December 2000

Shelly Manne & his Friends - Modern Jazz Performances of Songs from My Fair Lady
Released: 2000

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Part of what makes JVC's XRCD series of remasters so significant is the choice of recordings the label re-releases. Yes, they've done the XRCD thing for some very popular albums, but by picking recordings of almost universally high musical merit, JVC re-introduces us all to music we may not have known about to begin with.

Thus is the story for me with this swinging, gleeful mid-'50s stereo set from drummer Shelly Manne and friends André Previn on piano and Leroy Vinnegar on bass. What makes a project like this interesting is what the musicians do with well-known material. Previn composed for Hollywood, and his playing here is inventive -- sentimental and touching on "I've Grown Accustomed To" and hard-bopping on "On the Street Where You Live." Manne and Vinnegar carry "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," giving the tune a percussive attitude. These "modern jazz performances," as they are billed, don't disappoint.

And neither does the sound. Aside from a bit of tape hiss, the sonics of this disc are very contemporary. Previn's piano is in the left channel, Manne and Vinnegar in the right, and all project in the way players on mono JVC XRCDs do -- sounding as large as life. Interestingly, there is a small glitch at 3:00 into "On the Street Where You Live," a noticeable bit of flutter. It's distracting for only a second, but it does make me wonder if it's in the master tape, in which case JVC is really faithful to their sources.

In most cases when I want to sit down and listen to music and not equipment, I pull out an XRCD because the performances and sound are so universally entrancing. The premium prices of these discs seem completely reasonable to me because I know what I'll get -- and I'll like it all.