Ted Kooshian doesn’t clown around. Or does he? The
pianist, known for his imaginative adaptations lets loose with the big
noses, funny hair and wide shoes with Clowns Will Be Arriving
(Summit Records, 2015), an exciting collection of five original songs
and remakes of television show themes composed by Hugo Montenegro, Lalo
Schifrin, Johnny Williams and more.
Kooshian uses a variable lineup of players to help him take this trip
through time. Jeff Lederer appears on all but one track, playing flute,
soprano sax or tenor sax. Others who appear here and here are Pete
McGuinness, trombone; Wilbur Bascomb electric bass; David Stillman,
drums and percussion; Matt Jodrell, trumpet; Scott Neumann, drums; Tom
Hubbard, bass; Warren Odze, drums and percussion; Napoleon Murphy Brock,
vocals on “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day”; Morrie Louden, bass; Cliff
Lyons, alto sax; and Paul Livant, rhythm guitar.
“I Dream of Jeannie” kicks things off. Lederer’s flute takes point.
Bascomb’s dynamic bass line gives this track extra depth. The congas add
a tropical vibe. For his part, Kooshian tickles the ivory like there’s
no proverbial tomorrow. McGuinness gets his licks in while there’s time.
The song ends with a series of creative, tightly syncopated phrases.
Trumpet and soprano saxophone harmonize for the main theme of “Get
Smart,” then take turns on the stairstep bridge. Kooshian shifts to
electric keyboard. Neumann’s timely high-hat play mixed with tenor and
snare rolls is the backdrop for the soloists.
Lederer leads with the tenor for Kooshian’s take on “Mannix.” This take
largely follows the path laid by the original, with some subtle
adjustments here to make it distinctive. After delving into the
familiar, Lederer and Kooshian venture into uncharted territory with
their solos. After a brief return to the melody, Lederer plays a couple
of lines from the introduction to Steely Dan’s “Peg.” The inside joke is
that in the series, private investigator Joe Mannix had a secretary
Using electronic noises to aid the introduction, Kooshian and company
deliver a quirky rendition of Williams’ theme for “Lost in Space.” Lyons
joins Lederer for a saxophone duet on the melody. When the ensemble
deviates from the theme, the song takes on a more straightforward jazz
approach, minus the computer sounds. The saxes and the keyboard are in
orbit as each delivers its own message. After the solos, the band shifts
to the season 3 theme before inserting a morsel of the cartoon series
The Jetsons theme. The composer, Williams, went by Johnny in
those days, but later changed to John before delivering such blockbuster
scores for Jaws, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost
Oddly, several of these themes were composed by jazz musicians, and
some, particularly “Mannix,” sounded like jazz songs. But few, if any,
have been remade before now.
All of the material fits into Kooshian’s passion for nostalgia. The
music, including Wayne Shorter’s “Three Clowns,” is culled from
Kooshian’s past. The original songs include the title song, which
Kooshian wrote in 1992 but had never recorded, and three songs named for
favorite characters in two comic strips and one animated series that he
loved: “Koko,” for the clown in Max Fleischer’s Out of the Ink Well
cartoons; “Porkypine,” named for a character in Walk Kelly’s Pogo;
and “Ignatz,” a tribute to a character in George Herman’s Krazy Kat