Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2021 November 22 • Monday

André Previn Plays Music of the Young Hollywood Composers is our 701st Soundtrack of the Week.

What a great record. Previn shares arranging credits with another young jazz pianist who's making a name for himself as an arranger and composer: "Johnny" Williams.

It gets started with a swinging piece from Williams's Checkmate music, "A Million Bucks", an irresistible West Coasty jazz soundtrack number.

Then we hear a couple of Previn tunes, the romantic "You're Gonna Hear From Me" from Inside Daisy Clover and the breezy and swinging "Livin' Alone" from The Moving Target. Both of these are credited to André Previn and Dory Previn.

After this comes Henry Mancini's main theme for Soldier in the Rain. How come this isn't better known? It's a Mancini score for a Blake Edwards production. So much has been restored, released, recovered, re-recorded. Shouldn't every note of Mancini's be available?

This is perhaps a good time to mention that what we're dealing with is mostly a jazz piano trio with strings. No clues about the musicians, except for one tune having a trombone solo by Dick Nash. The drummer, who isn't on every piece, doesn't sound like Shelly Manne to me but it's somebody in that zone. The string arrangements are very nice and Mancini-ish.

The sequencing of this record is very good. Once you're softened up by Soldier in the Rain Previn drops the devastatingly gorgeous Elmer Bernstein To Kill a Mockingbird theme. The listener doesn't stand a chance.

The last tune on the A side insures you'll flip to hear more. Of course they do Mancini's theme from The Pink Panther. Previn deploys some interesting and ear-catching harmonic ideas in his piano part and also inserts an "interpretation of 'Chloe'", a song by Gus Kahn and Neil Moret, according to the fine print, but I didn't notice it.

Side B starts with another Previn piece from Inside Daisy Clover, the hauntingly beautiful, restrained, romantic and slightly menacing "Daisy".

This gets followed by the Johnny Mandel/Johnny Merder theme for "Emily" from The Americanization of Emily. This is the tune with the aforementioned trombone solo by Dick Nash but starts out with flute and orchestra before Previn comes in on the piano. The trombone playing is exquisite.

Good old Johnny Williams gets another turn as a featured composer with "Tuesday's Theme" from the movie Bachelor Flat. It starts out sounding like John Barry's theme from Follow Me but then settles into that kind of golden hour, heart-stirring, lush sonority for which Mr. Williams has been celebrated these last fifty years or so. In 1965, when this record came out, people might have been a bit surprised by it.

"Nevermore" is a surprise. It's written by the actor Jack Lemmon, for the movie Fire Down Below. In the liner notes Previn remarks that Lemmon "writes more good tunes than most people who spend their entire working day at it". It starts out sending very soundtracky in a somewhat generic way, but when the song itself gets going, it's very nice jazz lounge number.

After this we move on to "I Will Wait for You" from Michel LeGrand and Norman Gimbel's score for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. It's a very romantic piece and starts out with just piano alone for a while before the strings come in.

And then the record concludes with a third André Previn and Dory Previn cue from Inside Daisy Clover, "A Happy Song". And it is happy! It's a sprightly and cheerful waltz.

The whole record is great.