Wednesday, October 30, 2013

André Previn Plays

   Any attempt to comprehend his achievements at a glance leads to the conclusion, André Previn is a rare phenomenon. As the one of most versatile musicians ever, André Previn is a perfect example of an artist combining creativity and great competence in remote areas of musical activity. He is perfect crossover artist. As a pianist, conductor and composer he achieved successes on many fields of artistic and popular music. He was awarded 4 times with Academy Award for movie scores and 11 times with Grammy Awards including 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
   André Previn was born in Berlin in the family of lawyers and musicians in 1929 or 1930. The year of his birth is unsure.  There are also unconfirmed reports he is distant relative of Gustav Mahler. In 1939 his family fled from Germany and settled in Los Angeles where five years later he became naturalized US citizen. He completed his education in Beverly Hills and taking private lessons of conducting from Pierre Monteux. In mid 50’s he became his career as a jazz pianist, performing and recording successfully with many popular musicians. The same time he started writing music for cinema. As he started to compose as a student one decade earlier, his pieces were astonishingly fresh and mature. 

André Previn Plays (1970)

   In his twentieths André Previn was active as performing and recording jazz pianist. He was active in West Coast area and this milieu gave his music special, smooth characteristic. Easy listening kind of jazz became popular yet before the be-bop era. It was not defined as the style, it was rather the answer for demands of wide circle of listeners. The hotter was dominant style; more listeners were tended to buy jazz with popular music touch. Reaction for be-bop was cool jazz style, so after free jazz and hard-bop came fusion and funky was balanced by soul music. And when fusion became too hot, smooth jazz was the rest for many. This process made Previn’s old recordings re-editions almost permanently alive.
   In June 24, 1953 André Previn recorded some pieces of Fats Waller. Pianist was performing in trio with Buddy Clark on double-bass and Shelly Manne on drums. These recordings were published in 1958 by Tops Records (L 1593). Probably material of 1953 sessions was joined together with pieces recorded in other terms and locations. This is probably why there are no informations on musicians, time and places. Only in liner notes it was closed in one statement: “Supported by an excellent bassist and drummer in this swinging tribute to Fats Waller, Previn is wholly at ease with the songs of the master”.
   In 1964 album was reedit and published as André Previn Plays by Fidelio label (ATL 4118). Sequence of songs was the same with only one piece withdrawn – Steeling Apples. Fat Waller’s name was omitted in title and in credits. Six years later in 1970, this album was republished by Crown label (CRS 2004). Complete set of Previn’s Waller recordings was published in 1982 on compact cassette by Orchid Music. The performance is perfect, worth more than four stars and the whole album is nice to listen. Although these recordings didn’t push jazz to a new direction, it is still worth to remember. Overall I’m giving three and a half star.

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