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Customer Review

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 August 2012
NOTE: This review relates specifically to the Avid 2-CD set of Shelly Manne. Because of Amazon's so-called "Product Group" policy, under which two items sharing the same title (in this case, presumably, Three Classic Albums Plus!) are deemed to be one and the same, it's been cross-posted to Avid's 2-CD set of Junior Mance. If you're reading this on that page, please disregard The next two paragraphs. Because I'm deemed to have reviewed this set already, I cannot correct Amazon's error without deleting it completely, so I've appended my review of the Junior Mance compilation.

This 2-CD set contains two albums based on the soundtrack of the TV series "Peter Gunn" and, but for two tracks, two albums by Shelly Manne and His Friends of numbers from the 1956 musicals "Bells are Ringing" and "Li'l Abner". The last-named, inspired by Al Capp's cartoon character, was the first to be recorded, in February 1957, with André Previn on piano and Leroy Vinnegar on bass, and the two missing tracks are "Progress is the Root of All Evil" and "Past My Prime". Red Mitchell replaced Leroy Vinnegar on bass for "Bells are Ringing" which was recorded in April and July 1958. The vogue for giving musicals a jazz treatment had been kick-started by the success of the trio's best-selling album "My Fair Lady". These tunes are less well-known than the Lerner & Loewe score, but their treatment is every bit as accomplished, the piano being the dominant voice throughout.

The Peter Gunn tracks were recorded in January 1959, and Son of Gunn in May of that year, by a sextet dubbed Shelly Manne & His Men, three of whom participated in both sessions. They were Victor Feldman guesting on vibes & marimba, Russ Freeman on piano, and Monty Budwig on bass. Conte Candoli on trumpet and Herb Geller on alto sax completed the line-up for the first session, later replaced by Joe Gordon on trumpet and Richie Kamuca on tenor sax. The atmospheric score had been written by Henry Mancini, and the TV series broke new ground by featuring jazz as an integral part of its presentation. This was not Shelly's first crack at it; "Jazz Gunn" was recorded for Atlantic in 1967, but the two later outings are superior recordings. All in all, this is a most enjoyable set, which swings along in a relaxed fashion, under Shelly's genial leadership.

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The Junior Mance compilation is trio-based throughout, with the pianist accompanied by bass and drums on his first four albums as leader. "Junior" is a Verve album from April 1959, the remainder are "The Soulful Piano of J.M." from October 1960, "At the Village Vanguard" from February 1961, both issued on Jazzland, and seven of the nine tracks from the Riverside album "Big Chief" recorded in August 1961. The first album was sub-titled "Junior Mance and his Swinging Piano", he was accompanied by Ray Brown and Lex Humphries, and it makes for pleasant listening, even if it only really takes off on "Love for Sale". The Soulful album teamed him with Ben Tucker and Bobby Thomas, and it's a more animated and bluesy approach. The live album, with Larry Gales and Ben Riley, takes off apace with an up-tempo "Looptown", and presents a variety of moods, concluding with a suitably introspective "Girl of My Dreams". On the final album he was accompanied by Jimmy Rowser and Paul Gutman, and it includes a second even more animated run at "Love for Sale", a ruminative version of "The Seasons", and a stylized version of "Summertime". The original albums are much sought after, but you need deep pockets to buy them, so this budget-priced compilation deserves a warm welcome.
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