I guess if you don’t like Jazz you might have a problem enjoying this next episode of Lou Grant‘s final series, especially as it was paired with a weak B story. i don’t like Jazz. I don’t like weak B stories. There was a bit of a detachment to this episode for me.
That’s not to say it was bad. The spinal story was a sentimental, ‘heart-warming’ affair: whilst looking for a phone to phone in a story, Joe Rossi discovers Cliff Richardson (Ray Brown, and someone’s having a laugh with that name), former bass-player with the legendary Sonny Goodwin Quartet of the Fifties.
Rossi’s a jazz fan (so are Charlie Hume and Art Donovan). He gets the idea for a story, finding the other members, where they are now, why they split up and, as we would all expect, getting the band back together for a one-off gig.
Drummer Johnny Albert’s a recording engineer (Louie Bellson). Piannist Sonny (Joe Williams) is doing well, a singer now. Alto sax player Ron Brickell (Med Flory), the one who struugled with drugs and arrests, has been clean since 1966, manages a convenience store and isn’t interested in a reunion, or music for that matter.
This is all much of a cliche from start to finish. Lou hates the idea, apparently just so he can be a contrarian, refuses to accept the story but somehow relents offscreen. The band reunite without any real reason for ‘Brick’ to overcome his opposition, the gig’s a smash success despite the last minute, predictable, band-argue-backstage-revealing-how-much-they-hate-each-other-but-still-go-on, and everybody’s happy.
Let’s leave them in their euphoria for a minute or two. The B story features reporter Jed Crossley (Tod Sussman). Jed’s been part of a two man team with veteran Gary Banks (Richard Erdman, three previous appearances as two other characters) but Gary’s retiring and Jed’s going solo on a story about Supervisors diverting county money to their personal benefit.
Only Jed’s nervous, indecisive, unable to even start writing the story. He’s out on his own, lacking the balance Gary used to give him. Assigning Billie to help him doesn’t work, he still won’t start the story, or share. Lou won’t take him off the story, not wanting to lose him.
And Jed comes good, pulling off an outrageous con and then becoming Mr Dynamo. Just as much a cliche in its own right.
Let’s go back to the Sonny Goodwin Quartet. Like I said, I don’t like Jazz. We have no natural affinity. But I loved the music so enthusiastically played in Treme, and I try to keep my ears open. The Sonny Goodwin Quartet were the same set-up as the Dave Brubeck Quartet and I like a bit of their stuff. And the guest stars were all genuine, accomplished musicians, the music was cool and easing, with detectable melodies close to the surface. Not for too long, but I can get along with this sort of Jazz. And, given that the two stories in this episode could have been turned out by a word-processor, the music ended up being the best thing about the episode.
Stay cool, cats.