John Stetch

TV Trio

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Though barely of the generation where television themes were hummable and memorable, (ain't re-runs grand!) pianist John Stetch and his trio have adopted these introductory tunes, and placed fertilizer and even steroids or growth hormones around them. He has propagated their sprouts, roots, and branches into new music where you can hear the original melodies, and marvel at how the pianist has expanded their simplicity into something grander. Stetch is a virtuoso and a fantastic improviser who is able to exert his will at large on these tunes that everybody knows, but not like now under his guidance. The selections chosen run the wide-ranging gamut from dramas, cartoons, sci-fi, sketch comedies, game shows, or soap operas. Some choices are typical, but nothing in this set is played safe or rote by the numbers, even overdone themes like the darker, soul-jazz version of "The Flintstones" or the swinging "This Is It," a version Steve Allen would have approved. Stetch takes liberties often, especially during the funky but not beat driven approach to "Love Boat," a jazzy "The Price Is Right" turned from cheese to gold, and the peaceful waltz for "The Mighty Hercules." As goofy as the theme "Rocky & Bullwinkle" is, Stetch stretches it further into a fractured fairy tale with staggered phrasings, toying with the already hilarious melody. Then there's the cerebral and haunting introductory music from "Star Trek," adapted in a Esquivel lounge lizard mode, yet fun and entertaining. The pianist also plucked tunes written by jazz giants Oliver Nelson and Quincy Jones, well known for their music in cinema and the small screen. Nelson's tribute to "The Six Million Dollar Man" begins robotic and goes free form, indistinguishable from the original, accented by Stetch's cascading lines. "Sanford & Son" written by Jones is loping and cowboy like, then unexpectedly faster, nothing like the soul-jazz of the initial tune. Beyond gimmicky, here's a unique concept that works quite well within its modern mainstream or progressive pants, and a recording that kids of all ages can easily enjoy.

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