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…of very wonderful American Jazz music, has recently gotten under way from New York’s renowned jazz virtuosos, Peter & Will Anderson. I had the pleasure of attending last month’s opening event at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater in the Symphony Space complex on Broadway (WWW.SYMPHONYSPACE.ORG). It was a wonderful celebration of the life and music of legendary composer, Henry Mancini, and it followed the pattern of the handsome lads’ many previous concerts honoring the American Songbook, along with the likes of George Gershwin, the Dorsey Brothers, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and countless others. Attending these events is always like auditing some exclusive graduate course at the Julliard School, from which, by the way, both talented gents are graduates. Their presentations are at once musical, visual, and highly educational, as they include historical narration, video clips, and “inside” stories that are often amusing as well as enlightening. (For details of my many related reports readers are invited to visit thepeoplescritic.com/?
The Mancini program was a joyous late-summer event, highlighting much of the composer’s vast body of work. Joining the Andersons to enhance this musical journey were talented NYC drummer, Alex Raderman, and gifted trumpeter, Brandon Lee (another product of the Julliard School, where he was one of the youngest faculty members to ever teach there.
They were joined by bass player and frequent musical sidekick of the twins, Vince Giordano, the famed leader of his own renowned big band, The Nighthawks. Rounding out this group of gifted musicians was the brilliant jazz pianist, Dalton Ridenhour, who has, himself, been frequently featured with Giordano’s Nighthawks. But make no mistake, it was the Anderson Twins, (with their dazzling talents on a variety of instruments in the woodwind and brass families) who were the engineers behind this important program celebrating one of Americas finest and most beloved composers.
The show got off to a wonderful start with a terrific series of selections from Mancini’s musical scores for such films as “The Days of Wine & Roses.” Playing the Theme from 1960’s “Mr. Lucky,” the Saxophonic twins combined forces with Mr. Lee’s fine trumpet, the breezy and crisp piano from Ridenhour, the jazzy drum work of Raderman, and the gently pulsing bass from Giordano, playing his imposing and eye-catching silver Lamé instrument. The musicians then moved on to the Latin-flavored and spooky drum rhythms of the intoxicating Main Theme from 1958’s “Touch of Evil.” The musical delights were often punctuated with anecdotes or interesting video interview moments from the great composer. Fondly reflecting that, “When you’re young you soak up everything,” Mancini spoke of his early work with the Big Bands of the radio era, and his three years of military service as Musical Director of the Air Force Band. He shared how he composed the classic theme for the movie, “Charade,” in just 13 minutes! We learned how Mancini had scored 100 films in just six years, and 30 of the films were in collaboration with Blake Edwards. Of course, the latter group included the fun-filled “Pink Panther” series, which even led to scoring the spinoff TV cartoons. But perhaps Mancini’s television credits are best remembered by his music for the long-running Peter Gunn series, represented here by an elegant, soft and embracing performance of the restful song, “Dreamsville.” Before the group beautifully delivered the exciting thrills of the “Peter Gunn Theme,” (which spent years topping the Billboard music charts), the Andersons digressed just long enough to share their youthful adventure as sixth grade musicians, when they had years ago paired to performed that very number themselves.
“The artists went on to perform the Theme from 1967’s “Two for the Road,” with a seductive opening from trumpet and saxophone, leading on to delicate piano elements that ended in a gentle whisper. From Mancini’s unusual score for the movie, “Hatari!” there were infectious jazz and African elements in the hypnotic rhythms of the playful, Baby Elephant Walk.
But with all of that, it’s a good bet that most fans asked to name a Mancini hit, would very possibly suggest his Academy Award-winning, “Moon River,” sung so beautifully by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But the Andersons cautioned that thereby hangs an interesting tale. It seems the producers of that movie determined they intended drop the number from the film. Threatening to “walk,” Miss Hepburn sternly announced, “Over My Dead Body!” Happily, she prevailed. She even sent Mancini a sweet note that read: “Dear Hank— You are the hippest of cats, and the most sensitive of composers.” For his part, Mancini is on record having said of Miss Hepburn, “No one else has ever understood the song so completely.” He has also remarked, “I’d like to be remembered as a romantic guy.” That song alone, should be enough to ensure the fulfillment of his wish.
FANS OF THE ANDERSONS, (WWW.PETERANDWILLANDERSON.COM), and the classic American jazz they embody, will have several opportunities to enjoy their music at these remaining upcoming celebrations:
BENNY GOODMAN – September 20th & 27th and IRVING BERLIN October 10th. All shows will be performed @ BIRDLAND THEATER at 5:30 PM. For tickets and information visit WWW.BIRDLANDJAZZ.COM or call (212) 581-3080, A N D, then in the New Year…
DUKE ELLINGTON – January 8th @ THE BLUE NOTE 12:30 & 2:30PM. For tickets and information visit WWW.BLUENOTEJAZZ.COM, or call (212) 475-8592.
The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com
E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com