Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2021 November 01 • Monday

For November we’re doing a month of jazz interpretations of soundtrack music. First up: trumpet player Joe Wilder’s record Jazz from “Peter Gunn”, the 671st Soundtrack of the Week.

It’s a great quartet, with Hank Jones on piano, Milt Hinton on bass and John Cresci, Jr. on drums. While Shelly Manne has made some excellent small group recordings of Henry Mancini’s hugely influential music from the Peter Gunn TV show, I didn’t know that anyone else had taken a shot at it.

This particular take on Gunn is astoundingly good. It makes it seem baffling that there are so few records like this. The compositions are perfect for several groupings of instruments. You could do anything with them. Mancini was a person of several geniuses and his relaxed brilliance with the post-bop jazz idiom is dazzling here.

John Cresci, Jr., kicks off the record with an energetic and percolating drum figure for “Not From Dixie”, joined by Hinton, then Jones, then Wilder on the melody, which Hinton plays with him while Jones comes up with a counter melody, a descending line against the ascending line. Then Cresci switches to the ride cymbal and everyone swings like crazy.

“A Quiet Gass” is a classic Mancini ballad but the Wilder quartet gets it started almost as an operatic flourish or call to arms before taking a sharp turn into the dreamsville mood of the piece.

Next is one of my favorite tunes from this repertoire, the straight jazz “Brief and Breezy”, which was also given lyrics at some point. Everybody plays great all the time on this record but the Hank Jones solo on this one really stands out.

Then it’s another ballad, “Joanna”, with a very interesting arrangement. In the beginning just drums and trumpet give it kind of an otherworldly or exotica sort of sound. When the band comes in and it finds a more familiar groove, Wilder’s plaintive trumpet sound continues this incredibly lonely feel.

“The Floater” is another great straight jazz time, somewhat similar to “Brief and Breezy” but a bit more laidback.

The quartet then digs in and puts a bit of bite into their playing for the lean and angular “A Profound Gass”. Everything is impeccable as always but special credit to the trumpet and piano for their soloing.

For the next piece, “Slow and Easy”, which is exactly what the name promises, they get even slower than the original, really savoring each note and giving the listener an opportunity to bask in this deep, unhurried groove.

Then there’s the lilting “Brother’s Go to Mother’s”, another relaxed and easily swinging piece with Wilder muting his trumpet.

Interestingly, the famous “Peter Gunn Theme” doesn’t get a run through by this superb quartet but “Fallout” has some suggestions of what it might have been like and, well, it would have been awesome. “Fallout” is not the theme but it has some of the elements of menace and mystery that work so effectively in the theme and Hank Jones takes an amazing solo.

Finally there’s “Blues for Mother’s”, which takes on a Gershwin-like quality in this recording, something that didn’t strike me in the original version. The descending line of the harmony provide significant opportunities for creative invention and Wilder and Jones, particularly Jones, are on it!

Really a great record. I wish I could get another ten or twenty or a hundred like this.