Randy Waldman may be best known as Barbara Streisand’s pianist for over 30 years, but his career is wide-spanning, having performed and toured with the biggest names in jazz, R&B, and pop. His work can be heard in hundreds of movies, television shows and albums. Waldman won a Grammy for co-arranging “Somewhere” on Streisand’s The Broadway Album and received a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Arrangement for The Manhattan Transfer’s “Code of Ethics” from their Bodies and Soul album. Five years in the making, Waldman re-arranged theme music from his favorite superhero movies and TV shows, making them fun, accessible, and utterly exciting. Given its inherent popular appeal, Superheroes may also attract some Grammy notice.
These interpretations feature the rhythm section of Waldman on piano, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and bassist Carlitos Del Puerto. They are joined on various selection by these major players: Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Steve Gadd, Randy Brecker, Eddie Daniels, George Benson, Joe Lovano, Arturo Sandoval, Chris Potter, and the vocal group Take 6.
The idea was spawned from a serendipitous conversation at an event between Waldman and original TV Batman actor Adam West. “Adam loved jazz, and the thought occurred to me that he was an actual jazz superhero,” says Waldman who kept the thought in his mind for years, eventually becoming the idea of superhero theme music played by some of Waldman’s jazz superheroes. Although Waldman plays in multiple genres, his first love is jazz, and he has released three Randy Waldman Trio CDs with major players, including some that perform here.
The album opens with the TV theme from Adventures of Superman with brief voiceovers from John Travolta, Jeff Goldblum, James Brolin, Olivia Newton-John, Michael Buble and Josh Groban. Eddie Daniels leads in with a tenor solo on top of Waldman’s comping, followed by Brecker’s improvised trumpet on the heels of Waldman’s own solo. Coliaiuta (Herbie Hancock, Sting) shows why he’s one of jazz’s best drummer with a culminating rhythmic wild drum solo. The Superman movie theme comes four tracks in, featuring interplay between guitarist George Benson and bassist Del Puerto.
” Mighty Mouse Theme” also has Colaiuta in an intricate drum pattern backed by a 13-piece horn section with solos from Del Puerto and saxophonist Joe Lovano. There are two takes on Spiderman- the Theme and Movie. The vocal group Take 6 does an a cappella intro while saxophonist soars over a Latin groove. Waldman decided to focus on the gentle, human side of the character for “The Incredible Hulk” with Chick Corea delivering one of his patented synth solos. The “X-Men” theme features Coliauta soloing along with trumpeter Till Bronner.
Drummers Coliauta and Gadd get together for the first time on “Six Million Dollar Man,” also spotlighting Arturo Sandoval on trumpet. The two join again on the “underdog” theme with a technically brilliant trombone solo from McChesney.
Given the project’s impetus from actor Adam West, of course the “Batman” TV theme is included. You’ll recall that “bam,” “sock,” “pow” in the music but never with the power that this 13-piece horn section brings. Soloists here are the great trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and guitarist Michael O’Neill, both of whom accent the dark, rather mysterious feel of the theme.
One of the album’s clear highlights is the closing “Super Chicken” theme with a lead-in from Eddie Daniels on clarinet that’s reminiscent of Rhapsody in Blue, building to a frenzied crescendo propelled by Bob McChesney on trombone and Sandoval again on trumpet.
This is totally fun. The imaginative arrangements bring out the best in some of jazz’s most important musicians.