Henry Mancini Moon River

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The Singles Collection 1958-1962
Jasmine 2666 (79:27)

To attain greatness in our kind of music it seems helpful to have a name beginning with the letter ‘M’, like Mantovani, Miller, Melachrino or Mancini. In December 2013, in the final printed edition of the Robert Farnon Society’s magazine, I favourably reviewed a Mancini album on Dutton Vocalion. Incidentally one of about a dozen such reviews – imagine that happening today! So here now is a rare thing, a new release of light orchestral music that would have been commonplace back in the day.

Enrico Nicola ‘Henry’ Mancini (1924-94) is described in compiler Roger Dopson’s very helpful liner notes as: “One of the mightiest, most versatile talents in contemporary 20th Century music, (he) was arguably America’s greatest composer, conductor and arranger.” He was also an accomplished pianist, piccolo/flautist and siffluer (on the album I reviewed six years ago.)

This album is a compilation of 30 tracks originally on 45rpm discs (mono and stereo) on various labels. All but seven were written by the great man himself, and include titles such as Big Band Rock and Roll, Spook!, Mr Lucky (his first hit single), The Blues, My Cousin from Naples, Experiment in Terror, Tooty Twist, Theme from Hatari! and Your Father’s Feathers. The classic Peter Gunn Theme (his debut RCA-Victor single), Moon River and Breakfast at Tiffany’s are also here. The last track is Days of Wine and Roses from December 1962.

My favourite track and the one I keep returning to is Cha Cha Cha for Gia, from the film ‘Four Girls in Town’, which in December 1956 was the ‘B’ side of Hank’s first ever single. It was on Liberty Records, a new label concentrating on film and orchestral music (imagine that today, too!)

Well done to Jasmine for resurrecting these pieces.  The arrangements are inventive – although I would have preferred more string sound – and I am sure this release will give much pleasure as a good deed in a naughty world.

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