The Beiderbecke Connection

When I stay with my friend Jack Brownlow(page 267 in The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond), he often comes up with special entertainment. Yesterday, it was a couple of episodes of The Beiderbecke Connection, a 1988 series from Granada, the British TV network. Jack’s daughter checked it out from the public library on VHS, but it is also available here on DVD. Trevor Chaplin and the adorable Barbara Flynn play the lead characters, unmarried school teachers with a child they call “the firstborn” because they can’t agree on a name for him. The couple have a talent for trouble when they try to accomodate beguiling, unscrupulous friends who request favors with a slightly illegal tinge.
Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Charlie Parker, among other jazz figures, come up casually in conversation among the characters. The scoring by Frank Ricotti, a musician previously unknown to me, functions well with the action of this mystery spoof. Ricotti is a vibraharpist and in one sequence leads his band in an episode that takes place in a London club called, oddly, The Village Vanguard. One of the few television series to incorporate running references to jazz and jazz artists, it features welcome subtlety and humor in script, acting and direction. Perhaps you’ve noticed that we don’t see much of that in domestic television these days.

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