No one can accuse Ted Nash of favoring an "all warhorses all the time" policy; in other words, he isn't the type of jazz instrumentalist who refuses to record anything that hasn't already been recorded by dozens of other artists. The saxophonist has interpreted his share of standards along the way, but on some of his albums he has recorded original material exclusively. The Mancini Project is unusual for Nash for a pair of reasons: first, it doesn't contain any original material at all; and second, it is a tribute album. The person Nash pays tribute to is the late composer Henry Mancini, and while he isn't the first jazz instrumentalist to pay homage to Mancini, it is safe to say that Mancini hasn't been the focus of nearly as many jazz tributes as George Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, or Antonio Carlos Jobim. From a jazz standpoint, there is still room for risk-taking where Mancini's songs are concerned -- and Nash takes his share of risks on this 64-minute CD, putting an attractive post-bop spin on Mancini compositions that range from "Dreamsville" to "Soldier in the Rain" to the theme from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Some Mancini enthusiasts might nitpick about the songs that Nash doesn't include; for example, he doesn't play "Days of Wine and Roses" or "The Pink Panther Theme." But then, Nash's willingness to make less obvious choices is one of the things that makes this album as interesting as it is. The theme from the 1962 film Experiment in Terror isn't as obvious a choice as "Days of Wine and Roses" would have been, but the former works enjoyably well for Nash on The Mancini Project -- which is one of the saxman's best albums and certainly one of his most intriguing.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson