March 2002

Randy Waldman
Concord Records

I'm pretty sure every microphone in the Los Angeles area was employed to record Unreel. And like any tribute to TV and movie theme songs should be, it's over-produced like a Hollywood blockbuster. Pianist/arranger/trumpeter Randy Waldman augmented his working trio (with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta) with a big-band full of stars like Branford Marsalis and the Breckers, plus a string orchestra to run down 12 tunes by screen maestros like John Williams, Lalo Schifrin and Alan Silvestri, and despite the super-shiny sound, the result is a fun set of mostly familiar melodies done up in larger-than-life jazz.

Waldman's secret weapons against those who groan at albums like this are imaginative charts that will surprise even the most hard-core film buffs and Nick-at-Nite junkies. Especially entertaining are the fusing of Hawaii Five-O's surf-cop theme with the zig-zagging vamp from "Freedom Jazz Dance" and the stop-and-go rhythm of South Pacific's "Bali Hai," that makes it sound more like the theme to Get Smart. And sometimes Waldman doesn't have to rework a song much to make it move, like the bustling, dynamic version of "The Jetsons" that had me pining for daughter Judy-that mid-21st-century fox.

Of course, just like certain television programs invite a sudden change of channels, Unreel has moments where a remote control comes in handy. The string swells that infect the themes from Schindler's List and Forrest Gump tread a little too close to sentimental smooth-jazz territory, as do Michael Sembello's quiet-storm vocals on "Maniac," but those sore points aren't enough to rule out cause for a sequel to this disc.

Originally published in March 2002
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