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Cherry Red’s él Label Revisits Henry Mancini, Esquivel and Piero Piccioni On New Anthologies

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Playboy ThemesThe latest crop of titles from Cherry Red Group’s él label criss-cross the globe from the U.S.A. to Mexico to Italy with releases from American legend Henry Mancini, bandleader Esquivel, and composer Piero Piccioni.

Fans of Henry Mancini’s cool jazz and lounge stylings are the target audience for Playboy Themes, a collection of the great maestro’s music recorded between 1958 and 1962.  This 28-track compilation takes in both Mancini’s own compositions as well as those he recorded by others.  The title is derived from the Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, Barnum) song interpreted by Mancini on his 1960 Combo! album featuring such jazz greats as Art Pepper, Shelly Manne, Pete Candoli, Dick Nash and Ted Nash, as well as the young Johnny (later Academy Award-winner John) Williams on piano and harpsichord!  In addition to Coleman, Mancini brings his distinctive touch to songs by Claude Thornhill (“Snowfall”), Nino Rota (“Drink More Milk”) and Mikis Theodorakis (“Love Theme from Phaedra”), but the emphasis is on his own classic music from the television series Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky, and the films Touch of Evil, High Time, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bachelor in Paradise, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, The Days of Wine and Roses and more.  Both sides of his RCA single from the film The Great Impostor are also here.  A couple of tracks are actually covers of Mancini songs, such as the sublime guitarist Laurindo Almeida’s “Moon River” and “Baby Elephant Walk” from another guitar great, Al Caiola.  Brief liner notes round out the package.  You can further explore Mancini’s groundbreaking film music on a new box set from RCA Victor and Legacy Recordings, The Classic Soundtrack Collection.

EsquivelTracks like “Playboy’s Theme” and “A Cool Shade of Blue” are perfect accompaniment for a groovy bachelor pad; and so is the music you’ll find on the two-for-one expanded reissue of Latin-Esque and Exploring New Sounds in Stereo from bandleader Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002).  The King of Space Age Pop made his name on these early records, migrating from RCA Victor’s Mexican division to its American label with his “exotica” records featuring trademark cocktail piano, quirky and lush, often Latin-inspired instrumentation, wordless vocals (like his famous “zu-zu-zu”) and a futuristic sound.  On these albums, he pushes the envelope of stereo separation; there’s even a “Guide to Listening” in the booklet explaining the exaggerated, frequently striking stereo effects used.  Recording in Hollywood, Esquivel used many of the same musicians as Henry Mancini, including Bud Shank, Ted Nash, Plas Johnson, and Vincent De Rosa; Laurindo Almeida sat in on guitar.  This set pairs 1962’s Latin-Esque with 1959’s Exploring New Sounds in Stereo, and adds selections from both volumes of Infinity in Sound (1960 and 1961) for a swinging overview of Esquivel’s early period at RCA.  Standards like “My Blue Heaven,” “Lazy Bones,” “All of Me” and “Take the A Train” – all of which were featured alongside Esquivel originals and traditional tunes – never quite sounded the same!

There’s much more after the jump, including full track listings and order links!

PiccioniThe rich tradition of Italian cinema has yielded numerous composers who need no introduction – such as Ennio Morricone or Nino Rota.  In this upper echelon you would also find the name of Piero Piccioni (1921-2004), a lawyer-turned-composer who took his love of American cinema and jazz and applied it to his scoring work in his native Italy.  He forged bonds with directors Francesco Rosi and Alberto Sordi, and also worked with the likes of Bernardo Bertolucci, Roberto Rossellini, and Vittorio De Sica.  The team at él has compiled highlights from Piccioni’s early works recorded between 1957 and 1962 for such films as Mafioso (which lends this collection its title), Senilita (Careless), Guendalina and Il Mondo di Notte Numero 2.  The latter featured Piccioni’s Lydia McDonald on vocals; born in Edinburgh to a Scottish father and Italian mother, she went on to perform on the soundtracks of many Italian classics.  In 1962, Piccioni arranged an entire LP of American popular standards (including “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Too Darn Hot” and “But Not for Me”) for McDonald, and that rare album rounds out this set.  Notes are provided on each of the scores represented.

All three titles are made possible as a result of current E.U. public domain laws, and all are available now from Cherry Red and él at the links below!

