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The Music from Peter Gunn & More Music from Peter Gunn

Henry Mancini

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Album Review

This is not only a great CD but a key piece of jazz and pop music history. Back in 1958, Peter Gunn was one of the unexpected hits of the new television season, capturing the imagination of millions of viewers by mixing private eye action with a jazz setting. Essential to the character of private investigator Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens) was that his base of operations was a jazz roadhouse called Mother's, and the jazz music background figured prominently in the scoring. Composer Henry Mancini, a classically trained pianist/arranger/composer with a big-band background, who'd spent much of the previous decade working in near anonymity at Universal Pictures, was chosen by director/producer Blake Edwards to write the score for Peter Gunn. Although he later became associated with a string of hit movie soundtracks in a pop vein ("Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's, etc.) and easy listening albums, Mancini was more than fluent in jazz, and his music nailed down the popularity of the series. With the main title theme, a driving, ominous, exciting piece of music to lead off the album, the Peter Gunn soundtrack became a huge hit, charting extraordinarily high for a television soundtrack and doing so well that RCA-Victor came back asking for a second LP of music from the series the next year. The music holds up: "Session at Pete's Pad" is a superb workout for the trumpets of Pete Candoli, Uan Rasey, Conrad Gozzo, and Frank Beach, while Victor Feldman's vibraphone and John Williams' (yes, the future film music giant) piano are the dominant instruments on "Soft Sounds"; Barney Kessel's electric guitar gets the spotlight during "Dreamsville," which is also a great showcase for Williams' fluid piano; guitarist Bob Bain gets to show off his bluesy solo technique on "The Floater"; and "Sorta Blue" and "Fallout" are full ensemble pieces that constitute quintessential "cool" West Coast jazz of the period. In other words, it's all virtuoso orchestral jazz, presented in its optimum form. The Peter Gunn soundtrack was previously available on an RCA CD, but in 1999 the reactivated Buddha Records label gave it a new and sharper digital transfer and added the four best tracks off of More Music From Peter Gunn to bring it up to nearly an hour's running time and restoring the rich "Living Stereo" ambience off the original LP to the CD. The tracks off the second LP, "Walkin' Bass," "Blue Steel," "Spook!," and "Blues for Mother's" are all worth the inclusion, some of the coolest jazz ever written and recorded for television, with superb solo passages. "Blue Steel," in particular, is a killer guitar showcase on which Bob Bain's electric chording shares the spotlight with the saxes and trumpets. The improved sound and the extra tracks definitely justify the upgrade for those who own the old CD and make this a doubly valuable addition to any jazz or soundtrack collection of the era.

Biography

Born: April 16, 1924 in Cleveland, OH

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

If the recognition of one's peers is the true measure of success, then few men are as successful as composer, arranger, and conductor Henry Mancini. In a career that spanned 40 years, writing for film and television, Mancini won four Oscars and twenty Grammys, the all-time record for a pop artist. For 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's alone, Mancini won five Grammys and two Oscars. Breakfast at Tiffany's includes the classic "Moon River" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer), arguably one of the finest pop songs...
Full bio

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