Hunting vintage jazz vinyl records in the Nutmeg State
Andre Previn and Russ Freeman, pianos
with Shelly Manne, drums
Found at Gerosa Records, Danbury, CT
With baseball season on the immediate horizon, I’ve been thinking about this record a bit. Just after I became more aware of the Contemporary label and found myself interested in getting a hold of some of their LPs, my luck changed and I acquired a half dozen of them. Andre Previn and Shelly Manne are the common foil amongst almost all of them, as they seem to be the label’s most frequently represented pianist and drummer respectively, at least in the period surrounding their breakthrough LP of music from My Fair Lady. This particular LP was attractive to me because, as much as it is a gimmick in several ways – two pianos on one recording, a theme that is really only held together by song titles for the originals composed for this date, a double entendre cover photo, etc. – the music is full of fireworks. Freeman is a perfect foil for Previn: they share a similar style and have the creative capacity to quickly interject and expand the playing of the other. The style might seem light to those who are more interested in the hard bop of this period, but there’s a certain palette of colors that the West Coast players alone take advantage of. A particularly poignant example of this is “Safe at Home,” which, while a Freeman composition, easily employs many of the ballad devices that Previn uses elsewhere in his work on the label. A very cool set of music that truly typifies what the Contemporary label was all about.