All posts by Ted

Highly Recommended Jazz Album Review: HUBUB!
(Ted Kooshian)



I just returned from the 2022 Monerey Jazz Festival, and as you can guess the players were magnificent. Not so the compositions, though. Highly experimental is great; after all, that’s what makes jazz, well, jazz. But much of the weekend was fusion, ya know jazz harmony and improvisation with rock music, funk, and rhythm, but so repetitive and melodically abstruse. When vocalist Samara Joy hit the stage, the 22-year-old had throngs magnetized to the stage with appealing tunes, charm and downright fun.

I mention this because I just took pianist-composer Ted Kooshian‘s fifth album, Hubub!for a spin, and felt uplifted for all eleven tracks. Available October 7, 2022 via Summit Records, the album features Kooshian with trumpeter John Bailey, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Dick Sarpola and drummer Greg Joseph. It’s his first album of mainly original music since his acclaimed 2004 debut. The CD release party is on October 10 at Rockwood Music Hall in NY.

Normally, along with original compositions, Kooshian takes themes from his past and puts them the sausage grinder of his polychromatic soul, coming up with flavorful arrangements with his combo. And the results are always delightful. Here, we get one standard (a bouncy arrangement of Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from West Side Story) along with an all-original collection: interpretations of a few memorable characters (the funky “McQueen” is a tribute to the action star; the spacy “Shatner” is an ode to the star of his favorite show, the original Star Trek — both feature percussionist David Silliman); “Tornetto” — a portmanteau of “tornado” and “Ornette” — is definitely a whirlwind tribute to the great originator, played with kickin’ enthusiasm by saxophonist Lederer; the dreamy song “Hymn for Her” (co-written by Kooshian and Judy Barnett) features the dreamy 40s-style vocals of Jim Mola (and for this track, we get guests Katie Jacoby on violin and Summer Boggess on cello); and more. I’ll say it again: Appealing, inventive tunes and downright fun. What more could you ask?

by Edward Blanco

New York pianist and keyboardist Ted Kooshian continues his love affair with classic TV, cartoon themes and the pop scene, on Hubub!, offering a selection of striking originals influenced by his “enthusiastic love for pop culture,” which includes tributes to actors Steve McQueen and William Shatner of Star Trek fame. The album’s sole standard is Leonard Bernstein’s classic “Somewhere” from the West Side Story play, distinguishing this version from so many others with an atypically jaunty arrangement from the pianist.

To better understand and appreciate the music on this remarkable album, one should know that though now based in New York City, Kooshian was born in San Jose, California, and was raised in the Bay Area. where he was exposed to all of the cultural and musical influences that have formed and impacted the creative style of jazz he produces. Perhaps this is one of the reasons he is so unique.

Kooshian assembles a group of long-time collaborators, all seasoned musicians with whom he has worked on previous projects. The cast features trumpeter John Bailey, bassist Dick Sarpola, tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer—who has appeared on all of Kooshian’s recordings—drummer Greg Joseph and percussionist Dave Silliman.

The title track, penned in 1992, starts the music rolling with a little help from his friends, Lederer and trumpeter Bailey on spritely solos as the funky, high-spirited piece kicks the music into high gear. In contrast to the opener, “Wandelen,” which translates to “walking” in Dutch, it is a more laid-back and gentle tune bringing back memories of several Dutch Islands. One of the North Sea Islands Kooshian and wife visited was “Schiemonnikoog,” which inspired the pianist’s piece of the same name, offering a bluesy-flavored rollicking burner.

Holding down the soft spot on the set is the gorgeous “Hymn for Her,” a love ballad with vocals from Jim Mola, accompanied by Katie Jacoby on the violin and the leader on warm keys. A tune with perhaps the best melody of the session is “Desert Island Tracks” featuring bold solo moments from the saxophonist, sturdy drumming and superb piano work in a bid from the leader in hoping that this track, would be on someone’s desert island picks.

“Space Train” lifts the music up into terrain Kooshian has previously explored with his cosmic Standard Orbit Quartet and features some of the best solo excursions from tenor man Lederer. The leader’s homage to actor Steve McQueen follows, with “McQueen,” much in the same texture as “Space Train” but, not as spacy as the finale tribute to the Star Trek actor “Shatner,” where Kooshian plays the electric piano to help this atmospheric piece of stellar music become one of the highlights of the album.

Pianist Ted Kooshian’s talents as a composer are on display here where hecrafts another “commotion” of an album, another “excitement” of a session in
successfully engineering a call answering the question, what’s all the Hubub!
about? The answer: it’s “all about jazz” in a unique vehicle that only Kooshian
knows how to drive.

Track Listing
Hubub; Wandelen; Sparkplug-She Came to Play; Somewhere; Schiermonnikoog; Tornetto; Hymn for Her; Desert Island Tracks; Space Train; McQueen; Shatner.

Ted Kooshian: piano; John Bailey: trumpet; Jeff Lederer: saxophone, tenor;
Dick Sarpola: bass; Greg Joseph: drums.

Album Information
Title: Hubub! | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Summit Records



Ted Kooshian (Summit)

by Ken Dryden

Ted Kooshian is most widely known for playing electric keyboards in the Ed Palermo Big Band for over three decades, though in more recent years he has released a series of outstanding albums for Summit as a leader. This release is the latest, with Kooshian focusing on his original compositions and piano—his core band including John Bailey (trumpet), Jeff Lederer (tenor), Dick Sarpola (bass) and Greg Joseph (drums).

It’s hard to miss the influence of Thelonious Monk in “Hubub”, though Kooshian’s brisk playing makes it clear he has his own sound. “Sparkplug—She Came to Play”, named for his treasured dog, opens with a far-ranging solo piano introduction; it’s only as the band joins him that the familiar chord changes from the standard “Stella by Starlight” come into the picture, showcasing Bailey’s spirited trumpet. Kooshian’s fresh scoring of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” incorporates a unique rhythmic approach and blends the lush harmonies of Lederer and Bailey (on flugelhorn), spotlighting Sarpola’s fluid, understated bass. The uptempo, off-center vibe of “Tornetto” has an aura of early Ornette Coleman; the leader’s darting chords support strong solos by Bailey and Lederer, though the pianist’s feature takes things into more abstract territory. The lush ballad “Hymn for Her” adds vocalist Jim Mola (singing Judy Barnett’s heartfelt lyric), Katie Jacoby (violin) and Summer Boggess (cello). The breezy afro-Cuban flavor of “Desert Island Party” would get any crowd on its feet, with the pianist’s jaunty solo keeping the energy high. Kooshian switches to electric keyboards for his funky “McQueen”, with its somewhat ominous air suggesting a ‘70s suspense-film soundtrack.

