Monday, December 26, 2022

Hawaii Five-O: Trouble in Mind

Trombonist Trummy Young played with Armstrong and Ellington, so when he partially-retired to Hawaii, he naturally became the big jazz cat on the local scene. Naturally, he would get the call for a jazz-themed episode of the original Hawaii Five-O. He even has a brief speaking part, but the star of the episode is jazz diva Nancy Wilson, who did a fair amount of guest shots during the 60s and 70s. Her best was probably the “Trouble in Mind” episode of Hawaii Five-O, which airs Tuesday on Me TV Plus.

Wilson plays Eadie Jordan, a popular jazz vocalist much like herself, but hopefully not totally like her. She will be playing some high-profile gigs at the Waikiki Shell with her pianist-musical director-ambiguous lover, Mike Martin, who was just paroled on a drug charge. What McGarrett doesn’t know is that Martin has always been clean. He just took the wrap for Jordan.

This is a bad time to be strung out in the 50
th State, where a batch of lethally poisoned smack is in circulation. That is why Kono was casing the little club Jordan and Martin came to score. Martin ends up cold-cocking him to protect her, even though he knew it would jam him up with the law.

It turns out square-looking McGarrett is an Eadie Jordan fan—a real fan who knows every obscure record she cut. That changes the dynamics of tonight’s episode, from a typical cops-versus-dealers story to a race to save Jordan from herself. More than most episodes of the era, “Trouble in Mind” depicts drug addiction as a health issue, just as much as a law enforcement problem.

In fact, even the dealer who is the episode’s ostensive villainous figure is surprisingly sympathetic—and ultimately almost as tragic a figure as Jordan. He too is a former jazz musician, who boosts he still has his 802 Union card (the New York musicians’ local).

Wilson gives a truly bold performance as Jordan, probably drawing on the infamous struggles of Billie Holiday and other musicians she may have known. She performs bluesy renditions of “Trouble in Mind” and “Stormy Monday,” as well as a brassy arrangement of “Spinning Wheel,” very much like the cover she released the year before. Morton Stevens is credited with the music for this episode. Having arranged for Sinatra and many of his Rat Pack fans, he clearly had a good feel for old standards. This is definitely the “jazz episode” of
Five-O, because Wilson and Young are also joined by bassist Red Callendar, who also gets a line of dialogue.

You might think of Harry Guardino as a Quinn Martin utility player, but he plays Martin with surprising sensitivity and complexity (especially for the era and the show in question). Milton Selzer really drives home the sadness of the episode as the Ron the dealer (who doesn’t want to deal). Even Jack Lord has his moments that really humanize the stone-jawed McGarrett.

There is a lot of good music in “Trouble in Mind” and the drug-related drama will resonate with jazz fans. Sadly, Lyle Ritz, the great jazz ukulele player is missing, but Trummy Young was definitely a fitting representative of the Hawaiian jazz scene. If you only watch one episode of
Hawaii Five-O, this should be the one. Highly recommended for Nancy Wilson fans, it airs tomorrow night (12/27) on Me TV Plus and streams on Pluto.