Andre Previn's jazzy take on My Fair Lady

Jazz drummer Shelly Manne might get top billing in this 1956 album, but the lead musician is undoubtedly Andre Previn, the genre-busting composer who died last week, aged 89.

His death is reason enough to dig up this concept album - the first to be built around jazz riffs on tunes from a Broadway smash.

Critics might not have known what to make of this musician who crossed boundaries between classical music and jazz easily, but fans who turned this album into an unexpected chart-topper knew good music when they heard it.

Previn, already an arranging veteran at 27 and armed with classical training, brings both musical rigour and a lyrical sense of melody to the album, which was recorded in just one session. This small trio, which included bassist Leroy Vinnegar, were captured playing with the relaxed ease of a late-night jam session.

The perky opener, Get Me To The Church On Time, where Manne is discreet enough to melt into the background after an initial flourish, is all about Previn's staccato take on the melody, throwing in a couple of atonal bars to justify the "Modern" bit in the title.

Just to prove he can do swoonsome romance too, check out his unexpectedly delicate version of With A Little Bit Of Luck, which turns the Broadway anthem of skivers into an introspective ballad.

  • JAZZ

    MODERN JAZZ PERFORMANCES OF SONGS FROM MY FAIR LADY

    Shelly Manne & His Friends

    Concord Music

    5 stars

There are no bum tracks in this eight-track programme and its easy listenability is a tribute to Previn's confident blend of technical panache and commercial savvy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Andre Previn's jazzy take on My Fair Lady'. Print Edition | Subscribe