JJ 04/82: André Previn – Pal Joey

Forty years ago Steve Voce was pleased to find something better in this reissue than just 'a dexterous and fairly brittle jazz improviser'. First published in Jazz Journal April 1982

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I’ll bet that when he made these, Mr Previn didn’t imagine he’d wind up advertising television sets in London! One remembers him as a dexterous and fairly brittle jazz improviser, and it’s a happy surprise to return to this album and find a series of good jazz performances.

Rodgers and Hart provided the material, so that’s guaranteed. The platform provided by Mitchell and Manne is virtually matchless, so it’s all down to André. One remembers the stunning 78s of his that appeared on Parlophone when he must have been virtually a child. The first Petersons were just beginning to trickle out on HMV, and Previn’s work sounded comparable.

My favourite track is My Pal, a lovely ballad written for the musical but never used. Previn plays it with unusual feeling, and I’m surprised it’s not been used by more jazz musicians. Another outstanding track is What Is A Man?, another slow with some reflective impro­vising. The fast tracks are dazzlers for sure, but most of the music is in the veneer. ‘My Fair Lady’ (also re-released recently) was the big seller of the trio recordings.

However bland the many albums were, they were always fine examples of musical craftsmanship, and for them to enjoy a new lease of life now could only be good for jazz (as Lou Levy has remarked, the music’s coming back!). ‘Joey’ is a good one from the jazz listener’s point of view and often swings along like a train — Buddy Morrow’s Night Train rather than Duke’s Happy-Go-Lucky, though.

Discography
I Could Write A Book; That Terrific Rainbow; Bewitched; Take Him (20.11) – Zip; What Is A Man?; I’m Talkin’ With My Pal: Do It The Hard Way (16.08)
André Previn (p); Red Mitchell (b); Shelly Manne (d); Los Angeles, October 28 & 29, 1957.
(Contemporary S 7543)