Although Mancini is best known for his film and TV scores, (Pink Panther, Breakfast At Tiffany's), back in the 60's he recorded a series of albums for RCA that showcased his talent for writing and arranging jazz. Combo, recorded in 1962, is an enjoyable set of light, swingin' jazz , flavored with that unique "Mancini" sound. It helps that Mancini enlisted some of the West Coast's finest musicians for the session. Pete Candoli (trumpet), Dick Nash (trombone), Larry Bunker (vibes), and Shelly Manne (drums) appeared on many of his records from this era and they all turn in the kind of performance one would expect from such pros. As an "extra added attraction," Mancini was able to snare Art Pepper for this outing and here he abandons his usual alto horn in favor of the clarinet. Henry employs the distinctive sound of Johnny Williams's harpsichord on most of the tunes and while this may have been a rather innovative touch in 1962, it now sounds a bit dated and hokey. Nevertheless, there is some fine soloing from all concerned and the tunes (only one runs over 4 minutes) zip right along. On the down side, the disc has a total playing time of only 37 minutes. It might have been a good idea to include one of Mancini's other RCA jazz albums (The Blues and The Beat would be my choice) to help fill up the disc.
Jazz is for me the most important cultural revolution of the 20th century and I'm proud to
play this kind of music. For me, jazz is more than a kind of music, it's the best way of playing
any musical material.