There are many songs where the talented multi-instrumentalist James Moody sings, but none has as big a place in our hearts as “Flying Saucer” from this LP by Milt Jackson.
Milt Jackson at the Museum of Modern Art was recorded in August, 1965 at the New York landmark, which in those days was, like our own Walker Museum, host to a wide variety of contemporary jazz performances. The album features a great group including Moody, pianist Cedar Walton, and a rhythm section of Ron Carter and Candy Finch, who even the quiet tunes swinging.
Jackson, Moody and Walton all contribute original numbers, and the band opened their set with “The Quota,” a lovely Jimmy Heath song.
James Moody — maybe best known to jazz aficionados for his signature tune, “Moody’s Mood for Love” and his many collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie — alternated between the saxophone and the flute throughout his career. His albums often featured vocal numbers as well, which were often light-hearted in a similar style to Gillespie’s singing.
“Ah, Mancini, you’re a mascot’s best friend,” said the Capitol City Goofball in an episode of The Simpsons. He and Homer were talking about using the composer’s “Baby Elephant Walk” for their routine.
“Baby Elephant Walk” came from the 1962 Howard Hawks film Hatari!, an adventure set in Africa. The music is actually for a group of baby elephants.
Henry Mancini was born in Cleveland in 1924, and his first musical experiences were playing piccolo in an Italian band with his father, Quinto. He studied at Juilliard for a year before he was drafted, serving in the infantry and the Army band. Mancini participated in the last liberation of a concentration camp by Allied forces, the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria.
He was fortunate enough to land a job writing arrangements for the re-formed Glenn Miller Orchestra after the war, while he also continued to study composition. In his next job at Universal Studios he churned out music for more than a hundred movies, including things like It Came from Outer Space and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. He also got to produce jazz scores for The Glenn Miller Story and The Benny Goodman Story, winning his first Academy Award nomination for the former.
He left Universal to work independently, and began recording for RCA/Victor. This is when he first worked with director Blake Edwards, writing music for his television series Peter Gunn.
The Blues and the Beat is one of the best albums from Henry Mancini’s early catalog. The moody title track, “The Blues,” reflects his television work to date, especially the gritty score to Peter Gunn, a private eye program long since eclipsed by the popularity of its soundtrack.
Mancini’s name is hardly found on Terribly Sophisticated Songs, a delightful collection of Spike Jones-like novelty numbers, but he did conduct the orchestra for this novelty album.
This copy has an amusingly altered cover, probably given to someone with a sense of humor named Murph (“A collection of Unpopular Songs for Popular People” has been changed to “A collection of Unpopular Songs for Unpopular People Like Murph“).
The songs were written by Irving Taylor, and include such goofy gems as a song about picking crabgrass and a song about having your car repossessed.
Mancini is best known today for his film scores, although many onf those were rearranged by the composer for their release on Lp. He wrote the music for more than forty movies, including a long collaboration with director Blake Edwards. For the animated opening of Edwards’ 1963 comedy The Pink Panther, Mancini provided one of his most memorable melodies.
One year before The Pink Panther, Mancini scored a thriller directed by Edwards with lightly-swinging, Benny Carter-esque jazz arrangements. His theme for the heroine of Experiment in Terror is a great big band number.
And for another Blake Edwards comedy sixteen years later, Mancini performed the opening theme on the piano himself, with only the accompaniment of subtle strings. The song at the beginning of 10 was called “Don’t Call it Love,” and so far as we can recall is one of the only times Mancini recorded a solo piano piece.
Mancini wrote the score for Me, Natalie, a 1969 movie featuring the late Patty Duke. This score has another unique feature: Mancini playing the Hammond organ on “A Groovy Mood.”
Mancini revisited his famous theme from Peter Gunn with a cast of jazz fusion stars in 1975 on Symphonic Soul. The re-vamped jam features a heavy slap bass solo by Abraham Laboriel and an organ solo by Joe Sample of the Crusaders. Mexican bassist Laboriel was just at the beginning of an extraordinarily prolific career — while he’s only recorded three albums under his own name, he has appeared on more than four thousand recordings, ranging from Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 to Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.
Henry Mancini made nearly a hundred albums. Sometimes he reworked popular songs, occasionally featuring himself as a pianist on easy listening recordings. At his best, however, he remained a jazz arranger. He also conducted several of the world’s great orchestras, including our own Minnesota Orchestra, who debuted his Thorn Birds Suite in 1983. This music was based on a television score which was not released until decades later.
