Staccato & Paris Swings/Bernstein
January 23, 2011
Staccato, a musical term denoting an abrupt distinct note was a Revue/Universal 1959 television series lasting 26 weeks, filmed in New York starring John Cassevette, as a jazz musician who is a private investigator on the side. One of the interests to the soundtrack collector was the number of Hollywood jazz greats who appeared in the show itself as well as recording the music. Some of the sidemen included Shelly Manne (drums),Dick Nash (trombone), Ted Nash (sax), Dave Pell (sax) Ray Brown (bass), Barney Kessel (guitar), Johnny Willams (piano), and Pete Candoli (trumpet).Even though this show was shot in New York it featured West Coast sidemen and that cool jazz sound from west of the rockies.
Bernstein who had survived and gotten past the McCarthy witch hunt was on the verge of breaking out and becoming an ‘A’ composer with such scores as The Great Escape, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Magnificent Seven ready for pen and paper in the next three years. This was just the beginning of a long and glorious career in Hollywood with over 200 credits to his name.
Big band material is featured on this 12 track 33 minute jazzy release in a unique style that could be similar to Gil Evans, Neal Hefti, Billy May, Nelson Riddle, Johnny Richards, and Marty Gold, but Elmer put his own stamp on the arrangements. The arrangements are a lot more structured than say a Count Basie composition. The time is shorter, 3 minutes as opposed to 7 or 8 but the basic idea is still there. The vibraphones, drums, trumpet, piano, or sax is given the opportunity to showcase themselves, just in a shorter time frame. The “Staccato” theme, or main title makes use of the biting brass and the sax section as each has their turn in carrying the melody. This is continued with a very busy arrangement where the various sections all chime in to contribute to the big band track.”Thinking of Baby” continues the big band theme but is more of a bluesy number with sax first and then trumpet adding solo material. “Poi and Juice” spotlights the guitar talents of Barney Kessel with strong help from Candoli on trumpet. “Night Mood” is soft quiet time jazz with the sax first backed by harmonizing from the muted trumpets and then some nice solo piano from Johnny Williams. “Deadly Game” brings the staccato style front and center in a cool sounding underscore.”Walk a Lonely Street” is another sad slow blues number featuring an extended piano solo from Johnny Williams.
If you’re into the 50’s and 60’s style of jazz this soundtrack will be right up your alley. This score could have been titled something different and released by Blue Note as a jazz gig featuring Kessel and Candoli. The half hour will be filled with rhythm and tempos to keep your interest. While it is not strong in the melody area there is enough thematic material on each track to keep your ears listening. Bernstein could have pursued the jazz side of music easily as he was well trained in this area. As a soundtrack lover I’m glad he was given the opportunity to produce such wonderful scores for us over the years. Check out his jazz side and I’m confident you won’t be disappointed. Recommended.
Capitol #ST1287 or DRG19110 CD which also includes Paris Swings.
Paris Swings is one of those albums that really don’t offer anything one hasn’t heard before except for a couple of original compositions from Bernstein. For a jazz album the arrangements are pretty standard, never leaving the box. The group consists of Previn (piano), Fagerquist (trumpet), Candoli (trumpet), Bunker (percussion), Mitchell (bass) Ted Nash (reeds), Shelly Manne (drums), and Barney Kessel (guitar). Each of the sidemen contributes on the 12 tracks but the solo/improvisation material is limited to a few bars with the exception being “Symphony” where Manne and Bunker are allowed to explore South American rhythm on the bongo. It was nice to hear Previn but there is really very little solo work from the talented pianist. Consider these 12 tracks a bonus if you’re purchasing the DRG CD.
Total Duration: 01:04:51