My_fair_lady_manneAndre Previn is best known as a conductor and composer of classical music, but he’s also been active as a jazz pianist since 1945 – though from the late 1960s until the end of the 1980s his classical work took up most of his time. Previn’s main influences as a jazz pianist were Horace Silver and Oscar Peterson. My Fair Lady, credited to Shelly Manne and his Friends (Manne on drums and Leroy Vinnegar on bass), was one of the biggest selling jazz records of its day, and the first ever to focus entirely on arrangements of songs from a single Broadway show. The Lerner and Loewe musical was a massive hit in 1956 and hugely influential. It clearly impressed Previn and Manne, who, acting on a suggestion from their producer Lester Koenig, were originally intending to produce arrangements of just one or two songs. Instead, they ended up recording a whole album’s worth in a single session.

Manne is known as the quintessential West Coast Jazz drummer, and Vinnegar’s nickname was “The Walker”, a reference to his frequent use of walking bass lines. Both players help set up the infectious rhythm of the second track – “On The Street Where You Live”. But it’s Previn’s piano that leads – there’s a slow solo introduction before the trio comes in with the main theme, Previn using characteristic tight and rich block chords. The arrangers clearly had fun throughout the album varying the harmony, rhythm and styles of the original material. Manne and Previn also produced a West Side Story album (with Red Mitchell on bass), but this one is better.

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