Ted Kooshian: Hubub!
by George W. Harris • November 7, 2022

Pianist Ted Kooshian swings hard and joyfully with a core mainstream team of John Bailey/tp=fh, Jeff Lederer/ts, Dick Sarpola/b and Greg Joseph/dr. The tenor/trumpet from line is right from the Blue Note School of hard bop, with Bailey’s warm horn gliding over the tide of the title tune, while his flugelhorn is fluffy on the autumnal “Somewhere”. Lederer has big and beefy tone, having a hoot of a time around Kooshian’s clever chords on the kinetically Monkish “Sparkplug-She Came To Play” and getting down over the military riff laid down by Joseph on “Schiermonnikoog”. Kooshian shows rich ideas on the pen, plugging in on a funkified Bullitt-themed “McQueen” and going to where no man has gone before in an intergalactic “Shatner”, while the rhythm team takes a Caribbean cruise on “Desert Island Tracks”. Rich textures are proved by a string section and Jim Mola’s voice on a lovely “Hymn For Her”, with other delicate ideas hovering on “Space Train”. A modern jazz messenger.

Σάββατο 5 Νοεμβρίου 2022

TED KOOSHIAN το “Hubub!” είναι ένας πολύ σημαντικός νέος τζαζ δίσκος

TED KOOSHIAN’s “Hubub!” is a very important new jazz record. Ted Kooshian
is an American jazz composer, pianist and keyboardist, with a bit of a history now,
since he has been on the scene since the 80s, and he has been recording since the
mid 90s. As a session musician, Ted Kooshian has participated in several albums
(being a member of the Ed Palermo Big Band), but his personal discography
begins in 2004, and “Hubub!” [Summit Records, 2022] is his fifth album in 18

In addition to being an outstanding pianist, Kooshian is also a very good composer,
and this is proven by the tracks on “Hubub!” (ten of the eleven are his, as there is
also a version of “Somewhere” by Leonard Bernstein), one more beautiful than the

Having something “old” as a composer, with the swinging and groovy feeling
dominating even when his compositions develop slowly, or slower anyway,
Kooshian impresses almost from the beginning with the 9-minute long “Wandelen”
(his second track), which has a pleading gospel touch, and is characterized by the
excellent trumpet solo (John Bailey) and the heavy drumming (Greg Joseph), with
the piano playing rhythmically.

Ted Kooshian proves how worthy a soloist he is in the very next track, “Sparkplug
– She came to play”, where his piano introduction properly prepares us for
excellent hard bop.

Composing not only for himself, but for his entire band, which is a quintet (Ted
Kooshian piano, keyboards, John Bailey trumpet, flugelhorn, Jeff Lederer tenor
sax, Dick Sarpola bass, Greg Joseph drums – there are extra musicians in voice,
violin, cello and percussion), Kooshian constantly delivers dynamic tracks, with
impressive contributions from all instruments, such as for example the open drum
solo in “Schiermonnikoog”, an amazing blues, performed with tremendous energy
(and with a solo that sticks you to the wall by Lederer on tenor).

And of course the influences on Kooshian’s tracks are many and varied, as on the
very fast “Tornetto”, with the Miles-esque trumpet solo from Bailey and the
generally elusive rhythm section creating a platform upon which wonders can be

“I just took pianist-composer Ted Kooshian‘s fifth album, Hubub! for a spin, and felt uplifted for all eleven tracks…..Appealing, inventive tunes and downright fun. What more could you ask?” Tony Frankel, Stage & Cinema

“A great record … Kooshian, in addition to being a distinguished pianist, is also a very good composer.”Phontos Troussas, Vinyl Mine (Greece)

“Ted Kooshian heads a quintet that is just as dynamic and spectacular as he is. This is a show of virtuosity and inventiveness that should help create new jazz aficionados.” — Elio Bussolino, Rockerilla

“Seemingly a musician for all times, this album celebrates his composer talents, as well as his piano skills.” — Dee Dee McNeil, LA Jazz Scene

“Pianist Ted Kooshian swings hard and joyfully … a modern jazz messenger.” — George Harris, JazzWeekly

“A vigorously swinging, eclectic jazz album, resolutely bebop melodies and sounds with pop accents and a joy to listen to.” — Jacques Pauper, Couleurs Jazz

“★★★★ Remarkable … striking originals … Pianist Ted Kooshian’s talents as a composer are on display here where he crafts another “commotion” of an album, another ‘excitement’ of a session in successfully engineering a call answering the question, what’s all the Hubub! about? The answer: it’s ‘all about jazz’ in a unique vehicle that only Kooshian knows how to drive.” — Ed Blanco, All About Jazz

“Bright and engaging melodies, none of which seem commonplace or shopworn…An admirable session, given a more expressive voice thanks to Kooshian’s winning way with a melody and forceful blowing by all hands.” — Jack Bowers, All About Jazz

“A record worth listening to.” — Jan Granlie, Salt Peanuts

“Bright and sunny.” — Tom Hull,

Hubub! 10/07/2022

My new CD, Hubub! will be released by Summit Records on October 7, 2022!  The quintet is me on piano, John Bailey/trumpet, Jeff Lederer/sax, Dick Sarpola/bass, and Greg Joseph/drums.   Guests are Jim Mola/vocal and Katie Jacoby/violin.   Stay tuned to this website for soundclips, reviews, etc!

Pianist Ted Kooshian reminds you of one of the overlooked joys of jazz; the ability to have some fun. Remember Louis Jordan? He made jazz a joy – that’s the attitude that Kooshian delivers with his team of Jeff Lederer, flute, tenor and soprano sax; Pete McGuinness, trombone; Wilbur Bascomb electric bass; David Silliman, drums and percussion; Mat Jodrell, trumpet; Scott Neumann, drums; Tom Hubbard, bass; Warren Odze, drums and percussion; Napoleon Murphy Brock, vocals on “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day”; Morrie Louden, bass; Cliff Lyons, alto sax; and Paul Livant, rhythm guitar. The songs here are a mix of originals, a few standards, and the rest are wonderful themes from the Golden Age of TV for Baby Boomers.

Want examples? How about a take of “Lost In Space” that takes you to wonderfully forbidden planets with Kooshian’s keyboards. A hip take of “Get Smart” has some shark skin suit crispness with keyboards, trumpet and sax. Percussion and flute come out of the bottle for “I Dream Of Jeannie,” and Lalo Schifrin’s classic “Mannix” theme has deep groove for Lederer’s tenor to cruise in. Even more enjoyable is a ragtime and wonderfully hectic read of music [based on] a Max Fleischer flick on “Koko,” and even Wayne Shorter joins in on the frivolity with his “Three Clowns” coming off like a dreamy adventure. Dan Hick’s “I Scare Myself” has some glorious sensuality, as Kooshian’s keyboards coalesce with Silliman’s percussion.

Everyone drops out for the leader to close out the album with a shopping mall version of “When You Wish Upon A Star.” If you don’t get a smile on your face somewhere along this disc, go buy a whoopee cushion and work on your attitude.

by George W. Harris – Jazz Weekly (2015)

Ted Kooshian doesn’t clown around. Or does he? The pianist, known for his imaginative adaptations lets loose with the big noses, funny hair and wide shoes with Clowns Will Be Arriving (Summit Records, 2015), an exciting collection of five original songs and remakes of television show themes composed by Hugo Montenegro, Lalo Schifrin, Johnny Williams and more.

