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.