As a jazz drummer, Shelly Manne was known on the West Coast as a first-call sideman, bandmate, accompanist nonpareil, and occasionally leader. Few could swing and play with such conviction and spirit, especially using brushes, quite like Manne. This double CD contains a whopping 32 tracks and nearly 156 minutes of music from recordings done originally for the Contemporary label in duo, trio, and small-ensemble settings. The 14 trio selections are from 1956 with pianist André Previn (age 26 at the time) up-front, the bulk from the complete recordings My Fair Lady and Shelly Manne and His Friends, Vol. 1. Previn has always been categorized as a clean, classically oriented, clinical, and polite player, rarely taking risks but offering ultra-melodic music. Of these offerings, there are some stirring bop-flavored standards like "Get Me to the Church on Time" and "Tangerine," easy swingers, and a ballad or two. Previn's original "Ascot Gavotte" is a bopper with a line similar to "Get Me to the Church," a slight Latin feel and modal phrasing inform the interesting variation of "I Could Have Danced All Night," and his off-minor offshoot on the Johnny Hodges evergreen "Squatty Roo" adds some variety. "Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas" is actually Oscar Pettiford's "Blues in the Closet," mistitled for years. There are five duet sessions from 1954 with just Manne and pianist Russ Freeman, originally from the release The Three and the Two. Freeman is quite different than Previn in that he is freer and freewheeling, looser, and more open to harmonic deviations. His originals and interpretations of bop standards duly inspire Manne to stretch a bit himself during "Sound Effects Manne" and the pensive "Speak Easy." Two more from 1954 are partial reissues from the original release Swinging Sounds in Stereo. They have baritone saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre and trumpeter Shorty Rogers in clipped call-and-response chatter, while three more from 1953's Shelly Manne & His Men feature a progressive septet with Freeman, Bob Enevoldsen (valve trombone), Paul Sarmento (tuba), and Shorty Rogers and Ollie Mitchell (trumpets), showcasing neo-chamber and impressionistic jazz, parallel to the third stream movement of the East Coast but way ahead of its time. The remaining eight tracks are again from 1956 with Manne & His Men from the LP Vol. 4: Swinging Sounds and feature a quintet with Freeman, a young Charlie Mariano (alto sax), and Stu Williamson (trumpet) doing bop evergreens, two Mariano hard bop originals, a lightning-fast "Un Poco Loco," and the leader's 3 a.m. dark one-and-three-note-underpinned original "Parthenia." Manne fans will likely already have most of this material already, but it gives you an informative three-year window into what the drummer man was up to.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2