Seth MacFarlane Returns to an Uptempo Take on Big-Band Jazz With New Album, ‘Blue Skies’ (EXCLUSIVE)

·3-min read

For Seth MacFarlane, “blue” means less balladic. He’s announcing a new album on the way, “Blue Skies,” and says it marks a return to a more swinging style than the softer approach he employed on his last record.

Out May 20, the seventh album from the “Family Guy” creator and jazz cat will again see him working with a catalog of classics, and again see him working closely with arranger and conductor Andrew Cottee. Still, it’ll mark a turnaround from their previous release.

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“I have long been a fan of Andrew Cottee’s supremely artful and buoyant orchestrations,” MacFarlane tells Variety. “So after our last collaboration, ‘Once in A While,’ a ballad-themed record, I really wanted to hear what he could do with an up-tempo album. As always, Andrew did not disappoint. His arrangements of these 14 songs, carefully selected by the two of us, are yet another shining example of the expertise with which he handles both melodic interpretations and orchestral dynamics.”

Cottee speaks in terms of raising the bar. “This is the album I’ve always wanted to make,” he says. “The chance to collaborate with an artist like Seth MacFarlane and work with such a high calibre of players is a dream for any arranger.”

The first single from the Verve/Republic release, “No Moon at All,” is out today, and ironically, perhaps, given the album title, it’s about enjoying the favors of a black sky. The song — a jazz standard written in 1947 by David Mann and Redd Evans — has previously been recorded by artists including Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London and Diana Krall… and for some reason has been favored largely be female vocalists over the year, although men like Mel Torme have put their hands on it too. Who’s to say why it has so often been women jumping at the chance to sing lines like “It’s so dark / Even Fido is afraid to bark / What a perfect chance to park”? MacFarlane, for his part, is not afraid to go there.

Together, MacFarlane and Cottee wrote one new song for the album, “Unless I Do It All With You,” which closes the collection. Otherwise it’s reliant on some of the less over-familiar pages from a songbook handed down from songwriters like Irving Berlin (who co-wrote the 1926 title song), Frank Loesser, Sammy Cahn and Edward Heyman.

Musicians recruited for the project include Chuck Berghofer (bass), Peter Erskine (drums), Larry Koonse (guitar), Dan Higgins (alto sax) and Tom Ranier (piano). Back on board from past projects are producer Joel McNeely and engineer Rich Breen.

Cottee’s credits include arrangements on films including “Sing” and “Beyond the Sea,” orchestrating Paul McCartney’s “Ocean Kingdom” ballet and composing music for McFarlane’s Hulu series “The Orville.”

The “Blue Skies” track list:

  1. It’s You or No One

  2. No Moon at All

  3. You’ll Get Yours

  4. A Hundred Years From Today

  5. If I Were a Bell

  6. Out of Nowhere

  7. On Green Dolphin Street

  8. That Old Feeling

  9. Blue Skies

  10. It Could Happen to You

  11. I Didn’t Know About You

  12. You Turned the Tables on Me

  13. Never in a Million Years

  14. Unless I Do It All With You

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