Serial soul soundtracker Lalo Schifrin’s main theme for low-key Steve McQueen chase vehicle Bullitt is a typically recognisable swinging, late night jazz score that mixes broody, beatnik cool with restrained cinematic drama and bludgeoning brass. Remixes and covers abound, and while none truly transform the original cut, each has indubitable fun in repackaging it. Crusading saxophonist Wilton Felder’s take is no exception.
Founder of the evergreen jazz fusion pioneers the Jazz Crusaders (later just The Crusaders) and one-time jobbing member of Love Unlimited Orchestra, Felder’s illustrious career has seen his compositions, bass and tenor sax grace releases from a who’s who of mainstream soul, pop and even rock. The original ‘Streetlife’ by The Crusaders featuring Randy Crawford is a truer piece than the polished Crawford cash-in; looser, slower, a damn site hotter and way, way cooler.
The interpretation here is similarly subtle and smooth, and there’s no messing about introducing the already familiar; some dream-sequence glock announces the arrival of a plodding tuba with the killer bass line, then the familiar mellow Gibson and straight in with the horns. It’s an effortless soul jazz that retains the core appeal of the original, putting a bit of beef on the bones before drizzling liberally with Felder’s mean sax.
Cropping up on a host of ubiquitous Blue Note comps, ‘Theme From Bullitt’ originally hailed from the never reissued, missing-presumed-lost, version-heavy LP Bullitt on World Pacific Jazz (later Liberty, then Capitol-EMI) and made it to 45 with a cover of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ on the flip. It’s a mouthwatering set list and unusually for jazz covers, none appear to ramble on beyond the four-and-a-half minute mark.