Andre Previn & his Pals (Shelly Manne & Red Mitchell)
All selections composed by Lerner-Loewe
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, April 7 & 8, 1958
Andre Previn's ten records for Contemporary during 1957-60 were among the finest jazz recordings of his career. Several of the albums were jazz interpretations of scores from Broadway shows although, ironically, the best-known one, My Fair Lady, came out under drummer Shelly Manne's name. For this particular CD reissue, Previn, Manne and bassist Red Mitchell perform eight songs from the Lerner and Lowe show Gigi. Previn had won an Oscar for his adaptation of the score, so he knew this music quite well. Best known among the songs are "I Remember It Well" and "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" but the trio also uplifts and swings the other lesser-known tunes.
- Scott Yanow (All Music Guide)
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Gigi, by french novelist colette, first appeared during the last war when the author was 70. She died in August, 1954, at the age of 81, after a small sip of champagne, having lived to see her slender story of a turn-of-the-century Paris adolescent, who had been trained to find a rich lover, but who falls in love and marries him instead, become the most successful work of her forty-four book career. Gigi's phenomenal public acceptance is remarkable when one considers the original is no more than an extended short story of some sixty-odd pages. It has been translated into many languages, was a French film starring Daniele Delorme in 1950, became a hit play in 1952, dramatized by Anita Loos and launching Audrey Hepburn, Colette's own discovery for the role of Gigi, as a great new star. Now, in 1958, it is a hit musical for MGM, starring Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, and Louis Jourdan; and by way of the score for the film, it provides Andre Previn & His Pals: Shelly Manne & Red Mitchell, with their latest modern jazz version of a current musical entertainment.
The score for Gigi is by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner (he also wrote the screenplay) and composer Frederick Loewe, who put their special brand of magic to work on their first project since My Fair Lady. And like My Fair Lady, it gives Andre a chance to apply his own magic to turning eight new Lerner-Loewe songs to modern jazz. As a matter of fact, the new fashion of doing jazz versions of Broadway and Hollywood musicals owes its existence to that now famous first My Fair Lady album (Contemporary C3527) recorded by Shelly Manne & His Friends: Andre Previn & Leroy Vinnegar in the Fall of 1956, and still heading the best-seller lists. The Friends followed Lady with Lil Abner (Contemporary C3533). Then Andre Previn & His Pals: Shelly Manne & Red Mitchell made their best-selling version of Pal joey.
It was not surprising that Andre chose to record a jazz Gigi, because, as musical director of the film, he supervised all of Gigi's music, adapting much of the Lerner-Loewe material for the background score, doing a number of the arrangements, and conducting the MGM studio orchestra. In truth, this album was projected even before Lerner & Loewe had written the score. They had been delighted with the Friends' Lady, and had a copy of it in their Paris hotel room when Andre joined them in the Summer of 1957 to begin work on pre-scoring Gigi. Then and there they insisted Andre do a jazz version.
The pals raise the curtain on their jazz doings, appropriately enough for a picture set in Paris, with The Parisians. In the film, Leslie Caron as Gigi (short for Gilberte), has just come from her Aunt Alicia's lesson in the art of knowing and pleasing men, and as she drives through Paris, sings of her disgust with her fellow citizens who don't seem to think of anything else or do anything else but make love. Possibly the Pals were thinking less of Paris in 1900 and more of Paris today, where Count Basie is a popular hero, for their version of The Parisians is in a Basie-like groove, in the fashion of Topsy. Red Mitchell's bass is featured in the melody chorus. Then Andre, backed by Red and by Shelly's brushes, embarks on a series of improvised choruses which demonstrate why he is regarded as one of the handful of today's top jazz pianists. A Toujours, a waltz in the film, was not a song, but background music for an ice-skating sequence. Its lyrics and title came after the picture was completed. In any case, the Pals depart from the ice rink in the general direction of Funkville. Red Mitchell's solo shows why fans and critics hail him as the most gifted soloist on his instrument. It was not so long ago that the bass was restricted to being plucked or slapped solely as a rhythm accessory. In recent years, following the pioneering lead of the late Jimmy Blanton, all that has been changed. Bassists like Red Mitchell have liberated the instrument; in the hands of such masters it is capable of horn-like melody solos.
It's A Bore is sung in the film by Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier. Chevalier criticizes Jourdan for being blase about everything. To each good thing of life which Chevalier praises, Jourdan merely replies, "It's a bore." Taken at a bright 2/4 rhythm in the original, the Pals swing it up-tempo in 4/4.
Aunt Alicia's March is not a song, but a theme which Frederick Loewe wrote for the background score, used whenever Gigi's Aunt Alicia (played by Isabel Jeans) appears. "We did it like Opus de Funk," explains Andre. Which is to say, after the theme is announced, the Pals play the blues. Andre improvises thirteen inventive twelve-bar choruses, followed by four from Red, and two from Shelly while Red walks behind him.
Thank Heaven for Little Girls ("For little girls get bigger every day.") is done by Chevalier at the opening and close of the picture, and is also used thematically for Gigi. Andre swings it in a relaxed, Waller-like groove, with echoes of the basic jazz piano style of the Twenties and Thirties. Like his similar treatment of It's a Great Big Town in the Pal Joey' album, it demonstrates how deep Andre's jazz roots go.
The piece de resistance of the Gigi score is the title song. The version which has become popular is only the refrain of what Andre calls "a long and marvelous piece of material known as Gaston's Soliloquy, sung by Louis Jourdan when he realizes Gigi has grown up and that he's in love with her." Andre stays close to the original, and his beautiful ballad performance is one of the best in his Contemporary series.
She Is Not Thinking of Me is described by Andre as "a thought-process song." Louis Jourdan is watching his mistress, Liane (Eva Gabor), dancing at Maxim's. She is gay, vivacious and charming. Jourdan's voice is heard on the sound track, his mouth doesn't move, but he mimes his reactions. It's a waltz in the film, but the Pals alternate between a fast 3/4 and an up 4/4 to swing things to a happy conclusion.
Andre previn made a tremendous impact on the jazz world during the past two years, finishing in the top brackets of the various popularity polls, the only classically trained and oriented pianist to do so. Born in Berlin, Germany, April 6, 1929, Andre came to the United States with his family in 1939. He studied with the late Joseph Achron, and since 1944 with Castelnuovo-Tedesco. His career as a classical pianist, composer, and conductor has been paralleled by an unprecedented career as a film composer and conductor which began when he was in his teens. He is a three time Academy Award nominee, and is currently musical director on his 30th film, the Goldwyn production of Porgy and Bess.
Shelly Manne, the nation's favorite drummer (he won 1st place in 1956 and 1957 in the three major magazine contests: ' Playboy, Down Beat & Metronome) was born in New York City June 11, 1920. Shelly has been working steadily since the age of 18 with many famous bands, including Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. He formed his own five-piece group, Shelly Manne & His Men, in 1955. Critics and fans alike have hailed it as one of the most exciting of the 1950s. Shelly & His Men are exclusive Contemporary artists.
Red Mitchell is another consistent high position man in the popularity polls. He was born in New York City September 20, 1927, and has been playing professionally since he was 20. He's noted for his solo ability, and has recorded extensively for Contemporary with Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, Lennie Niehaus, etc., and as a leader (Presenting Red Mitchell, C3538).
The Gigi sessions find the Pals at the height of their careers, with the inventive, entertaining and swinging performances indicating once again why as individuals and as a group they are such vital forces, and so important to jazz.
- Lester Koenig (May 13, 1958)