Mr. Dick Hyman
Listen – The Man From U.N.C.L.E.- MP3
I’m back from my mini-vacation, and I just finished refilling the Iron Leg warehouse with new sounds for the coming months.
Back in the day, when I was probably about 13 or 14, I went with my father to see a concert by a group called the Soprano Summit. The sopranos in question – lest you think I was dragged to some prehistoric version of the Three Tenors – were soprano saxophones, played by two masters of the instrument, Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern (both sadly deceased). Though I didn’t know it at the time, both concerts I saw by this group (spaced about a year apart) featured all-star jazz lineups. Though I can’t recall which time featured which mix of players, I was lucky enough to see players like bassist George Duvivier, drummers Connie Kay (who played with the Modern Jazz Quartet and on Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’) and Bobby Rosengarden (Dick Cavett’s bandleader), guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (father of the famous John) and pianists Dick Wellstood and Dick Hyman.
Though all of these players were familiar to my Dad, I had no idea who any of them were at the time.
This was of course remedied over the years, especially during the late 80’s and early 90s when I immersed myself in jazz.
Oddly enough, the name Dick Hyman wouldn’t become meaningful until years later when I started to DJ.
Hyman, who in addition to being an accomplished jazz pianist (and later composing soundtracks for Woody Allen films) was a busy studio musician, and more importantly a pioneer in playing and recording with electronic keyboards, especially the Moog synthesizer. Hyman’s Moog recordings have become sought after by DJs as sample fodder, as well as being embraced by the Easy/Now Sound crowd.
My favorite Hyman album just happens to be (no surprise here) one of his organ sessions, 1965’s ‘The Man from O.R.G.A.N.’.
Another in a long line of pop culture attempts to capitalize on the spy movie craze, the LP featured Hyman working it out on several movie and TV themes, including today’s selection, the theme from ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’.
Largely forgotten today – except of course by people with good taste (or those old enough to have seen it the first time around)- ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E’ ran on NBC from 1964 to 1968 and featured Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as agents Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin respectively. The series (which had a spin-off in ‘The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.’) was a mid-60’s pop-cult masterwork, combining international intrigue with a mod vibe and just enough humor to keep things from getting too heavy. There was even an episode (which I used to have a bootleg copy of) that featured Sonny and Cher.
The theme – for which he won an Emmy Award – was written by Jerry Goldsmith, and is one of my all-time fave “spy” themes. Hyman more than does the tune justice, with a groovy arrangement that replaces the lead guitar with organ.
I don’t know if The Man from O.R.G.A.N.’ has ever been reissued, but it’s not too hard to find out n the field, and if organ LPs, spy soundtracks or both are your bag, you ought to grab yourself a copy.