Album Review: Ted Kooshian’s “Clowns Will Be Arriving”

by Ernest Barteldes

It really puts a smile on my face when a musician has the ability of not taking himself too seriously while still having the ability to create a wonderful work of art. There are many examples in history – one that comes to mind is how The Beatles were able to call themselves the ones with “the big fat hairy heads” on a British TV show – something that clearly endeared them to their audiences.

You rarely see that in jazz, though. Maybe because of all popular music forms, it is the one in which the artists want most to be respected for their skills and musical ability (sure, all do but you’ll probably never see a jazz singer doing a promo in drag like Queen did in the 80s). But sometimes the magic happens, it’s a wonderful thing when it does.

Which brings us to pianist Ted Kooshian’s incredibly amusing “Clowns Will Be Arriving,” (Summit), a mix of original tunes inspired by old comic strip characters and reinvented takes on classic TV show themes written back in the day when screen and TV composers were getting inspiration from Henry Mancini to write their own themes – all who draw inspiration from jazz in the first place.

The album opens with the theme from “I Dream of Jeannie” – its Latinesque feel allows for lots of improvisation, and you can feel how much fun the musicians were having in the studio.  “Get Smart” begins with a Booker T & the MGs feel via the bass and keyboards, and then evolves into a more straight ahead piece featuring the bandleader and saxophonist Jeff Lederer, who steals the spotlight with a soul-intensive tenor solo.

Also notable are the covers of Wayne Shorter’s “Three Clowns,” played here with great sincerity, and the playful take on “Lost In Space,” which includes a Theremin-like keyboard and some electronic sounds inspired by the original recording. Among the originals I enjoyed both the bluesy “Porkypine,” a track that also gave the musicians a lot of space to be creative and the up-tempo “Ignatz,” which features both Lederer and drummer Warren Odze.

This is a really fun album to listen to from the very first track all the way to the heartfelt arrangement to “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which Kooshian plays as a solo piece on electric keyboards.

For more information visithttp://kooshmania.com/

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