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.
The first jazz record I bought was Bill Evans' Sunday at the Village Vanguard. When I was in high school, I somehow stumbled
across the track My Man's Gone Now and was instantly transfixed. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. So I saved up
(times were hard for a teenager back then) and went out and bought the album.
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