In the mid-'60s, Bud Shank recorded a string of albums in Los Angeles for World Pacific Jazz that were West Coast attempts to capitalize on rock, pop and the new movie music. These recordings included Michelle, A Spoonful of Jazz, California Dreamin', Light My Fire, Music from Today's Movies, Magical Mystery and Let It Be. One of the most glorious efforts in this groovy genre was Bud's Windmills of Your Mind (1969).
What I love about Bud on these recordings is that he wasn't turning on or selling out. Instead, his hard sound and all-out blowing on alto sax and flute gave the music a speeding-MG, mid-life crisis sophistication. On Windmills of Your Mind, he fed Michel Legrand's jazz-based pop melodies through the Bud Shank jazz grinder, resisting the temptation to convert the film tunes into adult contemporary fare.
Windmills of Your Mind was arranged by Legrand [pictured] and covered all of the composer's hot material at the time. Which meant three movies—The Thomas Crown Affair, Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort. If you're unfamiliar with any of these movies, all are available at Netflix and are must-sees for jazz fans.
Windmills of Your Mind was recorded in Los Angeles and featured Gary Barone, Bud Brisbois and Conte Candoli [pictured] (trumpets); Billy Byers (trombone); Bud Shank (alto sax and flute); Ernie Watts (tenor sax); Michel Legrand (piano and harpsichord); Artie Kane (organ); Howard Roberts (guitar); Ray Brown (bass); Shelly Manne (drums) and five strings.
Every track is a French twist on the swinging '60s, with superb arranging by Legrand and crisp playing by Bud and the orchestra. The album opens with the Thomas Crown Affair's title song, which is given a paisley feel with Legrand's harpsichord and strings. Watch What Happens from Umbrellas follows, using a fabulous merging of alto, tenor, trumpet and piano. Legrand here plays tag with Bud on the improvised sections, adding to the track's dynamism.
The cat-like Theme D'Elise from Umbrellas offers plenty of punch, and Bud both echoes the arrangement and takes a graffiti can to it on the improvised passages. One Day, which Legrand wrote with Alan and Marilyn Bergman in 1967, is a torrid ballad that Bud plays with abandon backed by Legrand on piano and strings.
Chanson de Solange and De Delphine a Lancien are both uptempo burners from Rochefort. The former finds Bud on alto along with a taste of Byers' trombone and Roberts' guitar. For the latter, Bud is on flute, running through impossibly fast and complex lines backed by piano and vibes. Though the vibist isn't named in the album's personnel, Larry Bunker is a good guess.
I Will Wait for You was the other major standard to emerge from Legrand's Umbrellas. It's taken at a variety of tempos, including a series of Supersax-y lines run down by the two saxes, trumpet and organ.
Once Upon a Summertime is taken as a scorching ballad. The album ends with another tune from Rochefort—the skippy Chanson des Jumelles, with Barone's trumpet and Kane's organ.
The older I get, the more I appreciate Bud's jazz-goes-'60s efforts—particularly when they sizzle. To his credit, Bud always stuck to his knitting, no matter the trend or fad. On Windmills of Your Mind, that was an easier challenge given Legrand's French jazz-pop melodies.
JazzWax tracks: Bud Shank's Windmills of Your Mind (World Pacific Jazz) is available only on LP but may be available at download sites. It's on LP at Amazon here. EBay, as of yesterday, also featured quite a few copies.
JazzWax clip: Here's Bud Shank on alto saxophone backed by Gary Barone on trumpet, Artie Kane on organ and Howard Roberts on guitar playing His Eyes, Her Eyes from Windmills of Your Mind (1969)...