Mark Doyle – Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III – Free Will

by | Nov 22, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews, Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Mark Doyle – Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III – [TrackList follows] – Free Will FW565, 39:26 [8/26/19] ****:

(Mark Doyle – producer, guitar, keyboards, bass, drum programming, arranger, conductor; Josh Dekaney – drums, percussion; Ally Brown, Shelby Dems, Jonathan Hwang, Joe Davili – violins; Kate LaVerne – cello)

Guitarist Mark Doyle has a multi-tiered and varied career, from being part of an early ‘70s hard rock band to session work for Hall & Oates, Judy Collins, Leo Sayer and others; and from lead guitarist for Meat Loaf to doing string arrangements for numerous groups such as New Kids on the Block and the Cavedogs. Along the way Doyle has issued three instrumental albums in his long-running Guitar Noir series: 1999’s Guitar Noir, 2011’s In Dreams: Guitar Noir II and this year his third installment, the 39-minute Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III.

Like previous Noir projects, Doyle primarily focuses on popular, semi-popular or little-known tunes which generally fit the concept—there are a few exceptions—and does most of the playing. On Watching The Detectives Doyle handles production duties and plays guitar, keyboards, bass, does drum programming, and arranges and conducts a small strings ensemble (four violins and one cello). Drummer and percussionist Josh Dekaney, a part-time Syracuse music professor, rounds out the credits. The music ranges from rock to jazz, so either faction of fandom will find something enticing. Doyle commences with the five-minute “Detectives Medley” which combines sections of Elvis Costello’s 1977 reggae-tinted single “Watching the Detectives” with the “Get Smart” TV show theme and Nelson Riddle’s unforgettable “The Untouchables” TV show theme. Throughout, Doyle adds tough and lean guitar lines while the violins and cello provide appropriate coloring. For his rendition of the opening theme song for the “Kojak” cop program, Doyle jettisons the horns and slightly funky structure and emphasizes guitar and smoother strings; Doyle’s stinging lead guitar gives the “Kojak’ tune a contemporary flair. Doyle’s interpretation of the Jerry Goldsmith theme for the TV spy program, “Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” is top-notch, highlighted by Dekaney’s prominent drums and a denser arrangement which stresses organ, rock guitar and electric bass.

Doyle also does some obscurities which puts the listener into unexpected musical locales. These days, many folks may not remember or know the 1959-1960 private detective series “Johnny Staccato” with a young John Cassavetes. The iconic Elmer Bernstein composed the soundtrack. Doyle turns the arrangement around, whooshing from the apt staccato string arrangement to blistering guitar and includes a heavier drum timbre. The violins and cello are more pronounced during Dave Grusin’s “It Takes a Thief,” from Robert Wagner’s 1968-1970 action-adventure TV series. Here, Doyle balances melancholy guitar/strings with unforeseen stabs into harder rocking areas, echoing Grusin’s mix of orchestral and jazz touches.

Doyle integrates two likeminded originals. There’s an apropos noir-ish quality to the fiery “Thirteen Crimes,” which could effortlessly be adapted to a modern noir movie. Even better is the dark-hued jazz selection, “Noir Alley,” where Doyle mingles acoustic bass chords, horn-like guitar lines and eerie, Theremin-like keyboard sounds to create an imaginative outing.

Not all of Doyle’s picks snugly fit his noir concept. One example is a blues-drenched take of Andre Previn’s 1961 “Lost Letter,” from Previn’s 1961 LP, Thinking of You. Previn’s original was a jazzy, piano-based composition; whereas Doyle’s moody translation goes into rock-blues fusion territory, where the strings juxtapose with the electric guitar. Frank Zappa enthusiasts might go directly to Doyle’s reworking of “America Drinks and Goes Home,” from the 1967 Mothers of Invention album Absolutely Free. Zappa’s original lounge lizard irony has long since expired; now it’s a classic, late-night jazz excursion where Doyle showcases his jazz guitar influences with clean, slightly reverbed lines while Dekaney accentuates his brushes and cymbals. Wonderful use of strings as well. Rounding out the record is a beautiful instrumental arrangement of Louis Cole’s 2018 slow-dance number, “Everytime.” Watching The Detectives: Guitar Noir III is easily one of the more enjoyable themed projects of the past year which equally merges jazz, rock, television and soundtrack components.

Detective Medley: Watching the Detectives, Get Smart, The Untouchables
Kojak Theme
Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Lost Letter
Johnny Staccato
America Drinks and Goes Home
Thirteen Crimes
Noir Alley
It Takes a Thief

—Doug Simpson

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