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Disc review: Mancini, 'Music for Peter Gunn'

Henry Mancini’s music for “Peter Gunn” was arguably the greatest pop phenomenon of jazz recording in its late-’50s era.

After a while, its composer Henry Mancini started receiving half of the show’s fan mail. Half the jazz musicians in America seemed to gather in big bands to do their versions of it on record.

John Caps, the line annotator of this first “Peter Gunn” record in a very long while, is under no illusions about Mancini’s music.

“This was jazz scoring that started out as mere accompaniment, but gradually took over the scene and ultimately took over the whole show. Technically, it was not true jazz; it was jazz-pop music, inspired by the so-called West Coast Cool school.”

What’s going on here is a splendid assortment of current New York jazz and studio musicians (that much-changed latter category) got together under Steven Richman to do a decidedly cool-temperature version of Henry Mancini’s “Gunn” music. The difference here is that some of the solos – by alto saxophonist Mark Gross and Lew Tabackin on the title tune, guitarist Bob Mann and vibraphonist Christos Rafalides all through it – ask for a good deal more attention than some of the original soloists.

It might have been nice if the famous theme had magnified the implied pseudo-rock fury to the max, but the disc in the 21st century is fun in an out-of-the-blue way.

Henry Mancini, “Music for Peter Gunn” by Harmonic Ensemble of New York led by Steven Richman (Harmonia Mundi)
2.5 stars

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