Henry Mancini: The Music From Peter Gunn

Mancini's music for TV cop Peter Gunn featured Vic Feldman, Ted Nash and Pete Candoli but wasn't as jazzy as Shelly Manne's later take


The American TV series Peter Gunn ran between 1958 and 1961, Craig Stevens playing a stylish private detective who liked jazz and used his local club, Mother’s, as his office. Immensely popular, the soundtrack album spent 10 weeks at #1 in the US in 1959 and got a Grammy award. This vinyl reissue comes from Speakers Corner records.

The title track has a rolling theme by guitar and piano in unison, an undercurrent for the emerging horns, brash and sinister. Other tracks are medium-tempo incidental music or slower mood music. Here a smaller group is used, vibes often leading, as on Soft Sounds, a slow blues which, following Feldman’s vibes and William’s piano solos, drifts into Shearing-like lounge jazz; Bob Bain’s guitar alternates with Feldman in the solos of Brief And Breezy.

The mood of Dreamsville is created by the lush blend of French horns and trombones. According to Dick Nash, his fellow trombonists used felt hats as mutes, the horn players putting their hands in the bell to get the sound. Some sources cite Barney Kessel playing on the session, which guitarist Bob Bain later refuted.

Session At Pete’s Pad has a Basie feel. It features a piano intro with tight horns, and vibes (by Larry Bunker) paving the way for strong solos from Ted Nash, Pete Candoli and the jousting trombones of Dick Nash and Milt Bernhardt. Slow And Easy and Not From Dixie lean towards Basie / Hefti style orchestration, even down to the minimal piano interjections.

Rolly Bundock is a constant presence, his walking bass introducing Fallout before driving horns, led by Candoli and Dick Nash, escalate to an exciting crescendo. Bundock tidies things up. The bassist also directs The Floater, which gives Bain’s guitar space to stretch out.

Some material is slightly lacklustre and understandably it was criticised for its easy-listening approach, but there are some solid solo contributions and in Fallout and the title track the atmosphere and tension of the genre is generated well. Shelly Manne and his men (including Feldman) were to record the music for Contemporary the following year, producing a more jazz-orientated affair.

(1) Peter Gunn; Sorta Blue; (2) The Brothers Go To Mother’s; (3) Dreamsville; Session At Pete’s Pad; (2) Soft Sounds; (1) Fallout; (2) The Floater; (1) Slow And Easy; (2) A Profound Gass; Brief And Breezy; (1) Not From Dixie (39.52)
Mancini (comp, cond) with:
(1) Pete Candoli, Frank Beach, Ray Linn, Uan Rasey (t); Dick Nash, Milt Bernhart, Jimmy Priddy, Karl De Karske (tb); Ted Nash (as); Ronnie Lang (bar); John Cave, John Graas, Richard Perissi, Vince DeRosa (frh); Victor Feldman (vib); John Williams (p); Al Hendrickson, Bob Bain (g); Rolly Bundock (b); Jack Sperling (d).
(2) Dick Nash (tb); Ronnie Lang (reeds); Victor Feldman (vib); John Williams (p); Bob Bain (g); Rolly Bundock (b); Jack Sperling (d).
(3) as (1) except Plas Johnson (ts) replaces Lang; Conrad Gozzo (t) replaces Linn; Larry Bunker (vib) replaces Feldman.
Hollywood, 26 & 31 August, 4 & 29 September 1958. (personnel details not on sleeve, the above based on research)
RCA LSP-1956