One of the first records I ever purchased was André Previn’s
jazz version of My Fair Lady….and
I’ve never fallen out of love with this wonderful album. Now, nearly sixty
years later, Previn is back at the piano alongside Michael Feinstein for a
brand-new collection called Change of
Heart. It’s the latest in a long line of records that performer and
musicologist Feinstein has masterminded, in his tireless quest to call
attention to underappreciated songs by some of America’s greatest musical talents.
In this case, he persuaded Previn to dig through his “trunk”
of forgotten and unrecorded songs, many of them written with his onetime wife
Dory, a gifted lyricist. (Remember “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” from Inside Daisy Clover?”) The Feinstein lineup includes a song written
for, but not used in Valley Of The Dolls
and two others the Previns wrote for Goodbye
Mr. Chips before Leslie Bricusse took over that assignment. The new album
is available today in MP3 and in the old-fashioned CD format as well. (click
HERE.) I can’t wait to hear it.
I’ve also been enjoying the new episodes of Michael’s PBS
television series Michael Feinstein’s
American Songbook. If you haven’t tuned in, you can learn more by clicking
HERE. It’s rare to find a genuine scholar who is also a first-class entertainer, but
Michael knows how to make rare film footage and musical “finds” exciting and
relatable to any viewer with a fondness for 20th century music.
Before we leave the subject of André Previn, if you’ve never
read his witty memoir No Minor Chords
(Doubleday, 1991) you owe it to yourself to track down a copy; it’s out of print,
but worth a used-book search online. Previn was working in the fabled MGM music
department when he was just a teenager, and has a storehouse of unique and
often hilarious anecdotes to share. The title refers to a famous memo written
by a producer who didn’t understand why he so disliked a passage of music he’d
just heard. When it was explained that the composer used minor chords to
indicate sadness, he dictated a memo that from that day on, there should be “no
minor chords” in MGM scores!
Previn’s musical career is much too vast to capsulize here;
suffice it to say that in addition to composing film scores and conducting some
of the world’s finest classical music, he’s always had a deft touch as a jazz
pianist and a knack for writing pop music melodies. Permit me to make one more
recommendation: in 1962 he recorded an elegantly simple album with Doris Day
called Duet that represents a
high-water mark in her vocal career. The selections include one of my favorite
songs by Dory and André Previn, “Control Yourself.” Unlike the My Fair Lady album, this one is still
readily available and is well worth owning. Click HERE.
Bravo to Michael Feinstein for coaxing André Previn back
into a recording studio, and for unveiling some songs we’ve never heard before.