“Ted Kooshian’s Standard Orbit Quartet is out of this world!” — Ken Dryden, AllMusic.com
“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, Jazzreview.com
“… intriguing rhythms and propulsive interplay … killer basslines and harmonies, too” — Forrest Dylan Bryant, Jazz Times
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 – Jazzreview.com (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)