After attending a jazz festival presented by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute (which was founded and directed by Ken Poston) I was binge-watching “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant,” and noticed that Patrick Williams, one of the performers I had just seen at the festival, was credited with composing the music for those series. That got me thinking, “Wow, there are all these connections to television.” Throughout the mid- to late-20th Century, some of the most skilled jazz artists were also employed by the studios to compose, arrange, and play theme songs and scores. I started making connections with musicians through Mr. Poston and some of the other people whom I met at these festivals to bring forth the long, historical relationship between jazz and television, and to put a spotlight on the artists who had contributed to the programs we all know and love, but who usually receive little recognition for their work.

These are stories that haven’t been told about something that’s very familiar to us all. We take music on television for granted, especially for older shows, where it’s an integral part of the experience. Who doesn’t still remember the opening to “Gilligan’s Island,” or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” both of which were marked by an actual song? 

We can identify with these treasures in our cultural history and also with the commitment – and often, struggle – of these musicians in practicing their craft. 

  • Joanie Harmon