What can you say about Dave Grusin that hasn't already been said? He's quite simply one of the most universally talented musicians alive today. He's done it all: pianist, composer, arranger, producer, label owner, soundtrack scorer. Unfortunately, with all his other commitments and undertakings, Dave Grusin albums have become fewer and farther between.
This new one is worth the wait! In keeping with the format of two previous albums, this one is a tribute album to Henry Mancini. (The previous two tributes were to George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.) Mancini and Grusin actually had a lot in common in terms of musical expertise and styles, with Mancini being primarily known as a soundtrack composer and pianist, but only secondarily as a jazz artist.
Grusin's performance on this album, both as a player and an arranger, illustrates better than ever what Grusin possesses that so few others do. It's not just his considerable playing and arranging talents. It's class. Good taste. Subtlety and flair. The ability to remain true to the original intent of the song, but inject new touches (such as alternate chord voicings) that raise the song to a new level. Every arrangement seems like it was a labor of love, borne out of genuine respect for Henry Mancini.
As usual, Grusin surrounds himself with top talent, such as John Patitucci, Harvey Mason, Tom Scott, and Paulinho DaCosta. Diana Krall contributes two smoky vocal performances on "Dreamsville" and the beautiful but rarely heard "Soldier in the Rain." "Days of Wine and Roses" finds Grusin soloing particularly brilliantly. Even "Peter Gunn" and "Baby Elephant Walk," nearly dead from over-exposure, get a new lease on life thanks to altered chords and updated rhythms.
1997 has been a great year for Dave Grusin fans. As if this gem wasn't enough, there's Grusin's significant participation on A Twist of Jobim and yet another new Grusin album, this one devoted to West Side Story. Watch this space for a review soon.