Herschel Burke Gilbert

Burke's Law (Original Television Soundtrack)

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This CD is yet another new and worthy entry in the space age pop field, as well as a superb example of jazz scoring for TV, and a match in quality for the music of Peter Gunn or M-Squad. For those too young to remember, Burke's Law was a highly successful mid-'60s mystery show, starring Gene Barry as a suave and sophisticated Beverly Hills-based millionaire police captain in charge of homicide investigations. Improbable though its premise may have been, the show succeeded, helped in part by the cameo appearances by major Hollywood stars in each episode (e.g., Rhonda Fleming, Burgess Meredith, Sammy Davis, Jr.), and equally so by the delightful jazz-based score composed by Herschel Burke Gilbert. A multi-Oscar nominee in movies as both a composer and arranger, Gilbert wrote some memorable television music as well, most notably the main title theme and score for The Rifleman. This CD, derived from the original scoring sessions, is highly rewarding -- the "Burke's Law" title theme, with its principal theme on the brass while the winds noodle playfully behind them, sets the mood, and the recorded version adds a new (but appropriate) bridge on the horns, leading to the swinging string-dominated final section, which gets a vibraphone bridge in its middle section, more horns, and some sax action (including a too-restrained solo). "4:30 A.M." is a piano and baritone sax showcase, a slow blues evocative of its setting, with understated strings working behind the two featured instruments. "Meetin' at P.J.'s" (a great topical reference -- P.J.'s was a very hot L.A. nightspot that featured acts like the Bobby Fuller Four and the Standells) is a brassy romp, while "Bridget" is a slow, sultry blues that calls to mind "Our Love Is Here to Stay" a bit in its main theme, and "Burke's Law Blues" is a stripped-down restating of the main theme material for saxes, muted trumpet, and strings. The entire album owes a bit to big-band swing as well as to the leaner postwar jazz sounds, with pieces like "Live!" essentially bracing jams for the reeds and brass with piano accompaniment -- when strings enter in at all, it's mostly for subdued and sophisticated timbral effect, rather than the dominant instrument; only during "Drum Madness" do they come to the fore, sharing the spotlight with the percussion and some reeds. The whole CD is well worth hearing more than once, a highly entertaining body of music evocative of a period in which L.A.'s night life was "swinging" and it was acceptable to write a piece referring to a female murder victim as "Blues for a Dead Chick." The mastering is excellent -- rich, loud, and highly detailed (and in stereo, too) -- and the only gap in the annotation is the lack of credits for the individual musicians on these recordings.

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