Henry Mancini, Playboy Themes (él  ACMEM279CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Sidewalks of Cuba (Oakland/Parrish/Mills) from Combo!)
  2. A Powdered Wig (from Combo!)
  3. Playboy’s Theme (Cy Coleman) (from Combo!)
  4. Snowfall (Claude Thornhill) (from The Mancini Touch)
  5. A Cool Shade of Blue (from The Mancini Touch)
  6. Susan (from Touch of Evil)
  7. A Profound Gass (from Peter Gunn)
  8. Dreamsville (from Peter Gunn)
  9. Goofin’ at the Coffee House (from More Music from Peter Gunn)
  10. Lucky (from Mr. Lucky)
  11. Softly (from Lucky)
  12. March of the Cue Balls (from Lucky)
  13. Lujon (from Lucky Goes Latin)
  14. High Time (from High Time)
  15. Moon Talk (from High Time)
  16. The Great Impostor (from The Great Impostor)
  17. Love Talk (from The Great Impostor)
  18. Moon River – Laurindo Almeida (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  19. Holly (from Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
  20. Bachelor in Paradise (Vocal) (from Bachelor in Paradise)
  21. Baby Elephant Walk – Al Caiola (from Hatari!)
  22. The Soft Touch (from Hatari!)
  23. Hobbs (Theme) (from Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation)
  24. Experiment in Terror (from Experiment in Terror)
  25. Fluter’s Ball (from Experiment in Terror)
  26. Love Theme from Phaedra (from Phaedra, composed by Mikis Theodorakis)
  27. Drink More Milk (Bevete pui latte) (from Boccaccio 70, composed by Nino Rota & Remy Pelleschi)
  28. The Days of Wine and Roses (Vocal) (from The Days of Wine and Roses)

All songs composed by Henry Mancini unless otherwise indicated.

Esquivel, Latin-Esque/Exploring New Sounds in Stereo (él ACMEM280CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. La Raspa
  2. Adios, Mariquita Linda
  3. Jesusita en Chihuahua
  4. Cachito (Pedacito)
  5. Latin-Esque
  6. La Paloma
  7. Estrellita
  8. (Oyeme) Cachita
  9. Jungle Drums (Canto Karabali)
  10. Mucha Muchacha
  11. You Belong to My Heart (Solamente une Vez)
  12. Carioca
  13. My Blue Heaven
  14. Bella Mora
  15. Boulevard of Broken Dreams
  16. Lazy Bones
  17. Spellbound
  18. All of Me
  19. Whatchamacallit
  20. La Ronde
  21. My Number One Love
  22. The Third Man Theme
  23. Johnson Rag
  24. Harlem Nocturne
  25. Take the A Train
  26. Baia
  27. Sentimental Journey
  28. Who’s Sorry Now
  29. Bye Bye Blues

Tracks 1-12 from Latin-Esque, RCA Victor LSA-2418, 1962
Tracks 13-22 from Exploring New Sounds in Stereo, RCA Victor LSP-1978, 1959
Tracks 23-26 from Infinity in Sound, Volume One, RCA Victor LSP-2225, 1960
Tracks 27-29 from Infinity in Sound, Volume Two, RCA Victor LSP-2296, 1961

Piero Piccioni, Mafioso and Others (él ACMEM276CD, 2014) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Rollers Derby
  2. Quebrada
  3. When a Love Affair is Through
  4. Opus Jazz
  5. Mafioso
  6. Calamo
  7. Shoeshine Samba
  8. Il Delitto
  9. Whispering
  10. Americana
  11. Musica Della Notte
  12. Ricerca e Scoperta
  13. Tema di Amalia
  14. Amore Vano
  15. Chimera
  16. Fine di un Sogno
  17. Lo Amo Guendalina
  18. L’Imprevisto – Sequence 17
  19. Percussioni
  20. Was It You (Finale)
  21. It’s You or No One
  22. East of the Sun
  23. Too Darn Hot
  24. The Lady is a Tramp
  25. There’ll Never Be Another You
  26. But Not for Me
  27. The Song is You
  28. Goody Goodbye
  29. Thou Swell
  30. All Through the Night
  31. Dancing on the Ceiling
  32. Mean to Me

Tracks 1-3 from Il Mondo Di Notte Numero 2, 1962
Track 4 from Adua e Le Compagne, 1960
Tracks 5-10 from Mafioso, 1962
Tracks 11-16 from Senilita, 1962
Track 17 from Guendalina, 1957
Track 18 from L’Imprevisto, 1961
Track 19 from La Commare Secca, 1962
Track 20 from I Magliari, 1959
Tracks 21-32 from Piero Piccioni Presenta Lydia McDonald LP, 1962

Written by Joe Marchese

December 18, 2014 at 11:20

2 Responses

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  1. I was going to pickup the Esquivel release until I read this:
    “All three titles are made possible as a result of current E.U. public domain laws”. So I would assume these aren’t sourced from the masters but rather from existing CDs or LPs?

    Jason Michael

    December 18, 2014 at 20:15

  2. I recently purchased a 3-CD set, “The Very Best Of The Rat Pack”. While it is an excellent compilation, I feel bad about it being a “gray market” E.U. release.

    galley99

    December 21, 2014 at 09:10


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