John Stetch’s improbable decision to create jazz versions of TV themes from the ’70s and ’80s gives rise to an interesting question: What is a “standard”?
Conventional jazz wisdom answers “Stella By Starlight” or “Skylark,” which helps explain why jazz has pretty much lost the generations born after 1960. They don’t know “Skylark,” but the themes to Star Trek and Dallas will be forever in their heads. Therefore they have a chance to understand how pianist Stetch reimagines them. Stetch and bassist Doug Weiss find all kinds of unsuspected stuff in “Love Boat,” including macho ostinatos and in-your-face block chords. The twittering little ditty that once announced Sanford and Son is here given complexity and real funk. Stetch, believe it or not, in a 93-second solo version, turns the theme to All My Children seriously poignant.
Some of this music is bubblegum (e.g., “The Price is Right”), and the best Stetch can do with it is get it out of the way quickly so he can blow. But you’ve got to hand it to a trio that does “This Is It” (the Bugs Bunny theme) as an Ahmad Jamal tribute, with riffs and vamps and tags and even whipping brushes from Rodney Green that channel Jamal’s drummer, Vernell Fournier.