Although Dave Grusin -- the G in GRP Records -- is quite capable of playing straight-ahead jazz on the piano, his skills as a pianist have often taken a back seat to his work as a record executive, composer for films and television, producer, and A&R man. But Grusin has never quit being a soloist -- it's just that he has devoted so much of his time to other activities -- and on Now Playing: Movie Themes, he has plenty of room to stretch out on the acoustic piano. Actually, Grusin is the only musician on this CD, which favors unaccompanied solo piano. Grusin was 68 when he recorded Now Playing in February 2003, and the disc finds him revisiting a variety of melodies he composed for movies over the years. Those who remember Grusin's hard bop activities of the '60s might hear "solo piano" and hope for some straight-ahead jazz, but Now Playing is best described as an album of pop-jazz and instrumental pop with classical overtones -- and while this release is hardly a jazz purist's fantasy session, it isn't total fluff either. None of these movie melodies go back to the black-and-white era; Grusin didn't get into film scoring until 1967, and the CD's oldest offering is the theme from 1968's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. A few of the tunes are from '70s movies (including Heaven Can Wait and Letting Go), but the decades that receive the most attention are the '80s and '90s -- and Grusin revisits familiar melodies that were heard in films ranging from 1982's Tootsie to 1999's Random Hearts. Now Playing won't go down in history as Grusin's most essential release, but it's a pleasant, likable way for him to look back on his many years of film scoring.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson