10/14/08

A NEAL HEFTI PAUSE

hefti

I've been deep in edit hell, trying to achieve picture lock by late this week (we won't make it). Thus the paucity of posts. But
more clips will be back tomorrow. In the meantime...

Pause with me a moment to remember the work of Neal Hefti, who passed away last weekend at the age of 86. Hefti was a jazz giant--a composer/arranger who wrote two of the most played jazz tunes of the past fifty years, "Lil Darlin'" and "Cute" as well as two of the most beloved (and listened too) TV themes of the past fifty years. Both "Batman" and "The Odd Couple" are, as shows and cultural artifacts, inseperable from Hefti's irresistable themes.

Hefti began his career in big bands, writing for Woody Herman, Count Basie and eventually arranged one of my favorite Sinatra albums, "Sinatra and Swingin' Brass". He also composed music for movies--my favorite being "Lord Love A Duck". Click here for a quite comprehensive Wikipedia bio of the man. And look below at two clips--one of Lionel Hampton playing (and singing "Cute") and the other a staple of my childhood; the marvelous opening credit sequence of "The Odd Couple". The "Odd Couple Theme" goes, for me, far beyond period kitsch a la "Batman" (or for that matter "Brady Bunch", "My Three Sons" and other still beloved tv themes). To me, the piece captures a mournfulness inherent but largely unexplored in Neil Simon's original play--the very premise that two men who've been abandoned by their wives are unable to live either within or without a partnership. Hefti's theme song goes deeper, somehow, than Simon's non-stop jokefest or, for that matter, the tv series. When I hear it (and I've been listening to it over and over for the past couple of days) I think of the seventies, the era when marriages imploded overnight...of full ashtrays and drinks in which the ice has melted...of the lost patterns of living that afflict those caught in domestic disarray. Pretty heavy for a tv show theme...but somehow Hefti caught it all and that's why, I think, it remains as memorable and beloved as it does.







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