Les Brown

Composer's Holiday

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For his first stereo release, Les Brown put his best foot forward -- in a decidedly jazzy mode, as well -- with this album, a first-rate concept record as well as a top-flight sonic blastoff, taking full advantage of the new medium. Supposedly hashed out informally between the L.A.-based Brown and a lot of his friends from the motion picture business, it was the result of the bandleader's invitation to write compositions in any style they chose, as though they'd never heard the Les Brown band in action, or knew what they could (or supposedly couldn't) do. The result is a set of ten instrumentals in widely differing styles, from staid big-band to more experimental pieces. André Previn kicks things off with "Night Blooming Jazz Man," and George Duning turns in "Lament for a Key," a piece without a key signature, shifting its key every few bars in an eerie and moody piece; and Wes Hensel shores up the end of side one with the roaring trumpet-dominated "Especially for Two," featuring the trumpets of Bob Stiles and Dick Collins. Side two is a little less exciting but has some of the more elegant moments, such as Alfred Newman's "Park Avenue Escapade," a trombone-dominated piece that sounds like it was written for a movie that was never made -- coupled with Frank Comstock's "Aurora," it makes this the side that was probably played more often by Brown's regular fans, and older hi-fi and stereo enthusiasts. And the album ends by tying up a loose end from the Brown book, Marty Paich's "How Now Brown Cow," a swinging dance instrumental that they'd long been doing -- sans title -- in concert. In all, it's not a bad stereo showcase and demonstrates this band rising to the occasion in fine style, welcoming a new era in technology and a new listenership as well.