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Celebrity Jam Session Tries to Fill ‘Joint’

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A jam session with Jack Lemmon, Bea Arthur, Jackie Cooper and Dudley Moore? What a concept. But that’s exactly what we get in “This Joint Is Jumpin’,” described as a “star-packed jam session.”

And who knows, maybe it’s in direct response to stacks of letters from KCET subscribers asking to hear Cooper’s scintillating drumming, Arthur’s torch-song singing, and the snappy pianistics of Lemmon and Moore.

Let’s hope so. Because this noisy, relentlessly cheerful studio special has little else to justify its airing--other than the apparent desire of the participants to strut their secondary talents in a “celebrity jam.”

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The setting is an indistinct nightclub, with some of the artists seated at tables in the “audience.” The house band is Conrad Janis and the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band (strangely without the usual presence of George Segal), reveling in performing a few of their standard hot numbers.

At various times in the course of the show, Janis or Lemmon comes up with “spontaneous” suggestions to do one song or another. Arthur, looking detached from the whole process, sings a stoic rendering of “When You’re Smiling” and a slightly more vigorous “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” And Moore--who is capable of playing some attractive jazz--sounds a bit out of practice in a brief run through “Soon.”

Actor Dirk Benedict joins the ensemble on a couple of numbers, playing trombone that is largely inaudible. But Lemmon has a few mildly pleasant moments with singer Janet Carroll on “Amazing Grace,” and Janis smiles enthusiastically whenever he isn’t pumping out tailgate rhythms on his trombone.

The most attractive moments are provided by singer Rose Weaver, who manages to bring some energy and drive to the title song, “This Joint Is Jumpin’,” “Bill Bailey” and “Kansas City.” In the Unlisted Jazz Band ensemble, Paul Humphrey is solid on drums, and--in the few moments of genuine musical appeal--tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson delivers several brief, but driving solos.

* “This Joint Is Jumpin’ ” airs at 10 tonight on KCET-TV Channel 28.

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