The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond Featuring Steven Bernstein, “Nobody Does It Better” (Summit Records)
Steven Bernstein has applied his prodigious talents as trumpeter, composer, arranger, and innovative art-jazz conceptualist to a huge variety of intriguing projects, from the music for his own Sex Mob band to the score for Robert Altman’s “Kansas City” to work for Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.
For this recording, the CCM (College-Conservatory of Music) Jazz Orchestra, based at the University of Cincinatti, brought in Bernstein to rearrange the compositions from his 2001 “Sex Mob Does Bond” album. Last year, the same big band, led by musical director Scott Belck, successfully revisited the music of Garaj Mahal (see my review for Relix). Yeah, it’s a gas.
Fans of soaring, tuneful melodies are treated to Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better,” its opening brass blast seguing into Bernstein’s introduction of the theme, via his antique sounding slide trumpet, and the full band taking over, driven by an organ-injected rhythm section; impressive soloing by baritone saxophonist Joe Duran, tenor saxophonist Josh Kline, and guitarist Joe Wittman. The familiar “Goldfinger” theme sneaks into the opening of John Barry’s intense, suite-like 9 1/2-minute “Dawn Raid on Fort Knox,” hinged on a martial beat and multiple call-and–response figures, and painted with multiple psychedelic swirls and slashes
Barry, of course, is everywhere here, with waterfalling horn lines cueing the light-on-its-feet “You Only Live Twice” and Chris Ott’s rich, fluid trombone playing showcased on a timpani-bolstered “Thunderball,” the latter opened with a gong and — like other tunes here — veering from slinky to appropriately bombastic. The moody, impressionistic terrain of “This Never Happened to the Other Guy” is strafed by Bernstein’s slide trumpet and Joe Wittman‘s guitar, and the relatively brief “Bond With Bongos” buzzes with Shane Jones‘ simmering congas.
This veritable Bondapalooza opens with Bernstein’s own “Dr. Yes,” a slab of sleek theme making perfectly in sync with the 007 movie-music tradition, prominently featuring Bernstein and Sam Lauritsen on trumpets, and Wittman. Consider us shaken, stirred, and wanting more.