Kooshian uses a variable lineup of players to help him take this trip through time. Jeff Lederer appears on all but one track, playing flute, soprano sax or tenor sax. Others who appear here and here are Pete McGuinness, trombone; Wilbur Bascomb electric bass; David Silliman, drums and percussion; Mat Jodrell, trumpet; Scott Neumann, drums; Tom Hubbard, bass; Warren Odze, drums and percussion; Napoleon Murphy Brock, vocals on “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day”; Morrie Louden, bass; Cliff Lyons, alto sax; and Paul Livant, rhythm guitar.

“I Dream of Jeannie” kicks things off. Lederer’s flute takes point. Bascomb’s dynamic bass line gives this track extra depth. The congas add a tropical vibe. For his part, Kooshian tickles the ivory like there’s no proverbial tomorrow. McGuinness gets his licks in while there’s time. The song ends with a series of creative, tightly syncopated phrases.

Trumpet and soprano saxophone harmonize for the main theme of “Get Smart,” then take turns on the stairstep bridge. Kooshian shifts to electric keyboard. Neumann’s timely high-hat play mixed with tenor and snare rolls is the backdrop for the soloists.

Lederer leads with the tenor for Kooshian’s take on “Mannix.” This take largely follows the path laid by the original, with some subtle adjustments here to make it distinctive. After delving into the familiar, Lederer and Kooshian venture into uncharted territory with their solos. After a brief return to the melody, Lederer plays a couple of lines from the introduction to Steely Dan’s “Peg.” The inside joke is that in the series, private investigator Joe Mannix had a secretary named Peggy.

Using electronic noises to aid the introduction, Kooshian and company deliver a quirky rendition of Williams’ theme for “Lost in Space.” Lyons joins Lederer for a saxophone duet on the melody. When the ensemble deviates from the theme, the song takes on a more straightforward jazz approach, minus the computer sounds. The saxes and the keyboard are in orbit as each delivers its own message. After the solos, the band shifts to the season 3 theme before inserting a morsel of the cartoon series The Jetsons theme. The composer, Williams, went by Johnny in those days, but later changed to John before delivering such blockbuster scores for JawsStar Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Oddly, several of these themes were composed by jazz musicians, and some, particularly “Mannix,” sounded like jazz songs. But few, if any, have been remade before now.
All of the material fits into Kooshian’s passion for nostalgia. The music, including Wayne Shorter’s “Three Clowns,” is culled from Kooshian’s past. The original songs include the title song, which Kooshian wrote in 1992 but had never recorded, and three songs named for favorite characters in two comic strips and one animated series that he loved: “Koko,” for the clown in Max Fleischer’s Out of the Ink Well cartoons; “Porkypine,” named for a character in Walt Kelly’s Pogo; and “Ignatz,” a tribute to a character in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat series.

by Woodrow Wilkins – Smooth & Soul (2015)

“Whimsical, deep, and solid! Everytime I play a track from Ted Kooshian’s ‘Clowns Will Be Arriving,’ the phones light up with excited listeners!” — Jerry Gordon, Serenade To A Cuckoo,  WPRB Princeton

Pianist Ted Kooshian has found largely untapped resources for jazz. Inspired by comic books, cartoons and television shows, he devises performances full of humor, nostalgia and surprise. “Clowns Will Be Arriving,” his fourth album as a leader, includes originals such as the zippy title tune, the slow and bluesy “Porkypine” (a tribute to one of the characters in the “Pogo” comic strip) and the wistful ballad “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day,” sung by Napoleon Murphy Brock.

Then there are the TV themes “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Get Smart,” “Mannix” and “Lost in Space.” Wayne Shorter’s “Three Clowns,” written during Shorter’s stint with the fusion band Weather Report, and Dan Hicks’ “I Scare Myself” conjure up the expanding music scene of the ’70s. A couple of indestructible ballads, “Skylark” and “When You Wish Upon a Star,” also appear.

Kooshian’s band includes tenor and soprano saxophonist and flutist Jeff Lederer and four different bassist-and-drummer teams, plus additional horn and rhythm section players from tune to tune. Lederer is a bold, expressive player whose soprano is perfect in technique and spirit for the fast, busy “Koko” (not to be confused with Charlie Parker’s “Ko-ko”), Kooshian’s tribute to one of cartoonist Max Flesicher’s characters. “Ignatz,” another Kooshian tribute to a cartoon character, also has a good groove, with Kooshian’s piano bluesy and kicking. In addition to providing inspirational accompaniment and offering apropos solos on acoustic piano throughout the album, Kooshian also shows his skill with electronic keyboard effects on John Williams’ theme for the TV program “Lost in Space.”

by Owen Cordle – News & Observer (2015)

It really puts a smile on my face when a musician has the ability of not taking himself too seriously while still having the ability to create a wonderful work of art. There are many examples in history – one that comes to mind is how The Beatles were able to call themselves the ones with “the big fat hairy heads” on a British TV show – something that clearly endeared them to their audiences.

You rarely see that in jazz, though. Maybe because of all popular music forms, it is the one in which the artists want most to be respected for their skills and musical ability (sure, all do but you’ll probably never see a jazz singer doing a promo in drag like Queen did in the 80s). But sometimes the magic happens, it’s a wonderful thing when it does.

Which brings us to pianist Ted Kooshian’s incredibly amusing “Clowns Will Be Arriving,” (Summit), a mix of original tunes inspired by old comic strip characters and reinvented takes on classic TV show themes written back in the day when screen and TV composers were getting inspiration from Henry Mancini to write their own themes – all who draw inspiration from jazz in the first place.

The album opens with the theme from “I Dream of Jeannie” – its Latinesque feel allows for lots of improvisation, and you can feel how much fun the musicians were having in the studio.  “Get Smart” begins with a Booker T & the MGs feel via the bass and keyboards, and then evolves into a more straight ahead piece featuring the bandleader and saxophonist Jeff Lederer, who steals the spotlight with a soul-intensive tenor solo.

Also notable are the covers of Wayne Shorter’s “Three Clowns,” played here with great sincerity, and the playful take on “Lost In Space,” which includes a Theremin-like keyboard and some electronic sounds inspired by the original recording. Among the originals I enjoyed both the bluesy “Porkypine,” a track that also gave the musicians a lot of space to be creative and the up-tempo “Ignatz,” which features both Lederer and drummer Warren Odze.

This is a really fun album to listen to from the very first track all the way to the heartfelt arrangement of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which Kooshian plays as a solo piece on electric keyboards.

by Ernest Barteldes – Music Whatever (2015)

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

I have to admit that it was the cover of this CD that called to me, seeming to say, “play me first.” I expected some sort of circus music, and it was there, but not until the clowns had already arrived on tracks 2, 3, and 4. Truth be told, this exceptionally amiable jazz set is about Ted Kooshian’s nostalgia, which not only includes clowns but other fun memories. This is a guy who still remembers the pleasures of boyhood. I relate.

The songs fall into groups. There are actually two songs about clowns — the title song, written by Kooshian, and “Three Clowns” by Wayne Shorter. Another clown shows up in the songs Kooshian has written to honor characters from his youth — “Koko,” inspired by Max Fleischer’s “Out of the Inkwell” cartoons. Other songs in this category include “Porkypine,” in honor of one of my own comic-strip heroes, Walt Kelly’s Pogo; and “Ignatz,” a “tribute to the character in George Herriman’s Krazy Kat comic strip.”

Another category is that of slightly off center, cult television shows — Hugo Montenegro’s “I Dream of Jeannie,” Lalo Schifrin’s “Mannix,” Irving Szathmary’s “Get Smart,” and John Williams’ (then writing as Johnny Williams) “Lost in Space.” Thrown into the mix without a category are Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark,” Kooshian’s “Christmas Day, My Favorite Day,” and Dan Hicks’ “I Scare Myself.” And to close this trip down memory lane, what else — Leigh Harline’s “When You Wish Upon a Star,” from my own favorite animated film, Pinocchio.

“Koko” is the number that gets a dazzling circus treatment, with a few familiar tunes thrown in. The rest are performed in affectionate arrangements that are simply fun. Kooshian is the keyboard player throughout on piano and electronic keyboard. He’s joined by saxophonist Jeff Lederer, who can make playing filigree scales sound like fun, whether on soprano, tenor, or flute. Mat Jodrell is a solid trumpet player and the various bass and drums combinations are all stellar. The players are all seasoned professionals and play like it.

The recorded sound has lots of presence and is pretty close-up without being overly aggressive. There is a lot of width to the soundstage and moderate depth for the drums. Those parameters work for this collection.

Clowns Will Be Arriving is an upbeat, fun collection that falls easy on the ear. If you need something substantial yet fun to chase the blues away, this is the album.

Be sure to listen to: The bowed and plucked bass work on “Skylark” from Morrie Louden is simply outstanding. After you hear the song once, play it again and listen just to the bass line.

by Rad Bennett – Soundstage Network (2015)

New CD: Clowns Will Be Arriving

My fourth CD, Clowns Will Be Arriving, was released by Summit Records on January 13, 2015. Check out this page for audio samples and reviews!

  1. I Dream of Jeannie by Hugo Montenegro
  2. Get Smart by Irving Szathmary
  3. Clowns Will be Arriving by Ted Kooshian
  4. Three Clowns by Wayne Shorter
  5. Koko by Ted Kooshian
  6. Christmas Day, My Favorite Day music by Ted Kooshian, lyrics by Michael Andrew
  7. Mannix by Lalo Schifrin
  8. Skylark by Hoagy Carmichael
  9. Lost in Space by Johnny Williams
  10. Porkypine by Ted Kooshian
  11. I Scare Myself by Dan Hicks
  12. Ignatz by Ted Kooshian
  13. When You Wish Upon a Star by  Leigh Harline


Ted Kooshian – piano + electric keyboard + all arrangements • Jeff Lederer – flute, soprano+tenor sax • Cliff Lyons – alto sax • Pete McGuinness – trombone • Mat Jodrell – trumpet • Wilbur Bascomb, Tom Hubbard, Morrie Louden – bass • Dave Silliman, Warren Odze, Scott Neumann – drums + percussion • Paul Livant – rhythm guitar • Napoleon Murphy Brock – vocal • Jim Clouse – recording, mixing + mastering

C’mon, who doesn’t like a jazzy set of TV themes with some edge? Kooshian revisits his youth and adds some themes of his own that should have been, like tipping the cap to Koko, Ignatz and Krazy Kat. The shows might have been humorous, but the playing is no joke and this is a great way to take a walk down memory lane. Check it out.

by Chris Spector – Midwest Record (2015)

Standard Orbit Photos

Ted in Action


“Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet is out of this world!” — Ken Dryden,

“Ear opening contemporary jazz that doesn’t let you down” — Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet is a blast from the past conjuring up old but great memories of familiar songs given new and exciting jazzy arrangements that make this album a pleasure to hear often” — Edward Blanco, ejazznews

“…serious musicianship with a tongue in cheek approach – Great Music!” — Christopher Lams, Jazz Improv Magazine

“…Standard Orbit Quartet is an enjoyable listen, full of memorable performances and inspired arrangements.” — John Barron,

“… intriguing rhythms and propulsive interplay … killer basslines and harmonies, too” — Forrest Dylan Bryant, Jazz Times

One of 2009’s “Top Ten Jazz CD’s”
        ~ Ken Dryden (
        ~ Owen Cordle (News and Observer)

“The quality of musicianship is outstanding and the arrangements are fresh, inventive, and genius.” — Valerie Williams, Skope

“brims with vitality and affection…” — Don Williamson,

“Kooshian has obviously found a winning formula with this band…”
        — Ken Dryden,

“Hip, hip, hooray for musical insanity done right.” — Chris Spector, Midwest Record

“Kooshian’s vision is the same as Miles Davis or John Coltrane when they covered popular music of the 1950’s or Broadway hits.” — Mark Corroto,

“Ted’s solos are swinging throughout the entire CD… incredibly fun CD by five virtuosos who are creative and experienced enough to play their hearts out while at the same time never taking themselves too seriously…” — Ed Palermo, on

“Enjoy the creative levity here, and the wonderful playing.”
        — Ken Franckling, Jazz Notes

Yes, you heard right: “Underdog.” Pianist Kooshian, who may be best known for his work with the Ed Palermo Big Band (whose Zappa covers are wacky enough), has here again put his twisted mind on exhibition, with another album of (primarily) cartoon, TV and movie themes. Listeners will have a ball hearing the “Popeye,” “Little Lulu” and “Underdog” themes performed as jazz. Who knew “Underdog” would make a great Latin number? Only Kooshian, and his cohorts in the Standard Orbit Quartet I suspect. Some of the covers make sense: ’70s TV themes “Sanford and Son” (written by Quincy Jones), “Baretta” (Dave Grusin) and “The Odd Couple” were pretty jazzy to begin with, but hearing the “Wild, Wild West” theme as a waltzing ballad never occurred to me. Special credit must got to saxophonist Jeff Lederer, who simply burns through this humorous, yet musical jaunt.

by Brad Walseth – (2009)

Jazz pianist Ted Kooshian follows up his well received self-titled “Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet” (Summit Records 2008), with another unique recording inspired by Kooshian’s love for movies and television program theme songs. As the press clippings accurately states, Underdog and Other Stories… “takes the listener on a ‘jazzy-trip’ down memory lane” turning theme songs from cartoon shows like “Underdog,” and “Popeye” into striking motifs of contemporary jazz with stellar play from such players like saxophonist Jeff Lederer who wields the tenor and soprano with assertiveness, drummer Scott Neumann and bassist Tom Hubbard with Warren Odze sharing duties with Neumann on several tracks.

This is of course Kooshian’s album and as such the pianist is formidable in his own right providing flowing piano lines evident through out, just listen to the very jazzy rendition of Dave Grusin’s “Baretta.” The theme song from the classic comedy “Sandford and Son” comes across with a taste of funk hiding the familiar melody a bit. The group slows it down on the ballad-like “Wild Wild West” featuring Lederer on a slow tenor burn and the pianist on a graceful dance on the keys. Other interesting arrangements are found on such tunes as Neal Hefti’s “The Odd Couple,” the familiar Duke Ellington standard “Purple Gazelle,” the soft and beautiful Henry Mancini composition “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the brisk and bouncy groove of the finale number, “Little Lulu.”

On Underdog and Other Stories, Ted Kooshian takes his remarkable Standard Orbit Quartet on another spacey ride across the universe picking up radio waves from some more TV and movie signals and transforms them into exceptional jazzy arrangements radiating with excitement.

by Edward Blanco – ejazznews (2009)

While Ted Kooshian named his album Underdog, and other Stories… Kooshian is certainly not an underdog, nor is his Standard Orbit Quartet. He gives life to old television themes and superhero anthems, such as the highly energized re-imagination of “Underdog,” an upbeat number featuring a sick tenor sax feature by Jeff Lederer that starts off low and mysterious, much like the Pink Panther theme, then morphs into something more powerful. Lederer’s perfectly executed solo soars above Kooshian’s own piano, which is incredibly interesting by itself; his feature prior to the sax solo begins with just the bass line, then builds up to chords, and finally is joined by Lederer. After a few bars of that, the mood shifts briefly to a more Latin-infused beat, with Kooshian playing a conga-inspired pattern. The mood shifts several more times before the end of the song, transforming a simple cartoon theme song into something layered with more depth, which becomes infinitely more interesting.
The best part about this collection is the fact that Kooshian and his quartet obviously like to have fun, particularly evidenced with their rendition of “Popeye.” This song begins with bird noises and the sounds of the sea, followed by a boat horn, and then a smooth transition into the music with Kooshian playing the beginning of the theme in a complex meter. While the burden of the melody is once again given to the saxophone, don’t be fooled; Kooshian and his piano have total control over this song. In the middle after a false ending, the piano breaks the silence with a minor interlude that is a little haunting but beautiful nonetheless. He also ends the piece, with a dissonant variation of the melody that sums up the whole song, which then fades back to the bird noises from the beginning.
Underdog, and other Stories… is packed with energy. The quality of musicianship is outstanding and the arrangements are fresh, inventive, and genius. And they certainly do more than cartoons; the album also features the themes to Sanford and Son and The Odd Couple. They’re updated and reinvented in an adult way, giving these shows back to the people who watched as children in a new incarnation.

by Valerie Williams – Skope (2009)

Don’t tell Ted Kooshian that jazz can’t have a sense of humor. He knows how to have good fun with his Standard Orbit Quartet. Seriously. Underdog, and other Stories… primarily consists of songs that are very familiar, just not in a jazz context. This is a second edition of the pianist’s project of recording jazz versions of cartoon, TV and movie theme music – with interesting and unusual rearrangements – featuring his spirited quartet.

A zany take on the “Sanford and Son” theme song (written by Quincy Jones) is here, complete with slide whistle added to saxophonist Jeff Lederer’s arsenal. Quite fittingly, cartoon music king Raymond Scott is represented, as are the themes from “Underdog,” “Popeye,” “Baretta,” “The Odd Couple,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and a soulful, gospel take on “Wild Wild West.” The theme from the “Little Lulu” cartoon show is even embellished with drummer Warren Odze’s use of an inverted plastic bucket like those employed by so many street drummers. A fresh take on Duke Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle” is a great choice just for its name. Ellington described the exuberant tune, also recorded as “Angelica” in his small group session with John Coltrane, as a “ragtime cha-cha.” Enjoy the creative levity here, and the wonderful playing.

by Ken Franckling – Ken Franckling Jazz Notes (2009)

“Underdog, and Other Stories…” (Summit), by pianist Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet, is an album of movie, television and cartoon melodies plus a few pop and jazz themes. The Quartet combines deadpan humor with deadly technique. While it respects the inherent beauty in tunes such as Miguel Prado’s “Time Was,” Richard Markowitz’s “Wild, Wild West” and Henry Mancini’s “Breakfast at Tiffany,” it charts its own ingenious course that is more traditional than radical.

Kooshian, who arranged all the tunes, has an ear for novel settings: “Popeye” as a minor-chord workout for saxophonist Jeff Lederer’s soprano, “Wild, Wild West” as a gospel text for piano, tenor saxophone and bass solos, Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” as a (partly) stride piano display… The tango-like beat of the title track unleashes Lederer for some of his best tenor work, wherein he fits increasingly complex lines in the structure of the rhythm section accents. He is also hot throughout “Little Lulu,” with its joyous, funky New Orleans-flavored groove.

Kooshian and his rhythm mates (bassist Tom Hubbard and drummer Warren Odze or Scott Neumann) are a happy-sounding trio; i.e., happy to be playing together. While they and Lederer display technique to burn, the Quartet avoids competitive, academic jousting and, instead, digs deeper into the performances with individual personalities, humor and soul.

by Owen Cordle – News And Observer – North Carolina (2009)

Every cut of this 13-song album is a revelation, a foot-tapping, head-bopping load of fun mixing nostalgia with new interpretations. It is not unusual for an instrumental jazz album to cover standards from folks like Duke Ellington. Ted Kooshian covers Ellington, too, with a hopping rendition of “Purple Gazelle.” But it is the other covers here that astound, amaze and amuse. There is an Arabian-tango saxed-up take of the old “Underdog” cartoon theme. While that old tune, especially with this revved-up version, may not be familiar to many listeners, Kooshian’s covers of Quincy Jones’ “Sanford and Son” theme will catch your attention. He also takes a stab at a melancholy, discordant instrumental version of the Popeye theme, with a wobbly, Sunday-morning-coming-quality suggesting the sailor may have something a little more brisk than just spinach in the can. The “Wild, Wild West” theme starts with its familiar bum-bump, bum-bump opening then transcends into a near-religious experience on saxophone. This is the type of album that may offend some jazz purists. Too bad. It’s just the type of album to make jazz fans out of non-jazz listeners.

by Dean Poling – Valdosta Daily Times (2009)

Sooner or later, someone was bound to delve into these rather odd movie and TV themes, and Kooshian and his quartet do it with pizzazz. If you’re at least graying a bit at the temples, you’ll recognize the likes of “Sanford and Son,” “Popeye,” “Baretta,” “Wild Wild West,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Little Lulu.” An album highlight that, to my knowledge, can’t be connected to show biz is Duke Ellington’s spirited “Purple Gazelle.” There’s a lot of fun here, but this is not for laughs. It’s all well played, particularly Kooshian’s swinging piano.

by Jazz Society Of Oregon (2009)

TED KOOSHIAN’S STANDARD ORBIT QUARTET/Underdog and Other Stories: You might quibble with the a&r on the songs here but you aren’t going to argue with the playing and you aren’t going to argue with a cat that puts together a cd with a song list that plays out like the play list in your head when you’ve had too many with the gang. Mixing cartoon and tv themes with Mancini, he at least takes the trouble to blunt the comparisons to Raymond Scott wackiness by including “Powerhouse” and heading you off at the pass. This piano man and his pals probably knock back too much of the same stuff the rest of us do, but they know how to play and got it done first. Great pop culture/jazz silliness that the world could desperately use a shot in the butt of right now. Hip, hip, hooray for musical insanity done right.

by Chris Spector – Midwest Record (2009)

The concept for most jazz albums usually occurs more conventionally, and as the result of solitary imaginative considerations, than those for Underdog, and Other Stories…. Ted Kooshian’s new album, though, did stem from a convention—specifically, the annual Superheroes and TV Icons Social Conference, attended fortunately by Kooshian’s friend, Tom Goldstein.

