Small-Screen Jazz: Your Favorite TV Themes

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Mr. Rogers

Even in the afterlife, Mr. Rogers requests that you be his neighbor.

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How much of your brain space is used to archive items pertaining to pop culture? Of all the television programs you've watched since you were a kid, how many do you think you would recognize today? The most memorable television themes are good musical pieces and/or simple, catchy tunes that immediately signify a much-loved program.

This week's Take Five celebrates some small-screen songs that are sure to stick in your head. A few of these are true jazz-based TV themes, while a couple are updated jazz versions of game-show and cartoon themes.

Please share some of your favorite TV themes in the comments section below.

Small-Screen Jazz: Your Favorite TV Themes

Cover for Original Jam Sessions 1969

Hikky-Burr

  • Artist: Quincy Jones/Bill Cosby
  • From: Original Jam Sessions 1969

Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby composed this funky jazz theme song for The Bill Cosby Show — the 1969-71 series in which he plays the character Chet Kincaid, not to be confused with the very popular 1984-92 series The Cosby Show, in which he plays Cliff Huxtable. This jam features jazz greats Ray Brown, Eddie Harris, Milt Jackson and Joe Sample, among others. There's also another version of "Hikky-Burr" on this recording which features Cosby on vocals. Though Cosby is best known for his television work, comedy and books, he's also a jazz musician.

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Song
Hikky-Burr
Album
Original Jam Sessions 1969
Artist
Quincy Jones/Bill Cosby
Label
Concord Jazz

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Uptown Elegance

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

  • Artist: Joe Negri
  • From: Uptown Elegance

The theme for Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is played here by his television neighbor "Handyman," Joe Negri. Fred Rogers often collaborated on compositions for his popular PBS children's program with fellow Pittsburghers in guitarist Joe Negri and pianist Johnny Costa — both respected local jazz musicians. Whether you grew up watching Mr. Rogers or were responsible for introducing a child to the program, you're likely to remember enough of the words to sing along with this instrumental version.

Uptown Elegance is available from MCG Jazz.

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Song
It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood
Album
Uptown Elegance
Artist
Joe Negri
Label
MCG
Released
2004

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Mannix

Mannix

  • Artist: Lalo Schifrin
  • From: Mannix

Lalo Schifrin is responsible for many great television and film scores. Among the most memorable short pieces were television themes for Mannix and Mission: Impossible in the 1960s. This recording of Mannix is not from the original soundtrack, but from a 1999 re-recording with the WDR Big Band. Schifrin had the opportunity to go back into the studio to record the entire soundtrack and add a few tunes to supplement the ideas that formed his original work.

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Song
Mannix [Title Track/Short Version]
Album
Mannix
Artist
Lalo Schifrin
Label
Aleph

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TV Trio

The Price Is Right

  • Artist: John Stetch
  • From: TV Trio

The Price Is Right is one of the longest-running game shows in television history, airing from 1972 through the present day. If you haven't watched the show, the theme can also be heard on The Price Is Right slot machines, video games and even an official iPhone app. Pianist John Stetch's TV Trio celebrates Price, along with a wide range of popular TV themes, including those from Star Trek, Rocky and Bullwinkle, The Flintstones and The Six Million Dollar Man, among others.

TV Trio is available at CD Baby.

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Cover for Replay

Spider-Man Theme

  • Artist: Alison Brown Quartet
  • From: Replay

Many people know the theme for the 1967-70 Spider-Man cartoon. Some might only recognize the music from The Simpsons Movie, in which Homer creates a "Spider-Pig" song. Who would have dreamed it would sound great as a jazz banjo tune? Banjo virtuoso Alison Brown tears through the theme with her quartet. The result is solid, straight-ahead jazz with a tinge of bluegrass in its Spidey-soul.

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Song
Spiderman Theme
Album
Replay
Artist
Alison Brown Quartet
Label
Compass

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