Cartoons, TV inspire jazz pianist
Pianist Ted Kooshian has found largely untapped resources for jazz. Inspired by comic books, cartoons and television shows, he devises performances full of humor, nostalgia and surprise. “Clowns Will Be Arriving,” his fourth album as a leader, includes originals such as the zippy title tune, the slow and bluesy “Porkypine” (a tribute to one of the characters in the “Pogo” comic strip) and the wistful ballad “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day,” sung by Napoleon Murphy Brock.
Then there are the TV themes “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Get Smart,” “Mannix” and “Lost in Space.” Wayne Shorter’s “Three Clowns,” written during Shorter’s stint with the fusion band Weather Report, and Dan Hicks’ “I Scare Myself” conjure up the expanding music scene of the ’70s. A couple of indestructible ballads, “Skylark” and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” also appear.
Kooshian’s band includes tenor and soprano saxophonist and flutist Jeff Lederer and four different bassist-and-drummer teams, plus additional horn and rhythm section players from tune to tune. Lederer is a bold, expressive player whose soprano is perfect in technique and spirit for the fast, busy “Koko” (not to be confused with Charlie Parker’s “Ko-ko”), Kooshian’s tribute to one of cartoonist Max Flesicher’s characters. “Ignatz,” another Kooshian tribute to a cartoon character, also has a good groove, with Kooshian’s piano bluesy and kicking. In addition to providing inspirational accompaniment and offering apropos solos on acoustic piano throughout the album, Kooshian also shows his skill with electronic keyboard effects on John Williams’ theme for the TV program “Lost in Space.”
Correspondent Owen Cordle