Goldstein let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, at the convention of broadcasting celebrities that he knew Kooshian, a producer already of an album of television and movie themes. So, imagine this situation, amazing but true. All of a sudden Goldstein was the center of attention, and the characters, so to speak, sitting at the bar lobbied him to have their theme songs included on Kooshian’s next album. They started to sing. The cacophony was deafening as all of them belted out their theme songs at once: Woody Woodpecker, Felix Unger, Felix the Cat, Mary Richards, Popeye, James Rockford, Daffy Duck, Homer Simpson, Radar O’Reilly, Mr. Magoo, Baretta, King Julien XIII, Archie Bunker, Mighty Mouse, Mr. Sanford and his son, Jiminy Cricket, Toto, James Kirk, Oscar the Grouch, Fat Albert, Holly Golightly, Miss Piggy, the entire Addams family, Underdog, James West, George Jetson, Toody and Muldoon, Fred Flintsone, Barney Fife, Shrek, Ben Cartwright and Little Lulu. Such a commotion you never heard in your life. And you can imagine the pressure that Mr. T., Tony Soprano and Darth Vadar exerted on the bedraggled, importuned Goldstein. At least that’s what Goldstein said, and why should I doubt an associate professor?

The opportunities for selection were broad, but the time available on the CD was restricted. So, the theme songs that Kooshian selected, based on Goldstein’s recommendations, are shown in the track listing below.

Being a busy New York pianist for stage shows, Broadway productions and club engagements, Kooshian, naturally, is familiar with innumerable songs he learned for his work and to fulfill requests. No wonder that he is familiar with some of the often forgotten and forgettable themes like Little Lulu’s and the Wild Wild West’s. Nonetheless, Kooshian sense of fun and his open-mindedness finds value in them, making them not only accessible, but also memorable. With a jazz musician’s improvisational spirit, Kooshian and his Standard Orbit Quartet explore the often-unheard potential of these theme songs, like the possible bluesiness of the Wild Wild West’s theme or Little Lulu’s hand-clapping come-and-join-the-party swinging unpredictability, complete with a penultimate gospel reference, a melody-only simplified piano solo, and then drummer Warren Odze’s use of a bucket purchased from Home Depot just for the recording session.

Such witty effects continue, as would be expected, on “Popeye”—which contains, among other elements, a foghorn, bird sounds and a bit of “Sailor’s Hornpipe.” But something like transformation of rhythm occurs. And something like alteration of melody occurs, as if Sammy Lerner’s song were the starting point for winding soprano sax lines. And something like inhabation by the spirit of Popeye’s personality traits occurs. Something called “jazz” occurs. With a jazzman’s inventiveness, Kooshian internalizes the “Popeye” theme, reshaping it, breaking it into discreet sections of varying moods, and propelling it with a recurrent eighth-note vamp that allows saxophonist Jeff Lederer to veer between improvisation and melodic re-statement. Lederer’s soprano sax work works well too on Quincy Jones’ Sanford and Son theme, “The Streetbeater,” which Kooshian re-arranges with a prodding vamp and slight re-harmonization of the accompaniment.

Some of the surprises on Underdog, and Other Stories… occur in the least expected places. Like Dave Grusin’s Baretta theme. Who recalls how jazzy it was? Kooshian’s forceful broadly chorded introduction leads into Lederer’s swaying tour de force in six-eight, eventually leading into a four-against-three feel for unleashing the performance’s underlying tension. Just as one would expect Lederer to play soprano sax also on The Odd Couple theme, no, he chooses tenor sax, and with good reason: avoidance eventually of the lilting melody for a gradual detour into almost five minutes of jazz improvisation over the tune’s changes before Lederer restates it for the abrupt finish.

So what is Duke Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle” doing in the midst of these television and movie themes? Well, for intermission, of course!

Seriously, Kooshian continues, track by track, to change the perspective associated with often-heard theme songs, like Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse,” which he slows and trills and buzzes and swirls and elasticizes the tempo for his own wacky effect separate from those in Warner Brothers cartoons and from the Don Byron re-invention on Bug Music. And of course, there’s “Underdog,” a Thanksgiving-day parade favorite and assumed to be Kooshian’s favorite character due to the fact that he named the album after the hero who never fails. Kooshian and his Standard Orbit Quartet convert the Underdog theme into a stomping rumba-like basis for infectious improvisation.

Needless to say, Ted Kooshian’s musical tribute to his favorite movie and television icons brims with vitality and affection, bringing to mind listeners’ remembrances of shows past. Needless to say, much excellent material remains should Kooshian choose to continue his tributes to the filmed, drawn and videotaped heroes whose music remains a part of our culture.

by Don Williamson – (2009)

With all the humor and quirkiness that makes up the package and personality of the physical CD itself, what one hears is on a whole different level. Ted Kooshian and his Standard Orbit Quartet play on a set of themes from cartoons, television series, movies and some more familiar tunes. Many of them went right over my ears, as a twenty-six year old, but that was okay, because a band of this caliber doesn’t need any gimmicks to make great music – the novel song choices are an added benefit. Kooshian, saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Tom Hubbard and drummers Warren Odze and Scott Neumann play like a real band that has developed a deep chemistry. “Underdog” starts things out in an exciting fashion with a deep bass groove that gives way to an afro-Cuban feel. Neumann and Hubbard are like one voice, and Kooshian and Lederer also play off of each other wonderfully. Kooshian’s solo tells a story which is something refreshing and not all that common anymore. His ideas are all related to each other and his sense of melody is superb. He really gets inside the composition, thinking like a composer. The famous “Popeye” song starts off with the sounds of birds flying over the water and a boat leaving the dock. Kooshian makes things interesting by changing the time signature throughout the tune between triple, duple and odd meters and completely re-harmonizing the classic theme. “Powerhouse” brought me back to my childhood. After a solo rag style interpretation of the tune by Kooshian, the band gets very free with it, and suddenly I imagined Bugs Bunny on a horrible acid trip, wandering around in terror. Then it suddenly goes into a stiff march beat and I imagine Elmer Fudd on the hunt! At this point I realized how beautiful of an idea it is to tap into our childhood musical memories as fodder for serious improvisation. There is something very profound in the effect. Jeff Lederer’s sax playing is so diverse. At times he reminds me of Charlie Rouse, Sonny Rollins, or even Coleman Hawkins when he really wants to get sensual. This side of him is heard on “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The band shows a funkier side on “Little Lulu,” which makes for a good closer with its danceable rhythms and drum work and its R&B flavor. Some of the other tunes on the record include “Aja,” “Time Was,” Sanford and Son,” the “Barretta” theme, “Wild Wild West,” Duke Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle,” “God Give Me Strength,” by Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello, and “The Odd Couple” theme. This group has a lot of fun playing, but they take what they do very seriously. This is one of those records where you can hear the players listening. You can hear their empathy and the fact that they are not focused on themselves. There is humility in their approach and plenty of group chemistry that will suck you right into their sound. The Underdog wins!

by Cathy Gruenfelder – Jazz Inside NY (2009)

No one can accuse Ted Kooshian of turning to the same old well of standards for inspiration: Underdog, and other Stories… contains no songs written by Rodgers & Hart, Cole Porter, or Irving Berlin. But its track list will be instantly familiar to many, particularly those who came of age circa the ‘60s and ‘70s: As on the pianist’s last release, 2008’s self-titled Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet, Kooshian puts his crew through the paces on a handful of cartoon, film and TV themes from those heady days, tossing in a few offbeat pop and jazz standards for kicks.

Kooshian, who is also a regular member of the Ed Palermo Big Band, prefers to use these compositions – a diverse batch ranging from Quincy Jones’ “Sanford and Son” to Steely Dan’s “Aja” to Dave Grusin’s “Baretta” – as templates, often taking great melodic liberties. Sammy Lerner’s “Popeye the Sailor” at first barely resembles the tune embedded in millions of young minds; its “toot toot” strains surface prominently about a minute in, get lost amid whorls of piano and alto interplay, then pop up again toward the end. The title track is transformed into a slice of Latin funk and “Wild Wild West” into a saloon blues.

The quartet – Kooshian, tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Tom Hubbard and either Warren Odze or Scott Neumann on drums – finds an essence within each of these numbers and rebuilds them from the ground up. Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach’s “God Give Me Strength” retains the original’s spirituality but finds its heart in cascading crescendos, while Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle” (from his 1962 Coltrane session, and a.k.a. “Angelica”) is harder and tougher than the Duke’s. The highlight, though, is likely the Standard Orbit Quartet’s spaced-out take on “Powerhouse,” penned by cartoon-music god Raymond Scott. In its four-plus minutes lie all the mystery, wackiness and otherworldliness of a classic animated film.

by Jeff Tamarkin – Jazz Times (2009)

Ignore the fact that pianist Ted Kooshian regularly covers cartoon and TV music in his quartet and what’s left is an appreciation for music that swings exceptionally hard, and a passion for each tune that is anything but “animated.”

Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet has produced its second volume of music, Underdog And Other Stories…, following a self-titled release from 2008 that contained covers of The Simpsons’ theme, Batman, Top Cat, and the music of Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, and Sting.

But these are not covers, as in the ostentatious music of The Bad Plus, with its tendency towards a gaudy and over-the-top approach to music. Kooshian’s vision is the same as Miles Davis or John Coltrane when they covered popular music of the 1950s or Broadway hits. In fact, here’s an experiment: find a 20 or 30-something jazz fan and play him the theme from 1970s TV show Baretta, with soprano saxophonist Jeff Lederer playing remarkably in the vein of Coltrane on the infamous “My Favorite Things.” Knowing nothing of TV history, the 20-something will admire the song’s deft and dexterous manner, without ever thinking, “don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.”

The music just happens to be music ingrained into baby-boomers’ cerebral cortexes. And, familiarity is a fantastic starting point.

Kooshian is a regular in the New York jazz and Broadway scene, and holds the piano chair in the Ed Palmero Big Band, which plays covers of Frank Zappa music. His arrangements here are quite inventive—”Underdog” gets an Afro-Cuban flavor and TV’s “Wild Wild West” proceeds as a blustery blues, pitting Kooshian’s gospel piano against Lederer’s howling tenor saxophone.

Within the same vein of TV music, the band covers Steely Dan’s “Aja,” Henry Mancini’s “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” and Duke Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle,” all fodder for a polished quartet to showcase. They slow down Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” to a crawl—maybe a comment on our economic crisis—until Kooshian plays a two-fisted stride piano version of amphetamine jazz, reigniting the cartoon classic and reminding everyone that before Carl Stalling, Raymond Scott was a jazz star.

Don’t be fooled by the cartoon and TV references; this is one solid jazz record.

by Mark Corroto – (2009)

Pianist Ted Kooshian picks up where he left off on his second CD with his Standard Orbit Quartet, offering novel interpretations of themes from cartoons, television series, movies, plus a few familiar jazz and pop compositions. The lineup hasn’t changed much, with Jeff Lederer on tenor and soprano saxes, bassist Tom Hubbard, and drummer Warren Odze, though Scott Neumann takes over on drums on a few numbers due to a scheduling conflict for Odze. Those who grew up in the ’60s will remember Underdog (starring Wally Cox as the voice of the canine superhero), yet this campy interpretation of its theme song is centered around a lively Afro-Cuban beat. “Wild Wild West” (starring Robert Conrad and Ross Martin) is recast as a loping gospel number, featuring Lederer’s passionate, preaching tenor, all that’s missing is the closing “Amen” from a choir. Everyone who loves the Looney Tunes cartoons of the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s is likely familiar with Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse,” which was orchestrated and used in excerpts by Carl Stalling. Best compared with Scott’s original recording, Kooshian’s hilarious, stripped-down arrangement gets into a bit of stride, some pseudo-classical and avant-garde, along with many shifts in the tempo, resisting any predictable path. The dissonant setting of “Popeye” showcases the leader’s angular piano against Lederer’s playful soprano sax, then alters direction into an ominous vamp (possibly suggesting Popeye’s inevitable battle with Brutus). Henry Mancini’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is fairly straight-ahead, with lush tenor, elegant piano, and brushwork suggesting an early morning stroll in Manhattan on an autumn day. Likewise, the take of Duke Ellington’s “Purple Gazelle” (also recorded by its composer as “Angelica”) swings like mad in African-flavored swing, with Lederer’s superb soprano dominating the track. Ted Kooshian has obviously found a winning formula with this band, and if they continue to work together, they should suffer no shortage of songs to uncover for their mostly madcap experiments. Rate it four-and-a-half stars or five chuckles.

by Ken Dryden – (2009)

On this self-titled release, pianist/arranger Ted Kooshian and his Standard Orbit Quartet explore an intriguing set of tunes inspired by pop culture and the sounds of mainstream jazz. Many of the disc’s selections, such as “Top Cat,” “Spider-Man” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads” fit nicely into Kooshian’s traditional quartet format without much modification. Others, such as the theme to the popular television series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” the Led Zeppelin classic “Black Dog” and The Police anthem “Message in a Bottle” are reformatted and work surprisingly well in a straight-ahead context. The soulful boogaloo of “Black Dog,” in the style of Eddie Harris and Les McCann, is a disc highlight.

