Friday, September 07, 2007

Un-Verved by the Hippest Commercials of the 60s

I've been listening to the unlikeliest of Verve Record releases: Benny Golson's Tune In, Turn On To The Hippest Commercials Of The Sixties (a 1999 reissue of an LP originally released in 1967). When I saw this CD at the library, I had to pick it up, if only for "Music To Watch Girls By." When I saw it also had my fave '60s Polaroid commercial, "The Swinger," I was adamant that I had to burn it (for home entertainment use only, of course!). For here was a treasure-trove of all the catchy (albeit crass consumer materialism-promoting) tunes I grew up with, like that bygone lemon-green soda "Wink," the Benson & Hedges 101's "The Disadvantages of You," Alka-Seltzer's "No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach's In)," the frantic "Cool Whip" theme, and that good ole dead cowboys anthem for the Marlboro Men, "The Magnificent Seven."

But when I noticed that the CD was on that bastion of good-taste jazz, Verve Records, I grew curious. That is, until I listened to it. This is a who's who of '60s jazz greats here, starting with arranger, conductor and tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, whose resume includes stints with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Jimmy and Percy heath, Philly Joe Jones, Lionel Hampton, Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers and co-leading the Jazztet with trumpeter Art Farmer from 1959-1962. And, yes, he even appears in that famous photo A Great day In Harlem.

Other personnel include:
Art Farmer Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Eric Gale Guitar
Richard Tee Piano
James Tyrell Bass
Bernard Purdie Drums
Warren Smith Percussion

Anyway, these are jazzy arrangements of the commercial jingles, something you notice right away on "Music To watch Girls By," which really grooves with bossa nova cool - it made me think of Henry Mancini circa The Pink Panther or Breakfast at Tiffany's. But in the middle Golson throws in a middle eight that's pure Baroque. These little quirks pop up all over the place, imaginative little twists that reclaim these jingles from their crass commercialism and imbue them with swinging jazz credibility. Whether you like the trendy "Yeah, baby!" kitsch of Austin Powers or the real deal Swingin' Sixties brassy brass of the finger-snappin' Sinatra-with-Billy May Orchestra variety, this disc is both of its time and hip enough for today's retro-mining audiophiles.

Related Links:
Benny Golson's Official Site
Music To Watch Girls By (Verve Music Group)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wink is still available in the Southeastern US. Hooray!

1:13 PM  

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