A Surprising Gem!
Steven Piermarini | Acton, MA USA | 03/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is, of course, a reissue of the LP recorded in the 50's by a trio at the height of their artistry. Andre Previn, an adventurous and proficient jazz pianist at the time, joined with Shelly Manne and Leroy Vinnegar to record a series of "theme" albums featuring music from popular musicals. Anyone familiar with the score from Li'l Abner knows that the campy hillbilly show contained some quality songs by Mercer and DePaul. The trio's takes on these tunes are quite creative and entertaining. Tempos from the musical are frequently turned upside-down. "If I Had My Druthers," a lazy soliloquy in the show, becomes an up-tempo polyrhythmic burner; while "The Country's In the Very Best of Hands," a hoedown number on the stage, becomes an introspective ballad in the tremendously inventive hands of Previn. Although his jazz recordings of late leave a little to be desired, the maestro was at the very top of his form on this recording. One only wonders why he doesn't get his due credit as one of the great jazz pianists. If you're interested in checking this out for yourself, I can recommend Previn's solo recording of Jerome Kern songs -- a combination not to be missed. This Li'l Abner recording is so entertaining, I wore out my father's old LP of it years ago. This is some of the very best work by these three, both individually and collectively. Don't let the title scare you off; it's improvisational jazz at its best.Steven"