Sunday Jazz: Ron Carter’s “Empire Jazz”

For most of my life I assumed that when it came to other musicians offering their take on John Williams’ timeless scores for the Star Wars trilogy, the be all and end all was Meco’s Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk. Who hasn’t gotten down to the stone cold disco groove of “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” at least once in their life?

But it turns out there is actually more sweet Star Wars tuneage from that era. Take, for example, this week’s Sunday Jazz entry. It’s five tracks of the swingin’ space jazz courtesy of legendary bassist Ron Carter — Empire Jazz. And dig that cover art! It was released in 1980 on the RSO Records label. RSO (home of the Bee Gees) also distributed the official soundtrack for The Empire Strikes Back, so this release seems like a natural progression. OK, maybe not so natural.

For this album, Carter assembled a crack collection of musicians to offer their take on five themes from John Williams’ Empire score. While the whole group is outstanding, special attention should be paid to Bob James (he of Taxi theme fame) on piano, Billy Cobham on drums, and Hubert Laws on flute. Their work on “The Asteroid Field” is especially noteworthy, although most fans will want to check out “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” first.

So if you love Star Wars, jazz, or both, enjoy Empire Jazz!

Track listing (all compositions by John Williams):

  1. “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)”
  2. “The Asteroid Field”
  3. “Han Solo and the Princess (Love Theme)”
  4. “Lando’s Palace”
  5. “Yoda’s Theme”

Musicians:

  • Ron Carter — bass
  • Bob James — acoustic piano
  • Billy Cobham — drums
  • Ralph McDonald — assorted percussion
  • Hubert Laws — flute
  • Jon Faddis — trumpet and flugelhorn
  • Joe Shepley — trumpet and flugelhorn
  • Frank Wess — tenor and soprano sax
  • Jay Berliner — electric and acoustic guitar
  • Eddie Bert — trombone

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