Kooshian is something of chameleon at the piano. An extremely deliberate player, he is able to adapt his proficient technique to meet the needs of the disc’s eclectic nature. As a soloist Kooshian is most effective on tunes like “Batman,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Don’t Give Up,” where the arrangements are somewhat sparse, allowing more room for development.

Kooshian’s band-mates are all first-rate instrumentalists, adept in the multi-faceted jazz traditions represented on the disc. Saxophonist Jeff Lederer demonstrates depth of improvisational range, moving from honking tenor shouts (“Black Dog”), to winding soprano lines (“Message in a Bottle”) to more aggressive linear flourishes (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). Bassist Tom Hubbard and drummer Warren Odze are a rock-solid rhythm section who shift stylistic gears effortlessly, and in convincing fashion. Hubbard’s intriguing solos, especially on “Captain Kangaroo,” are lyrical and swinging.

Standard Orbit Quartet is an enjoyable listen, full of memorable performances and inspired arrangements. Kooshian and company are intent on sharing a musical good-time with anyone willing to listen.

by John Barron – (2008)

Some people can’t handle it when their favorite music is treated “improperly.” Me, I love it when music is inverted, deconstructed, glued back together, and pushed in front of the fun-house mirror. That’s why I own collections of reggae covers of pop tunes, jazz versions of Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa material, Elvis Presley/Bob Marley twists on Led Zeppelin, and bluegrass covers of AC/DC songs. In the jazz world, there’s the longstanding tradition of using pop tunes and film/drama/television themes as inspiration. Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” and Miles’ “My Funny Valentine” come to mind. Pianist Ted Kooshian has done a little bit of both things here, with his quartet putting a jazz spin on both television theme songs and some classic rock and pop tunes. Given that Kooshian is a member of the Ed Palermo Big Band (specializing in burning renditions of Frank Zappa material), this broad approach is really no surprise. What I was surprised to hear was the theme from the television show “Top Cat.” Wow, I hadn’t heard that song in, well… over thirty years. Kooshian’s very malleable group makes the song swing like crazy. The same can be said for the slinky version of Led Zeppelin’s classic “Black Dog.” What really works well here is that Kooshian takes “jazz advantage” of the signature part of the original tune — in this case, “Black Dog”‘s start and stop tension. It’s a risky thing sometimes to take a vocal part and replace it with a saxophone. There’s a real danger of sliding over the “smooth” line. That’s definitely not the case here as both “Message In A Bottle” and “Don’t Give Up” give props to both The Police and Peter Gabriel/Kate Bush without lapsing into shmalzt-land. Other tunes covered here include the theme to Captain Kangaroo (I don’t even want to talk about how long its been since I heard that!), “Spider Man” (done in a loping swing), “The Simpsons” (Not quite as good as Danny Gatton’s version, but it’s close), and a fantastic “Batman.” With it’s angular sax lines, I almost didn’t recognize the closing track: the theme from the film Bullitt. It’s as soulful as much of the film music from that era, maybe missing the wah-wah drenched rhythm guitar. It woulda put a smile on Steve McQueen’s face, I’m sure. This record puts Ted Kooshian’s love of this music on display. It is in no way disrespecting the original releases. If you can get beyond that, you’re bound to have a good time.

by Mark Saleski – Blogcritics Magazine (2008)

Alright, this is simply fun. A well traveled jazzbo sets out to do jazz takes on cartoon show themes but takes such a left turn that once the improvs start, it’s jamming for the joy of it as there’s no way you can recognize “Top Cat” or “Captain Kangaroo” or any of the other tracks, especially when he veers away from the stated mission completely. Fun stuff by some real pros that play like it’s still the 60s and they like doing this. Ear opening contemporary jazz that doesn’t let you down.

by Chris Spector – Midwest Record (2008)

Taking a merry spin through pop culture, pianist Ted Kooshian jazzes classic TV and cartoon themes as well as popular tunes by Led Zeppelin, the Police and Peter Gabriel. This sounds like a novelty gimmick – really, there’s only so much one can do with title music from The Simpsons – but Kooshian finds surprising creative potential lurking beneath the surface of these simple ditties. Who knew that Captain Kangaroo concealed such intriguing rhythms and propulsive interplay or that Buffy’s vampire slaying offered killer basslines and harmonies, too?

by Forrest Dylan Bryant – Jazz Times (2008)

For an unconventional jazzy good time that’s out of this world, give Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet a spin and you’ll hear music you’ve not heard in years presented in an entirely new light. Inspired by pianist Ted Kooshian’s love of the movies and television shows, this album puts a jazzy slant to some familiar TV and movie theme songs that result in one dynamite recording. If you remember the 60s cartoon “Top Cat” one may not recognize the theme song with this arrangement but it nevertheless works quite well and features the wailing tenor of Jeff Lederer. The popular children’s program, “Captain Kangaroo” is given a hell of a boppish transformation yet retains the recognizable melody with nice solo performances from Kooshian and bassist Tom Hubbard. Cartoon super heroes “Spider Man” and “Batman” are represented here with Lederer featured on the clarinet on the New Orleans-like rendition of “Spider Man,” and the more subdued version of the caped crusader’s theme song. Kooshian departs from his major theme with the inclusion of a very bouncy read of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” containing a stylish solo from the leader and perhaps the best performance from the sax man on this disc. The other rock tune here is Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up.” Rounding out a fine session of excellent bop jazz is the best take of the only standard on the repertoire with “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads,” and Lalo Schiffrin’s theme song to the famous Steve McQueen movie, “Bullitt” highlighting drummer Warren Odze. For this listener, Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet is a blast from the past conjuring up old but great memories of familiar songs given new and exciting jazzy arrangements that make this album a pleasure to hear often.

by Edward Blanco – ejazznews (2008)

Pianist Ted Kooshian is well known to fans of the Ed Palermo Big Band, though this is only his second outing as a leader. Like Palermo, he’s not one to be satisfied with playing the same mix of standards and familiar jazz compositions. Instead, he mostly opts for a mix of television theme songs and rock, with plenty of surprises in store, while keeping the listener hooked with imaginative arrangements. Most of the folks who remember “Top Cat” are likely to have been born before 1961, but Kooshian delivers a spirited interpretation, with Jeff Lederer swinging along with him on tenor sax. “Captain Kangaroo” is the theme from the long-running children’s show, though the pianist transforms it into a driving 7/8 groove that wails. “Spider Man” is a hoot, played in a classic, bluesy New Orleans setting, with a bit of stride piano and Lederer’s mournful clarinet. He revamps “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” into furious post-bop, while slowly building the tension in a funky treatment of “Bullitt.” The rock songs work just as well. Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” settles into a soulful groove comparable to the work of Eddie Harris and Les McCann. Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up” is a curious alchemy of musical elements, including gospel and pop with the occasional air of ancient English folk, with delicious solos by Kooshian and Lederer (the latter on soprano sax). Finally, there is one standard, a breezy setting of the show tune “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet is out of this world!

by Ken Dryden – All Music Guide (2008)