MUNDELL LOWE — TV Action Jazz! (review)

MUNDELL LOWE — TV Action Jazz! album cover Album · 1959 · Cool Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
Its hard to beat the sound of 50s jazz when it comes to classic black and white noir crime TV. So successful is the pairing that exotica collectors coined the term ‘crime jazz’ to describe the dark urban music that accompanies TV detectives and the hoods they stalk. Henry Mancini’s music for “Peter Gunn” is often given credit for inventing this genre, so it comes as no surprise that when Mundell Lowe put together his “TV Action Jazz!” LP, he included two tracks from Mancini’s popular soundtrack. “TV Action Jazz!” might seem like a totally kitsch album, and that element is there, but it also features some excellent jazz arranging and solos from top stars of the day like Herbie Mann and Donald Byrd.

The style on here is laid back hard bop and cool jazz, but this isn’t an entirely west coast band on here, more like a meeting of west and east coast cool schools. Lowe has an octet to work with and takes advantage of that set up to create creative arrangements and mini-big band tone colors. Mundell takes a majority of the solos, and his mix of bop and blues guitar riffs recall Joe Pass, only more laid back and with some interesting twists and turns here and there. Tony Scott has a beautiful tone on the clarinet which sounds great on the slinky opening melody to “Mike Hammer Riff Blues”. The young Donald Byrd does not get a lot of solo space, but when he does, he emulates the popular cool players of the era, namely Miles Davis and Chet Baker. Eddie Costas’ solos on piano and vibes carry that cool school tendency toward cleverness, humor and the non-cliché.

Although there are several well known songs on here, such as “Peter Gunn” and “Perry Mason Theme”, Lowe greatly improves these old warhorses with modern abstract arrangements that only hint at the originals. Sure, those that collect kitsch exotica are going to be attracted to this record, but it also contains all those things that made late 50s cool jazz so cool. it’s a win-win on both fronts.
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