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Various Artists: Ultimate Mancini

Jim Santella By

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Who hasn't been touched by the familiar songs of Henry Mancini?

Preferring to release interpretations that forge ahead and don't simply imitate the originals, Concord has invited several guests to make this album something special. No one can perform 'Moon River' like Stevie Wonder, for example. His appearance here, with Take 6 providing a delicate vocal accompaniment, stands out head and shoulders above all the others. And, as you know, there have been numerous arrangements of that tune in our lifetime; too many to count.

These are the same songs that we danced to at our weddings; and our children's weddings. But they're performed here with exquisite taste.

As saxophonist Tom Scott pushes the 'Peter Gunn Theme' forward, it brings out the goose bumps. Can television ever again create a theme as memorable? Perhaps. That's arguable. And from the same television series comes 'Dreamsville,' with vocalists Monica Mancini and Kenny Rankin joining Scott in a smooth companion piece.

The strongest number on this tribute album remains one of Mancini's most memorable: 'The Pink Panther Theme.' The original tenor saxophonist for that production is featured here, along with ace vibraphonist Gary Burton and fiery organist Joey DeFrancesco. Plas Johnson brings back the memories, for sure; and yet this re-creation surpasses the original, ten-fold. Johnson, Burton and DeFrancesco give this chestnut a makeover that's fit for the new century.

Guitarist George Doering introduces 'Dear Heart,' as Monica Mancini offers her deepest, most sincere appreciation of her father's work. She sings half of the album's selections. Growing up, she sang background for studio gigs with Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones and others. She sang on the soundtracks for Victor/Victoria, City Slickers, Batman, and others. Her velvety alto voice and heartfelt, cabaret delivery push this album home. These are songs, after all, that remain embedded in our hearts.

As Mancini sings, 'Tell me dreams really come true.'

Yes, they've come true with this delightful album destined to preserve the memory of her father's music.


Track Listing: The Pink Panther Theme; Charade; Two for the Road; Moon River; Moment to Moment; Days of Wine and Roses; Peter Gunn Theme; Dreamsville; Dear Heart; The Thorn Birds Theme; Anywhere the Heart Goes (Meggie's Theme); Mr. Lucky; Whistling Away the Dark; Life in a Looking Glass; Crazy World; It's Easy to Say; Music on the Way.

Personnel: Ultimate Mancini Orchestra: Patrick Williams- conductor; Endre Granat- concertmaster; Michael Lang- piano; Shelly Berg- keyboards; Chuck Berghofer- bass; Gregg Field- drums; George Doering- guitar; Julie Berghofer- harp; Warren Luening, Charles Davis, Rick Baptist, Wayne Bergeron, Scotty Barnhart, Larry McGuire- trumpet; Charles Loper, Bob McChesney, Andy Martin, Chauncey Welsch, Ken Kugler- trombone; Tommy Johnson- tuba; Jim Walker, Sheridon Stokes, Dave Shostac, Gary Woodward, Joe Stone, Gary Foster, Dan Higgins, Jim Ercole, Greg Huckins- woodwinds; Drew Dembowski, Michael Valerio- bass; Assa Drori, Kevin Connolly, Ray Kobler, Yan To, Liane Mautner, Karen Jones, Kirstun Fife, Ron Folsom, Irina Voloshina, Berj Garabedian, Jennifer Walton, Rebecca Bunnell, Hanna Krejci, Jackie Suzuki, Sarah Thornblade, Miwako Watanabe- violin; Bob Becker, Ray Tischer, Shawn Mann, Harry Shirnian, Carole Mukogawa, Renita Koven, Jody Rubin- viola; Armen Ksajikian, Tim Landauer, Trevor Handy, Tina Soule, John Walz, Dane Little- cello; Brian O'Connor, Paul Klintworth, Dan Kelley, Trish Skye, John Reynolds, Brad Kintscher, Mark Adams- French horn; Guests: Plas Johnson- tenor saxophone; Joey DeFrancesco- organ; Gary Burton- vibraphone; Stevie Wonder- harmonica; Tom Scott- alto saxophone; Kenny Rankin, Take 6, Monica Mancini- vocals.

Title: Ultimate Mancini | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Concord Music Group

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