from the bracing entertainment value of an orchestral jazz celebration of Frank Sinatra, Sinatraland proves Williams’ assertion with some particularly fine (and brassy) arrangements of Sinatra tunes, a beautifully-peopled big band and some of jazz’s greatest contemporary improvisers. Patrick Williams was chosen by the late singer to helm the arrangements on both sets of his highly popular late-period entries, Duets.In preparing for this task, Williams actually went back to many of the tunes’ original arrangements and even their subsequent re-arrangements and probably learned more about Sinatra’s magic than just about any scholar could get by studying the albums. He conceived this wonderful tribute – one of the earliest and most authentic Sinatra tributes ever waxed – assembled a tip-top orchestra and peopled it with soloists who really made the project come alive: flugelhorn player Warren Lustig (“All Or Nothing At All”), clarinetist Eddie Daniels (“I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Just One of Those Things”), tenor saxist Tom Scott (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”), flautist Hubert Laws (“You Make Me Feel So Young”), alto saxist Phil Woods (“The Song Is You,” “Where of When”), trombonist Bill Watrous (“All The Way”), pianist Mitch Forman (“I’ve Got The World On A String”), alto saxist David Sanborn (“I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You”), trombonist Phil Teele and bassist Chuck Berghofer (“Saturday Night”) and drummer Peter Erskine (“In The Still of The Night”). The program sticks to Sinatra’s “great” period – before music’s trendier glitzes pulled the singer unfairly out of the limelight. Even so, Patrick Williams clearly loves Sinatra and his music and responds with a loving tribute that swings in a way that would not only make the man himself proud but honors much of the joy, energy, verve and wit that Sinatra gave to music that he ended up making his own. Few people outside of Patrick Williams would ever get this or get it right because Patrick Williams himself has always done this in his own music, giving variety and spice to tunes that is appropriate to its particular performance. A highly commendable achievement that is as easy to appreciate for what it accomplishes as it is to enjoy for what it is, Sinatraland is one of the nicest big-band jazz recordings waxed in some decades. Added bonus: Patrick Williams writes out his appreciation of Frank Sinatra in his liner notes and makes informed and enlightened commentary on each and every track he presents on his Sinatra tribute program.

Jesus: The Epic Mini-Series (Angel/Sparrow, 1999): While many from Bach and Handel to Miklos Rosza and Alfred Newman, not to mention Peter Gabriel and John Debney, have told the story of Jesus in musical terms, composer Patrick Williams and director Roger Young agreed to tell their story by avoiding the clichéd organ-and-choir approach of Biblical epics of the past. A bravura move, to be sure. But one that sets up more of a challenge than the composer could probably live up to. Still, Williams brings an epic quality to his 50-minute orchestral soundtrack, consisting mostly of strings, brass and percussion. Apparently, Williams wrote about 110 minutes of music for the TV mini-series and, for some reason, only half of it appears here. For the most part, and to its credit, it never gets bombastic or “religious” sounding. Melodies are often carried plaintively by one solo instrument (trumpet, a stringed instrument, etc) and the melodies are often on the low-key side, never with the pretentiousness that too many other composers would give this sort of thing. Too few discs reveal Williams’ orchestral gifts and while this one is pleasant enough, it probably sets out for more than it ultimately accomplishes. Williams seems to be inspired by Jerry Goldsmith’s L.A. Confidential (1997) here, though Goldsmith’s more similarly-themed Masada (1981) is a frightfully more involving and, ultimately, more memorable score. Still, Williams provides a number of interesting moments, including the “Main Title,” the Morricone horror of “Satan,” the inspired “The Passion” and the tuneful “I Am With You.” Williams’ main theme also appears on a complimentary soundtrack titled Music from and Inspired by Jesus: The Epic Mini-Series while Andrew Lloyd Weber’s questionably necessary “Pie Jesu,” sung by Sarah Brightman, features on both CDs.

