Speakers Corner Records releases a re-mastered vinyl of the game-changing TV soundtrack to Peter Gunn.
Henry Mancini – The Music From Peter Gunn – RCA Victor LSP-1956 (1958)/Speakers Corner Records (2023) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 39:52 ****1/2:
(Henry Mancini – composer, orchestra conductor; featuring John Williams; Victor Feldman; Paul Horn; Shelly Manne and many others)
The utilization of jazz music in movie scores was a breakthrough. Soundtracks like Anatomy Of A Murder (Duke Ellington), Round Midnight (Herbie Hancock) and Sweet Smell Of Success (Elmer Bernstein) added a visceral quality to the stories. One of these composers scored The Benny Goodman Story. His name was Henry Mancini. He also did Touch Of Evil and The Glenn Miller Story. He would eventually become a Hollywood legend (4 Oscars, 20 Grammys). One of Mancini’s earliest success was in television. He wrote the score to Peter Gunn and changed the role of music in that genre. The music combined jazzy cool with contemporary 1950’s attitude. A commercial single of title song was a hit.
Speakers Corner Records has released a 180-gram re-mastered vinyl of The Music From Peter Gunn. When the opening title theme unfolds, it becomes apparent how groundbreaking this is. As the drummer and guitar-led rhythm section establishes a finger-snapping vamp, the brass section comes in with muscular intonation. The players are a virtual “who’s who” of big band musicians.The horn section maintains a dramatic punch, and there is a nimble saxophone solo. “Sorta Blue” displays a cinematic jazz pedigree. After the groove-filled intro, a trumpet soars against the descending counterpoint and vibraphone, followed by trombone and tenor saxophone. The arrangement is precise. Next up is a jaunty medium-swing number, “The Brothers Go To Mother’s.” The overall vibe is more flowing and whimsical with superb moments of counterpoint and harmony. “Dreamsville” is a swaying ballad with gossamer piano and a rich layered horn/reed accompaniment. A sinewy guitar solo is a nice touch, and the alto saxophone run is atmospheric. Picking up the pace, “Session At Pete’s Pad” exudes a big band swagger and tempo. The punctuated horns precede a nimble vibraphone solo, and the horns and reeds provide nice shading. Tenor saxophone, trumpet and two trombones make this a jazz translation with a rousing finish. The side concludes with the moody “private-eye” bluesy aesthetics of “Soft Sounds” with a steady double bass and spirited vibraphone run. There are distinctive chord modulations.
Side 2 kicks off a return to cool on “Fallout”. With a hard driving double bass and drum, a winsome flute begins the musical statement. Again, the layered horns provide texture and emphasis. A trumpet and trombone are framed by this dynamic and there is a subtle nod to the main theme. With a bouncy ambiance, “The Floater” establishes an “in the pocket” groove and the electric guitar gives a topical resonance to the music. Piano (noted film score composer John Williams) adds to the subtle tempo and instrumentation. “Slow And Easy’ is languid blues with basic progressions. A sultry trombone steals the show. Livening things up, “A Profound Gass” is more jazzy with flute (in unison tandem with vibes), piano and electric guitar tasking center stage. Re-establishing the vamp mode, “Brief And Breezy” has late-night accents and is evocative of a cool operator like Peter Gunn. The finale “Not from Dixie” swings. The concise horn charts return, anchored by a consistent, pulsating beat. There are several memorable solos.
The Music From Peter Gunn is a welcome addition to the Speakers Corner vinyl legacy. Mancini helped to transform television music. More importantly, this album is timeless, capable of standing on its own merits. The pressing is top-notch with little surface noise and no hisses or pops.
Henry Mancini – The Music From Peter Gunn
Side 1: Peter Gunn; Sorta Blue; The Brothers Go To Mother’s; Dreamsville; Session At Pete’s Pad; Soft Sounds
Side 2: Fallout!; The Floater; Slow And Easy; A Profound Gass; Brief And Breezy; Not From Dixie
More information through Acoustic Sounds