Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blue Note Goes to the Movies (and TV)

There are plenty of albums from the '60s and '70s that feature studio orchestras or jazz groups performing movie and TV themes. Most of these cover versions aren't very significant in terms of musical innovation, but occasionally a good performance is heard. Blue Note has made an effort to uncover the good stuff, with varying results.
Blue Movies: Scoring for the Studios collects jazz versions of both movie and TV theme music. Alongside such cinematic favorites as "The James Bond Theme," the themes from Last Tango in Paris and Midnight Cowboy are TV themes from M*A*S*H, Star Trek, Kojak and Mission: Impossible. The artists on tap include such stalwarts as Count Basie, Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan, Grant Green, Bobby Hutcherson, Billy May and Willie Bobo. Generally speaking, Blue Movies is conceptually sound and an enjoyable diversion, but not essential listening.
In comparison, Blue TV: Blue Note Takes a Commercial Break, is more a marketing ploy than soundtrack-centric compilation. Instead of getting TV show themes or notable library recordings, you get jazz/pop recordings that have appeared in TV commercials. Examples range from Peggy Lee's "Unforgettable" to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy." Oddly, a track featured on Blue Movies is also featured here -- Wilton Felder's cover of "Theme from Bullitt." Most of the music here is vocal jazz, featuring older tracks by June Christy and new work by US3. While the music itself is generally of high quality, the notion of marketing it as TV commercial music is perhaps misleading since it isn't TV commercial music by design.

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