Blonde (Playboy Jazz, 2001): Playboy launched its short-lived jazz label, Playboy Jazz, a subsidiary of Concord Records, in the same way it launched its longer-lasting magazine in 1953, with Marilyn Monroe. Patrick Williams was brought in to provide this “jazz-noir soundtrack” to the CBS miniseries, Blonde, written by Joyce Carol Oates (who authored We Were The Mulvaneys, another TV film Williams scored the following year) and directed by Joyce Chopra (Williams had scored three of her previous TV films), and comes up not only with a fine musical portrait of the famed American icon but a remarkably astute and energetic program peopled with some of the greatest jazz players and Hollywood musicians of all time. There’s a horn section, a string section, all eloquently deployed, a rhythm section featuring pianist Mike Lang, guitarist Mundell Lowe, bassist Chick Berghofer, drummer Gregg Field and the vibes of Larry Bunker (who appeared on Williams’ 1973 classic Threshold). The featured soloists are positively dreamy and include trumpeters Roy Hargrove (“Theme from Blonde”), Warren Luening (“Cool Pads,” “The Big Time Bounce,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “Easy Street”) and Snooky Young (“The Blues For Norma Jean”), trombonist Bill Watrous (“One Sunny Day,” “Three Little Words”), saxophonists Scott Hamilton (“Party Time”), Dan Higgins (“The Blues for Norma Jean,” “The Road To My Heart”), Plas Johnson (“Cool Pads,” “One Sunny Day,” “Firelight,” “You’re My Dream”) and James Moody (“Me and My Baby”), bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Kenny Burrell (“Heat (The Slow Burn)”). The program is made up mostly of Williams’ wondrous originals but nicely adds Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge” as well as the standards “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Three Little Words.” The moody jazz atmosphere is sustained beautifully without repeating melodies or motifs as so many neo-noir soundtrack authors too frequently do. Blonde is a masterpiece of retro jazz that honors its period without cliché and manages to sound as comfortably fresh as a new musical work ought to. Patrick Williams has been particularly gifted in this “tradition-in-transition” style of music since his very earliest recordings, knowing in his conceptions and crafty in choosing the right soloists to bring it all to life. A bravura performance.

Aurora (artistShare, 2010): In October 2010, composer and long-time band leader Patrick Williams issued Aurora on the cooperative artistShare label, his first big band album since 1998’s Grammy Award-nominated Sinatraland (nominated for his sterling arrangement on “In The Still Of The Night”). Aurora is meant to follow in the tradition of the composer’s Grammy-winning Threshold (1973). But it’s different in many, many ways. First, while Threshold successfully married jazz and classical tropes with then-in rock rhythms and instrumentation, Aurora is straight-ahead big-band jazz in the Basie/Ellington tradition of the fifties – a period very few traditionalists even revisit anymore. Sure, there are some bows to popularity such as the occasionally electrified instrument and the sporadically groovy rhythm. But like the great leaders of the bands of yore, Williams simply concedes to appeal to contemporary listeners. He’s probably never done a better of job of doing just that than he has here. Additionally, Threshold was recorded, much in the style of the time, by layering parts in different recording studios in California and New York over time: solos over sections over rhythm, etc. Aurora was, for the most part, recorded live in Capitol’s famed Studio A in single takes over two days in August 2010 with a group of West Coast studio players (all in the same room) that know each other – and Patrick Williams’ music – very, very well. Aurora is a musical masterpiece that shows big-band jazz can still say interesting things – some half century after Downbeat asked if the big bands were dead – and sits exceptionally well alongside (if not above) such other great big-band works the composer has launched with Dreams and Themes (1983), 10th Avenue (1987), Sinatraland (1998), the soundtrack to Blonde (2001) and, of course, Threshold (1973), surely one of the greatest orchestral jazz albums of the seventies. While far too many critics often dismiss jazz music made by folks in the film and TV music business – even if the composers, like Patrick Williams, come out of jazz – it’s hard to slight the jazz credibility present here. This is not only imaginative jazz – and, really, how many people are making imaginative jazz these days? – it is top-shelf jazz: fun, swinging (helmed by the great Peter Erskine, who is the absolute go-to guy for good swinging jazz big band music these days), melodic and filled with good improvisation from great players and some truly fabulous writing. Soloists include trumpeters Chuck Findley (“Aurora”) and Warren Luening (“Heat,” “There You Go Again”),flugelhorn player Arturo Sandoval (“Song for a Pretty Girl”), trombonists Andy Martin (“Aurora,” Mandeville”) and Bob McChesney (“Mandeville”), alto saxophonist Tom Scott (a major contributor to Threshold on “Aurora,” “One More Dream” and “There You Go Again”), tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard (“Aurora,” “Heat” and “There You Go Again”), flautist Hubert Laws (“Fanfare for a New Day”), clarinetist Eddie Daniels (“The Sun Will Shine Today”), pianist Tamir Handelman (“There You Go Again”) and legendary studio percussionist Paulinho DaCosta (“Aurora”). Highlights are plentiful here, but my favorites are “Song for a Pretty Girl,” “Mandeville,” “Heat,” “Fanfare for a New Day” and “Aurora.” Aurora is, quite simply, a masterpiece of contemporary big-band jazz.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Alvin Queen at The Jazz Standard This Week with An Incredible All-Star Band!

By popular demand, drummer Alvin Queen returns to New York City’s The Jazz Standard with an incredible All-Star band, starting Thursday, October 21 thru Sunday, October 24:

Alvin Queen – Drums
Javon Jackson – Tenor Sax
Joe Magnarelli – Trumpet
Melvin Sparks – Guitar
Leon Spencer in a VERY rare NYC appearance – Hammond B-3
Neil Clarke – Congas

The Jazz Standard is located at 116 East 27th Street, New York City. For reservations, call (212) 576-2232. For more detail, visit Alvin Queen here.

I would love to hear from anybody who attends any of the shows. With a cast like this, it promises to be very exciting indeed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

CTI on Film

Surprisingly little of CTI’s music can be heard in film. This is probably because Creed Taylor was forced to record so many MGM film themes on his Verve jazz albums back in the 1960s. By the time he started CTI, he probably wanted nothing to do with this sort of thing – and he was no longer forced by anybody to do so. Still, the occasional film theme did pop up on CTI.

Nearly the only original film theme in the whole of the CTI discography is the Astrud Gilberto performance of the Ennio Morricone theme to Le Casse (aka The Burglars), a 1971 film directed by the great Henri Verneuil and starring the redoubtable Jean-Paul Belmondo with an international cast consisting of Omar Sharif and Dyan Cannon.

Creed Taylor had nothing to do with the making of this record yet successfully negotiated for its release on CTI Records. But for some reason, the song – probably recorded in New York City in 1971 with Ron Carter (bass), João Palma (drums) and Dom Um Romao (percussion) – was not included on the original Bell soundtrack LP. It was issued only on a CTI 45-rpm record that was released in Italy and Japan – not, for some reason, in the US.

The Brazilian chanteuse Astrud Gilberto, already famed in films for singing the original “The Girl From Ipanema” as well as Quincy Jones’ 1966 main theme to the Creed Taylor-produced soundtrack The Deadly Affair (not to mention briefly being signed by CTI and issuing 1971's Astrud Gilberto with Turrentine for the label), sung the Le Casse theme, “Argomenti,” in Italian and also another version of the song, “Acercándome a Ti,” in Spanish (a secondary theme from the film was also sung by Gilberto in both Italian and Spanish).

The Italian songs have turned up on several Morricone anthologies and the Spanish tunes turned up on a Spanish CD release of Astrud Gilberto with Turrentine (Wah Wah, 2002) while all four tunes appear on an obscure Korean (!) CD release of Astrud Gilberto with Turrentine (Pleasant Ville, 2004)

There are also several CTI albums that “cover” film themes, including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Stone Flower (CTI, 1970), which features several uncredited renditions of Jobim’s themes from the 1970 The Adventurers, Lalo Schifrin’s Black Widow (CTI, 1976), featuring several film themes of other composers, Schifrin’s Towering Toccata (CTI, 1976), highlighting several re-recorded Schifrin film and TV themes (and a would-be hit, “Most Wanted,” that surprisingly never happened) and the obligatory Star Wars covers (and an odd, yet fantastic, cover of the Silent Running theme) on David Matthew’s superb Dune (CTI, 1978).

Being There - scored magnificently by Deodato's "Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)"

Still, aside from the pirated use of funky CTI tunes in many a late 70s/early 80s-era porno film, there are a few notable uses of CTI music that turned up in film – some credited, some not. CTI’s most well-known tune, itself a cover of a theme used for a film, is also the label's best-known film tune. Deodato’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” (from the 1972 album Prelude), factors significantly in a pivotal scene from Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979). The tune, which was much copied in film and on record, was also later used for Lords of Dogtown (2005).

The Prelude album gets further significant - and uncredited - play during a party scene in William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (a film that future CTI recording artist Lalo Schifrin was dismissed from), from which astute listeners will hear snippets of both “Carly & Carole” and the great “September 13,” the day the titular song was recorded. Curiously enough, both Being There and The Exorcist take place in Washington, DC, and both are filmed on location in the nation’s capitol.

Only several other CTI tunes have ever found their way into film. The ones that I know of include Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay,” featured in Brown Sugar (2002) and Around the Fire (1998), Chet Baker’s “She Was Too Good To Me” and “What’ll I Do” (both from She Was Too Good To Me) in the Polish short film Ja jestem Jurek (2000) and Bob James’ take on “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” (from Bob James Two), which is included in Wild Style (1983), an early documentary on hip-hop.

Any others?