Recorded in concert in September 2003, this CD is literally what the package says – a series of themes and in-game music from Shigeru Miyamoto’s Super Mario and Zelda games, going all the way back to the originals, but arranged for a smokin’ big band. On the surface of it, this may sound a bit silly, but the combination of a great band and some inventive arrangements reveal that there was enough depth in the original music to bring out some swing.

Though the big band pieces are played by the Big Band of Rogues or the Yoshihiro Arita Band, Ashura Benimaru Itoh presses the “start” button with a brief acoustic guitar medley of Super Mario themes to thunderous applause. The early tracks focus primarily on the early games in the Mario series, including a surprisingly effective a capella scat medley of the various original Super Mario themes. For everything that I saw on the tracklist where I laughed at the very thought of it, I was very pleasantly surprised. Bearing in mind that the concert was recorded in Japan, keep in mind that this wasn’t a tongue-in-cheek presentation – the characters from these games are cultural icons there, even moreso than they are across the Pacific.

The beauty and brilliance of this whole thing is that the arrangers were unafraid to reinterpret the material and completely shift some cultural paradigms. There’s a Yoshi theme which is reinterpreted as a pleasant, toe-tapping bluegrass instrumental. The memorable Legend Of Zelda main theme is recast as a dashing flamenco piece. “The Song Of Epona” (from Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time) becomes a lovely Hawaiian-style number – you can almost see palm trees. And it all works. Most of this material I’d never envisioned this way, and now it’s hard for me to imagine it any other way.

4 out of 4There’s one drawback to the whole thing – for some reason, the whole CD is mastered at a surprisingly low level. You have to crank your speakers to hear it in detail, and worse yet, the volume level is not consistent from track to track. As bold and brassy as much of this music is, some more dynamic mastering wouldn’t have come amiss, though a mere three-month gap between the concert itself and the CD’s release may explain that quirk. It’s still worth a listen.

Order this CD

  1. Opening Theme Of Mario (2:23)
  2. Super Mario 64 Opening Theme / Overworld Theme (4:40)
  3. Medley Of Super Mario Bros. (4:24)
  4. Mario Scat Version (Super Mario Sunshine) (2:06)
  5. Go Go Mario (3:36)
  6. Super Mario Bros. 3 Ending Theme (2:42)
  7. Theme Of Athletic (Yoshi’s Island) (4:17)
  8. Yoshi On The Beach (Yoshi’s Story) (3:13)
  9. The Legend Of Zelda: Takt Of Wind – Title Theme (7:27)
  10. Theme Of Dragon Roost Island (4:21)
  11. The Song Of Epona (4:06)
  12. Theme Of The Dolphic Town (4:27)
  13. The Zora Band (4:42)
  14. Theme Of Goron City (3:52)
  15. Theme Of The Shop (3:18)
  16. Medley Of The Legend Of Zelda (4:32)
  17. Ending Theme Of Super Mario Sunshine (4:29)
  18. Encore (Slider) (6:38)

Released by: Scitron Digital
Release date: 2003
Total running time: 75:13