André Previn: Something's Coming
André Previn (piano)
West Side Story (Contemporary OJCCD-422-2)
Composed by Leonard Bernstein.
Recorded: Los Angeles, CA, August 24-25, 1959
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
From the choice of a Ben Shahn painting for the cover art, to the speedy, lighthearted treatments within, André Previn's West Side Story exudes cheekiness combined with class. Maybe his own credentials as a composer and classically trained musician-turned-jazz pianist allowed him to get closer to the similar Bernstein gestalt. Or maybe the guys were just inspired. Whatever the fortunate circumstance, this particular jazz version of the musical has been a solid favorite for 50 years.
The lead track, "Something's Coming," quickly demonstrates the Previn approach: 2½ minutes of that percussive tune taken at bop speed, his piano and Manne's drums racing each other through the streets, making twice the music in half the time; whatever's coming is coming fast! Some of Previn's chords step into dissonance, like a Bronx cheer maybe, but mostly he just dances around Bernstein's great melody. Manne's skill at making his drums sound musical can be heard here and throughout the album (his rim-taps a plus), and Red Mitchell was the West Coast match for, say, Paul Chambers; but their roles on this running romp are simple: no muss, no fuss, just get us there safe and sounding joyous.
In The Joy of Music (published in 1960, as was this album), Lennie wrote that "A popular song doesn't become jazz until it is improvised on..." He hadn't heard Previn's album yet, but I'll bet he smiled when he did.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher