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KalashnikoV 01-08-2008 03:31 AM

"Secret Agent" Jazz
I need a little help into attempting to pinpoint somewhat of a specific subgenre of jazz - the kind you hear in detective, secret agent, and sometimes super hero movies (though somewhat seldom in this day and age.) Very upbeat and rhythmic, often with features of bongos and electric guitar, but never forgetting a heavy focus on some slightly hectic saxophone and piano work. In my best guess it seems to be loosely based in the '60s. I know that's somewhat of a terrible description to go off of, but I really don't know what much else to do since I'm finding it so troublesome to really track down.

As an example (and for lack of a better one off the top of my head), I'd suggest much of the soundtrack of Pixar's The Incredibles, specifically the end credits (once again sorry for the very narrow specifics for what could be a somewhat loose subgenre of what I figure should be called Big Band.)

Recently I've had an unusual fascination with the sound and a hunger to hear a little more. I know it may seem a bit much to ask off such a shaky description, but if anyone thinks they know what I'm talking about and could possibly recommend some songs, albums, or even artists, I'd be eternally grateful.

Michael G 01-08-2008 04:39 AM

Re: "Secret Agent" Jazz
Reference for everyone:


gusty 01-08-2008 02:15 PM

Re: "Secret Agent" Jazz
I spose the best example I can think of is the James Bond Theme. Big Band, very very strong sound. Cool, but with excitement and a big build up.

mattsmith 01-08-2008 04:03 PM

Re: "Secret Agent" Jazz
The style really began with a show called M Squad in the 1950s, that starred Lee Marvin. From what I've seen of it on cable, it looked like a pretty tough show for the time in television, and was based on film noir stuff like those Sam Spade/Mike Hammer tales from the 1940s. That kind of original movie music was always pretty brassy and direct, but what made M Squad cool and a little different was that Count Basie's band actually performed the music, so the jazz connection, the saxophone solos, all that, was pretty obvious.

Just a little after that the style really took off with the show Peter Gunn that featured Henry Mancini's M Squad styled music that had many more commercial hooks. Supposedly the theme itself was so catchy that it became an instrumental hit on its own. My dad got me interested in the show when he told me me how there was a lot of jazz on it because the main character on the show was this very cool detective who loved jazz. I guess had these characters liked country music, the whole thing would have been different.

But after these first shows became popular everybody copied them as they always do until people move to something else. So in the late 50s and early 60s, it looked like you had a lot of similar music. Then when guys took the style into lawyer shows like Perry Mason, it seemed like it was everywhere. Like today, when there's a murder on TV there's hip hop in the background. Back then it was this in your face jazz, because people had liked the style of those first shows.

Also according to older musicians, all these composers knew each other very well. John Williams and John Barry/the James Bond guy/ even did gigs together where Mancini conducted the orchestras. So you know they had to be together talking about this.

James Bond movies showed up in the early 60s and supposedly John Barry was asked to do Peter Gunn with a pre Beatles rock thing in the rhythm section to keep up with the times. From that, the whole thing just morphed into this other thing with Goldfinger and those themes, and then that created an entirely new version of this when those styles became more commercial with Secret Agent Man etc. Then came from that the old TV Batman theme, Green Hornet, all of it. While that's all happening, Barry's old teacher Mancini is still dishing out the slightly older style with Pink Panther, while John Williams and his guys are starting to provide a version of this with the middle of the road science fiction like Lost in Space and all that. So after a while you would almost have been scared to have done something too different if a cop, lawyer, or detective was involved as a character on your show.

But then it looks like the Vietnam era music kinda showed up and changed the style of these things. And when Sean Connery left James Bond and new guys took the role, the music reflected the times where movie and TV themes were less about scores, and more about a group of songs all strung together. It stayed like that until John Williams showed up with Star Wars and the old school film scoring. It's amazing to me how all this goes full circle.

The whole thing had a nostalgia comeback with the Naked Gun/Tales from Police Squad movies. I think it's pretty obvious that M Squad and Peter Gunn was the inspiration for all that.

Yeah, if you see all of this as one thing, it was a huge musical style that definately once had its time.

My grandfather loves this stuff and helped me explain this.

KalashnikoV 01-08-2008 07:01 PM

Re: "Secret Agent" Jazz
I don't know what I'd do without you people.

Thank you all so much, I should hopefully be able to more accurately track down what I'm looking for now and get my hands on some good material.

DogBreath 01-09-2008 09:20 PM

Re: "Secret Agent" Jazz
This is a very interesting subject for me and the kind of thing I would normally be happy to research if I didn't have a dozen other things going on right now. Great question KalashnikoV and great info Matt.

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