Tom Scott Musical Director of ‘Sajak Show’; Rodney Reaps Benefits of Homage to Parker

Saxophonist-composer Tom Scott, a veteran of more than 20 years on the Los Angeles contemporary music scene, has been signed as musical director-bandleader for the new “Pat Sajak Show,” which debuts Monday on CBS.

Sajak’s producer, Paul Gilbert, who remembered Scott from his late-'70s jazz-fusion band, the L.A. Express, thought the reedman’s multimusical background “would fit in perfectly” with Sajak’s format of interviews and musical guests, “and Pat felt the same,” Gilbert said. The producer would like to have such diverse talents as Rosemary Clooney and Madonna appear on the show, “so we needed a band and a musical director who could play for both, and make them both feel comfortable,” he said.

Scott--who first emerged locally as a youthful alto saxophonist with Don Ellis’ Orchestra in the ‘60s, then went on to lead his Express behind Joni Mitchell in the late ‘70s and has recently composed the scores to such films as “Soulman” and “The Sure Thing"--has culled an octet from the ‘A’ list of the town’s contemporary jazzmen.


The band includes Jerry Peters and Barnaby Finch, keyboards; Eric Gale and Carlos Rios, guitars; David Koz, sax; Tim Landers, bass; and Harvey Mason, drums.

Scott, who wrote the show’s theme, said the group’s music will resemble his most recent LP--"Flashpoint” (GRP). “That’ll be difficult to escape, but since I have a band full of writers, all the material most certainly won’t be mine,” he said.

Sajak and Gilbert asked for Scott’s input in designing the new $4 million-$5 million sound stage for the late-night show, which airs locally on KCBS-TV Channel 2, 11:30 p.m.-1 a.m., Monday-Friday. “I designed the bandstand for good eye contact between myself, the band and the performing artists, which will help make everyone comfortable,” Scott said.

Describing the new job as “a real dream situation,” Scott added that, like other late-night leaders, he’ll play mostly during commercials and behind guest artists, with an occasional on-camera number.

“And I’ll get to talk to some degree, and probably be asked to be witty on demand,” Scott added.

AROUND TOWN: Clint Eastwood’s homage to Charlie Parker, “Bird,” may have only grossed about $1.5 million at the domestic box office, but it has paid extensive dividends to several musicians associated with Parker or his style.

Bird-influenced saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Charles McPherson, the group Supersax, which plays orchestrated Parker solos, and trumpeter Red Rodney all have been in greater demand since the film’s September release.

The 61-year-old Rodney (nee Robert Chudnick), who played with Parker in 1948-1950 and is played in the film by Michael Zelnicker, is at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood through Sunday, leading a New York-based modern mainstream quintet. The title of his show: “Celebrating Bird.”

On another side of the musical spectrum, Brazilian singer-composer-guitarist Dori Caymmi is at the Room Upstairs at LeCafe in Sherman Oaks through Thursday, offering the soothing, lilting pieces that make his “Dori Caymmi” (Elektra/Musician) debut so enjoyable. Caymmi--whose father, Dorival, was one of the first composers of the bossa nova trend--wrote the arrangements for Sarah Vaughan’s recent “Brazilian Romance” LP (CBS). He’ll be joined by singer Gracinha Leporace.

RECENT REISSUES: “Alfie” (Impulse CD), tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins’ solid mainstream sound track for the 1966 Cannes Special Jury Award winning film that made Michael Caine a star, remains a fine piece of work. Rollins hewn-from-oak sound soars majestically above an all-star band led by the late Oliver Nelson. The saxman plays with fervor on “Alfie’s Theme,” then is gentler on “He’s Younger Than You Are.” (Note: the popular tune, “Alfie,” a hit by Dionne Warwick, is not included as recorded.) Rollins, who is taking his customary winter break from touring and is lying low at his Upstate New York home, makes a brief aural appearance in the recent film, “Working Girl.” A portion of his evocative 1958 version of “Poor Butterfly,” available on “Sonny Rollins, Volume 2" (Blue Note), is heard as background to a conversation between stars Harrsion Ford and Melanie Griffith. Later, Rollins’ well-known “St. Thomas” is played by a Caribbean-flavored band during a wedding scene.

Though the classic “Into The Hot” (Impulse CD) was first issued under Gil Evans’ name, the 1961 date actually spotlighted trumpeter John Carisi’s big band and pianist Cecil Taylor’s explosive septet, each on three tracks. Evans is listed as conductor but legend has it that all he did was go out for sandwiches. Carisi’s luminescent arrangements, with Phil Woods on lead alto and the late pianist Eddie Costa, are subtle, gleaming wonders, and Taylor’s band, with late altoist Jimmy Lyons and tenorman Archie Shepp roaring, produces some of the modernist’s most accessible moments.

Woods, circa 1956, can be discovered on “Warm Woods” (Portrait), where he fronts a quartet including pianist Bob Corwin, who has been a Los Angeles resident for more than two decades. Smooth yet sassy takes on such standards as “In Your Own Sweet Way” and “Easy Living” and pungent originals like “Squire’s Parlor” and “Gunga Din” show that Woods had an original approach right from his career’s outset. If you want to find out what Woods is saying today, he’ll be appearing with his quintet at Catalina Bar & Grill in late January.