On this self-titled release, pianist/arranger Ted Kooshian and his Standard Orbit Quartet explore an intriguing set of tunes inspired by pop culture and the sounds of mainstream jazz. Many of the disc’s selections, such as "Top Cat," "Spider-Man" and "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" fit nicely into Kooshian’s traditional quartet format without much modification. Others, such as the theme to the popular television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the Led Zeppelin classic "Black Dog" and The Police anthem "Message in a Bottle" are reformatted and work surprisingly well in a straight-ahead context. The soulful boogaloo of "Black Dog," in the style of Eddie Harris and Les McCann, is a disc highlight.
Kooshian is something of chameleon at the piano. An extremely deliberate player, he is able to adapt his proficient technique to meet the needs of the disc’s eclectic nature. As a soloist Kooshian is most effective on tunes like "Batman," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Don’t Give Up," where the arrangements are somewhat sparse, allowing more room for development.
Kooshian’s band-mates are all first-rate instrumentalists, adept in the multi-faceted jazz traditions represented on the disc. Saxophonist Jeff Lederer demonstrates depth of improvisational range, moving from honking tenor shouts ("Black Dog"), to winding soprano lines ("Message in a Bottle") to more aggressive linear flourishes ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). Bassist Tom Hubbard and drummer Warren Doze are a rock-solid rhythm section who shift stylistic gears effortlessly, and in convincing fashion. Hubbard’s intriguing solos, especially on "Captain Kangaroo," are lyrical and swinging.
Standard Orbit Quartet is an enjoyable listen, full of memorable performances and inspired arrangements. Kooshian and company are intent on sharing a musical good-time with anyone willing to listen.