Name that toon!

It’s been over a year since Brian Jones performed his original soundtracks to Tom and Jerry episodes, but on Tuesday, cartoons and jazz meet again.

It was strange but altogether not surprising to witness: toddlers and their parents embraced this jazz music that was all over the map, jumping and cutting, improvised and composed, free and swinging. Without a doubt, the reason they were all entranced was before our eyes: Tom and Jerry cartoons projected against a large wall dictated the cooky music.

It took place one early evening last June at the Chesterfield County Public Library. A little out of the way for many downtown jazz goers, it was a hot ticket event for children and their parents, who made up 95% of the audience in the small room. As (most of us) watched and heard drummer Brian Jones, bassist Randall Pharr, saxophonist JC Kuhl, and trombonist Reggie Pace playing Jones’s compositions to several of the cartoons starring the cat and mouse pair, the youngest members of the audience adorably danced and roamed, the shadows of their heads bobbing along the bottom of the projection. On Tuesday night, the group is bringing the concept back, this time at The Camel.


The concept was Brian Jones’s idea, which isn’t surprising. He’s always looking for ways to shake things up, and with two daughters of his own, he’s watched his fair share of cartoons. Jones wrote all of the music, which — melodically and harmonically — is true to his own compositional style, but with some structural differences. Each episode begins with Jones’s penned theme that sounds like it could be right out of the cartoon’s original music by Scott Bradley. The music plays directly off what’s happening in the cartoon (as any soundtrack should), but there is often one musician left to improvise sound effects while the other three hold down a theme.

Bradley was a huge influence in writing the music, Jones said, calling him a “flat out genius” and “maybe the most listened to composer ever.”

“His jump cuts and general techniques depicting the whole cat and mouse world were awesome!” he said.

The band will play an early 30-minute “kid friendly” set at 7pm, followed by a set at 9pm. At 10:30, the band will improvise music to a series of short films by the American experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. Jones was exposed to Brakhage’s work in a documentary film class in college, and he later read about Sonic Youth’s performances of live scores to his works.

The films, Jones says, “are very evocative and there are many ways they could be interpreted musically. [It] will be a total blast, though an abstract blast for sure.”


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Dean Christesen

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