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Randy Waldman: SuperHeroes (BFM)

Review of the pianist's tribute to superhero theme songs, recorded with an all-star cast of jazz heroes

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Cover of Randy Waldman album SuperHeroes
Cover of Randy Waldman album SuperHeroes

What a delightfully silly concept for an album. As pianist Randy Waldman tells it, he was seated next to original Batman star Adam West and got to talking about jazz, which West professed to love. Later, Waldman says, “a lightbulb went off”—and he spent five years inviting his own jazz heroes to do guest slots on an album of jazz arrangements of superhero theme songs.

Somehow he got the motley crew of James Brolin, Michael Bublé, Jeff Goldblum, Josh Groban, Olivia Newton-John, and John Travolta to do a voiceover introducing the first song, a super-modern cover of the Superman TV theme. Just as impressive are the jazz stars who appear, and the varied approaches Waldman brings to these tunes. Look! There’s Wynton Marsalis turning in a superb trumpet solo on a hard bop version of the Batman theme. Pow! There’s the a cappella vocal group Take 6 and saxophonist Chris Potter (talk about odd pairings) applying a delicious Latin tinge to the Spider-Man theme. Bam! There’s guitarist George Benson bringing a soulful sensibility to John Williams’ Superman movie theme. Zap! There’s Chick Corea laying a “Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy” synthesizer vibe on the Incredible Hulk theme. Kaboom! There’s trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, clarinetist Eddie Daniels, and trombonist Bob McChesney speeding through a bebop rendition of the “Super Chicken” theme from George of the Jungle.

And what about Waldman and his rhythm section? Holy jumping genres, they’re all over the place, in a good way: bop, swing, Latin jazz, funk—the whole shebang. The varied textures and odd assembly of musicians all team up perfectly, like some ragtag band.

Preview, buy or download SuperHeroes on Amazon!

Originally Published