Johnny Mercer

Definitive Collection

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Johnny Mercer was a prolific songwriter, a pleasant vocalist, and the co-founder of Capitol records. Although he does not sing on this 16-track tribute album, twelve pop and jazz vocalists and a modest number of brilliant instrumentalists do a good job of interpreting some of his nicest tunes. The real oddball in this lineup is Andy Williams; the transition from his sugary treatment of "Moon River" to Ray Brown's vibrant handling of "Tangerine" is not wonderful, except perhaps for the sense of relief once Williams and the perfectly trained mixed choir dry up and the jazz begins to settle in. Oscar Peterson is dependably excellent both as the improvising angel on "Too Marvelous for Words" and the accompanist behind Louis Armstrong on "Blues in the Night." Just in case you're wondering what Harold Arlen's "Blues in the Night" is doing on a Johnny Mercer album, the interchangeable focus seems to be both upon Mercer the clever, inspired lyricist and Mercer who also had a hand in devising attractive melodies. Therefore Bill Evans works wonders with Mercer and Johnny Mandel's "Emily," Margaret Whiting sings Mercer and Jerome Kern's "Dearly Beloved" and Sarah Vaughan presides over a lively Latin rendition of Mercer and Henry Mancini's "It Had Better Be Tonight." Although a certain amount of Mercer's cheekiness is in evidence (see Buddy Rich's bossy rendition of "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive," Cleo Laine's energetic invitation to "Hit the Road to Dreamland" and Bing Crosby's version of Mercer and Harry Warren's "Jeepers Creepers"), the prevailing mood throughout much of this collection is suave, sultry, wistful and romantic. Top honors in this category go to sophisticated Johnny Hartman, sensuous Shirley Horn, marvelous Helen Merrill and whimsical Astrud Gilberto. As if to confirm the gentle side of Johnny Mercer, the album closes with "Laura," played by Clifford Brown and Max Roach backed by a carefully arranged string orchestra.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:48
2 3:19
feat: Anita O'Day
4 3:07
5 4:56
feat: Buddy Rich
7 2:34
feat: Cleo Laine
9 2:51 Amazon
10 1:46
11 4:59
12 2:37
feat: Shirley Horn
14 5:16
15 2:53
16 3:28
blue highlight denotes track pick