Mancini made a cameo appearance at the end of a 1966 Pink Panther cartoon, applauding a performance of his theme.
Beethoven started working on what became his 5th Symphony in 1804. If he’d finished it earlier, it would have supplanted the fourth. It was not debuted until December of 1808, and in the long interim he composed many other works: his Violin Concerto, his Appassionata sonata, three string quartets, his Fourth Symphony and Fourth Piano Concerto, and a first draft for his sole opera, Fidelio.
This entertaining LP explores Beethoven’s composing process. In it, Leonard Bernstein provides insight by performing many of the sketches on the piano, as well as with the New York Philharmonic. Think of this as the “alternate takes.”
We are personally very partial to Bernstein’s recordings of the nine symphonies in New York. We are also well-known to be partial to Beethoven altogether, and own several recordings of each symphony. Bernstein’s study on this album reveals his sincere enthusiasm.
This exploration of a single movement touches on many of the remarkable qualities of Beethoven’s oeuvre, in particular the passion which propels his symphonies forward with unbridled passion.
This particular copy is in pretty poor condition, but we imagine there are many out there who will enjoy hearing it regardless. The second side of the album contains the contemporaneous recording of the symphony conducted by Bruno Walter, which can be easily found in much better condition than this copy.
Jazz legend Earl “Fatha” Hines had a little to say with this oddball single, released during the California gubernatorial campaign of 1966. His parody of “Mack the Knife,” a jazz standard taken from The Threepenny Opera, responds to the candidacy of Ronald Reagan, who at the time promised to “get the welfare bums back to work, and to “clean up the mess at Berkeley” (in the Gipper’s own words).
Hines speculated on the effects of Reagan’s budget proposals, which in fact did freeze and then cut funding to both the University of California, and Medi-Cal, the state’s medical assistance program. The flip side was an instrumental (“The Medi-Cal Blues”).
Earl “Fatha” Hines was sixty-three the year he cast his vote for Governor Pat Brown, and had only recently come out of a lengthy retirement from jazz, during which he ran a tobacco shop in Oakland. Just a couple years earlier his friend and oftentimes manager, jazz writer Stanley Dance, had pushed the pianist to perform again, leading to a surge of recordings in the mid-60s which were highly praised by jazz critics all over the country (Downbeat named him the “#1 jazz pianist” in 1966 — the first of six times he would receive their venerated award). Dance is one of our favorite writers, and we last referred to his amazing contributions to the history of jazz in this post about Johnny Hodges pet monkey, Shuma. For his part “Fatha” became an essential link between early jazz and it’s modern children, performing with musicians from several generations extensively until he passed away in 1983 at the age of seventy-nine.
Highlights from Hines’ post-retirement career include a session of duets with Jaki Byard which is one of the most interesting explorations of jazz piano ever recorded, and a fun appearance on Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch where the two perform Blind Blake’s “Ditty wa Ditty” [sic]. Hines’ other duets from this period include duets with Marian MacPartland, Oscar Peterson and Teddy Wilson. He also joined legendary bassists Charles Mingus and Richard Davis, drummer Elvin Jones and singers Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington on sessions in his seventies. “Fatha” was so important to the history of jazz that no less an authority than Count Basie called him “the greatest piano player in the world.”
We spent a fair amount of time last week cleaning and filing this gigantic collection of albums, which is why there were so few posts here on the Hymies blog. There’s an awesome variety in the collection, which was stock from a record store that had closed ages ago, with the albums apparently buried in the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark until they were re-discovered. Lots of favorites, lots of oddballs, lots of sealed albums, and — as with any collection of records from the 70s, lots of K-Tel albums.
In one of the boxes we found this catalog from K-Tel Records, the ubiquitous Minnesota-based compilation label. We’ve always had a soft spot for these, and several years ago we featured some of our favorites (here), which includes some of the records in this catalog.
This catalog comes with a K-Tel “preferred customer bonus dollar,” as well as a money-back guarantee. Who on earth would return a copy of Believe in Music or Super Bad?!
We suppose there are some K-Tel collections one might return, like World of Strauss and 25 Polka Greats, but even these show up pretty reliably all these years later so somebody enjoyed them.
And it turns out 25 Polka Greats is a lot of fun! The albums in this catalog are only a small sample of the total K-Tel discography, which would probably take a long time to collect. And now you know that if you’re disappointed, all you have to do is mail the album back to Minnetonka for full credit or exchange.