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A Listener's Guide

Cool Crimes


Jazz Themes for Cops and Robbers, Leith Stevens (Decca)
One of the earliest, and to my ears perhaps the best, of this rich subgenre. Most of the album comes from Stevens' score to the film noir, Private Hell 36.

Music from "Richard Diamond", Pete Rugolo (Mercury)
Runner-up to "Peter Gunn" in the ratings game, but not on disc.

Music from "M-Squad", Stanley Wilson (RCA Victor)
Selections from this series about a homicide squad starring the tough Lee Marvin. Although Wilson wrote the original theme and was the series' musical director, he put a different tune by Count Basie its place after the first season. The Basie theme is included here. Several Benny Carter compositions included as well.

Music from "Hong Kong", Lionel Newman and others (ABC)
Rare but excellent collection of cuts from this now-forgotten starring James Franciscus. Numbers written and arranged by Billy May, Marty Paich, and Newman himself.

Music from "Johnny Cool", Billy May (United Artists)
Score from a movie about a gangster who finds he's a pawn of the big boys, but not before a pre-Bewitched Elizabeth Montgomery falls for him. Title track is one of May's best compositions--cool and slinking one moment, hot and screaming the next.

Staccato LP

Music from "Staccato", Elmer Bernstein (Capitol)
This series, starring John Cassavetes as Johnny Staccato, made the crime-jazz connection literally, centering much of the action around a jazz club in Greenwich Village.

TV Action Jazz, Mundell Lowe (RCA Camden)
Jazz guitarist Lowe assembled a combo that included Ben Webster, one of the all-time great tenor sax players, for covers of "Peter Gunn", "Richard Diamond," "Perry Mason," and other TV crime themes.

TV Jazz Themes, Skip Martin (Somerset)
See above, only since it's on Somerset, there's no information on who the performers are.

Greatest Detective Hits, Johnny Gregory (Compleat)
See above, only this time with a group of British session men.

Impact! and Double Impact!, Buddy Morrow (RCA Victor)
Two compilations of themes from late 1950s TV shows, with an emphasis on crime shows like "The Naked City" and "International Detective." Wild, cool, and swinging arrangements by Ray Martin.

Great Jazz from Great TV, Bob Mersey (credited to "Det Moor") (Gallant)
A very rare but great selection of incidental music composed by Mersey for a variety of shows. None of these are titles you'll recognize, but this is some of the most evocative crime jazz ever recorded.

The Private Life of a Private Eye, Enoch Light (Command)
A collection of original numbers by Light and Lew Davies--a soundtrack to an imaginary series, if you will.

Murder, Inc., Irv Joseph (Time)
As above, only this time on Time. As Time became less profitable and more desparate for money, this album was reissued with a picture of a crashing wave on the cover as Surfin' Time by "The Wedges."

Swing for a Crime (EVA)
A Dutch compilation from around 1991, this album combines a variety of rare cuts from artists ranging from Les Baxter ("Boomada") and Art Van Damme to the Hollywood Persuaders with excerpts of dialog from great films noir such as "The Big Heat" (Lee Marvin tossing hot coffee in Gloria Grahame's face while shouting, "You pig! You lying pig!"). The whole is greater than the sum of its parts--a terrific celebration of the True Crime era. As usual, Europeans were hip to this stuff years before us.


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