FAME Review: Harmonie Ensemble / New York / Steven Richman, conductor - Henry Mancini: Music for Peter Gunn
Harmonie Ensemble / New York / Steven Richman, conductor - Henry Mancini: Music for Peter Gunn

Henry Mancini:
Music for Peter Gunn

Harmonie Ensemble / New York
Steven Richman, conductor

Harmonia Mundi USA - HMU 907624

Available from Amazon.com.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Harmonia Mundi is one of those labels—like Naxos, Jazzhaus, Zoho, and others—that, if you're not picking up on their catalogue, then I have to question your tastes and perspicacities in music choices. People ask my thoughts on 5.2 audiophile recordings and such, and I reply that I'm a fan—how could I not be?—but that they're not all that necessary when you have such skillfully recorded CDs as Harmonia and others put on the market. As stratospheric as it's possible get in the recording field without becoming ridiculously exotic, these imprints emit that level regularly, one right after the other, as though it were the commonest thing in the world. It isn't, and the rich clear documentation process on Henry Mancini: Music for Peter Gunn, the spaciousness and satin textures sitting right beside luminescent singularities (the solos and such), serve as a textbook for the highest pitch of the craft. Then there's the music itself.

I didn't even realize that this epochal 50s Mancini disk so badly needed revival until it arrived in the mail. Without even opening the shrinkwrap, I said "Man o man, was this ever the right move!" Author John Caps in the liner notes comments that "[t]echnically, [Peter Gunn] was not true jazz: it was jazz-pop music, inspired by the so-called West Coast Cool school", and though he's getting his digs in with the deprecatory "so-called" re: West Coast Cool, the citation of jazz-pop is cogent, as the 'pop' he's referring to was of the day, the 50s, not any post-Beatles formation. He then moves on to make the assertion that Mancini's "own vocabulary was so personal and prescient that it's futile and unfair to go looking for direct models or mentors in his work". I won't disagree with the "personal and prescient" aspect, especially the latter, but must part ways with him on the matter of "models and mentors", as strains of Kenton are more than evident, something brought out in Steven Richman's direction of this opus magnifique: the distinctly classicalist underpinning to almost everything in the album.

That, I suspect, is why the Harmonie Ensemble was requisite in producing this masterwork, was why the label appointed the group. I mean, Jesus, look at the names in the pack: Lincoln Mayorga, Lew Tabackin, Ronnie Cuber, Bob Mann, Lew Soloff, etc. They could be covering Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and it'd sound like Bernstein! In other words: exquisite, which is the most germane adjective for every aspect of this lovingly crafted disc. Not from Dixie is dropped from the original release (I know'cause I have a copy) and Walkin' Bass is excused from what was a later re-release while My Manne Shelly and Blues for Mother's are dropped in. Not sure why that occurred, but it matters not at all, everything is as seamless and flowing as though penned only moments before.

Think of this re-evocation as in line with an exhibit, a museum piece, a setting of antiquity within a modern showcase designed to fascinate a public in need of re-inspection of its own past. As music on whole has sophisticated in ways we never expected while looking forward from the 60s and 70s, it's needful to go back and explore even that era's antecedents, the better to cognize why the oncoming wave of, if I may be so bold, a Second Renaissance is forming the way it is. Works like this unearth those gems and fossils ever refreshing the sense of wonder that all art depends upon and which the human spirit cannot do without. Of course, profundities aside, it also could just be that this swings in so many directions at once that the rest of it hardly matters.

Track List:

  • Peter Gunn Theme
  • Sorta Blue
  • The Brothers go to Mother's
  • Dreamsville
  • Session at Pete's Pad
  • Soft Sounds
  • Fallout
  • The Floater
  • Slow and Easy
  • A Profund Gass
  • Brief and Breezy
  • My Manne Shelly
  • Blue Steel
  • Blues for Mother's
  • Spook
  • Peter Gunn Theme (reprise)
Oddly, no writing credits occur anywhere in the release. My assumption is that Mancini wrote everything. Don't take that to the bank, though.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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