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Gunn With Occasional Music

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 30, 2020 08:49pm | Post a Comment

By Brett Stillo

Many of us are finding ourselves with a lot of time on our hands -- A LOT of time. We’ve been granted a bittersweet surplus of hours to watch whatever we want for as long as we want. With the streaming lanes wide open, my viewing interests have led me to wander back to 1959 to get acquainted with a forgotten crusader in the annals of Pop Culture -- Peter Gunn.

For most of my life, Peter Gunn, the smoother-than-smooth TV private eye created by Blake Edwards, was just a name to me. The series came and went before my time, banished from the color-saturated rerun carousel of my youth to a monochrome junkyard of old shows from the black and white era.

The only thing I really knew about Peter Gunn was the music…and that theme song! That stone-cold bass methodically prowling down a dark street, chased by the frantic screams of brass. Composer Henry Mancini orchestrated a glorious truce between two musical generations: the powerhouse swing of the Big Bands and the brazen snarl of Rock and Roll. Elmer Bernstein built the launchpad for jazz on film with his swaggering score for The Man With the Golden Arm in 1955. Three years later, Mancini blasted it into orbit. This set the tempo for action-packed jazz scores on film and television for the decade to come.

Mancini recorded two albums of original music from Peter Gunn. They served as great introductions to the world of jazz. They were easy enough to find at the local thrift store, and the pseudo-Pollock splatter art on the cover set them apart from the Mantovani mediocrity found in the record bin. For the safe investment of a quarter or two, you could take that beat-up record home and dig in to Mancini’s grooves. It’s hamburger stand jazz: cheap, easy to get, but delicious. It’s a musical invitation to Peter Gunn’s world of dark empty streets, smokey night clubs, screeching car tires and echoing gunshots in an endless dark night.

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