Doing It Better: CCM as Bond

The reason most jazz orchestras steer clear of the James Bond catalog is fear of ridicule. Bond music is deceptively difficult. To be convincing, the feel has to be sultry while the attack must be elephantine and brassy. Anything short of these qualities in the music’s scope and sound will come off as lightweight and silly. So last week, when I saw the album Nobody Does It Better: The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond (Summit), I had two simultaneous reactions—skepticism and pity. Yet another orchestra landing in 007’s trap. [Photo above of Scott Belck, director of the CCM Jazz Orchestra]

Imagine my surprise when I put on the CD and found myself captivated by the music. The arrangements are inventive and take liberties, but they blissfully meet all of my Bond criteria. Mind you, I’m no Bond piker. I have upward of 60 Bond-related albums, including the soundtracks, contemporary interpretations, big-band and small-group jazz covers, Latin approaches and the instrumentals by the U.K.’s Roland Shaw. I like my Bond music big, sassy, swinging and menacing. Mission accomplished here.

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CCM stands for the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. CCM is directed by Scott Belck, who for this project contacted Sex Mob’s slide trumpeter, composer and arranger Steven Bernstein (above) to collaborate on a Bond orchestral album based on Sex Mob’s Sex Mob Does Bond from 2001. Belck wanted to super-size Sex Mob’s small-band arrangements. In effect, the new album is a big-band treatment of the Sex Mob album, excluding Sex Mob’s Teasing the Korean, 007, Oddjob’s Pressing Engagement, Bond Back in Action and Over and Out, with the addition here of You Only Live Twice and Thunderball. The latter two were arranged by CCM baritone saxophonist Joe Duran. [Photo above of Steven Bernstein]

Bernstein’s slide-trumpet playing throughout is gloriously ruminative and daring. The songs on the new CCM album are Dr. Yes (a Bernstein original); This Never Happened to the Other Feller from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service; Battle at Piz Gloria from the same soundtrack; Bond With Bongos from From Russia With Love; Dawn Raid on Fort Knox from Goldfinger; Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me; You Only Live Twice and Thunderball.

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Now, of course, I’m on a Bond jag and probably will be all day as I write.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Nobody Does It Better: The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond (Summit) here.

JazzWax clip: Here’s You Only Live Twice, with solos by tenor saxophonist Josh Kline and guitarist Joe Wittman…