Summing up—and playing around.

André Previn with Joe Pass & Ray Brown: After Hours (Telarc, 1989) (recorded March 1989)

André Previn with Mundell Lowe & Ray Brown: Uptown (Telarc Jazz, 1990) (recorded March 1990)

André Previn, Mundell Lowe, and Ray Brown: Old Friends (Telarc Jazz, 1992) (recorded August 1991)

Lots of jokes, some reminiscing, some future planning, and a great deal of music making. I can’t remember an easier record to make, and I went home in the early hours of the morning with my nerves quiescent, my blood pressure down, and in a generally euphoric fog.

That’s Previn’s description of the After Hours session in his memoir, as efficient a precis as there is of his musical paragon. To believe Previn, the release of the album was not even a given. Previn, guitarist Joe Pass, and Ray Brown, back on bass, recorded single takes of each number, then all three passed judgement on the playback; any objections, and the track would have been amicably shelved. Previn has told enough similar stories about other sessions, and failed to remember easier records to make on enough other occasions, that a two-finger pinch of salt is probably warranted. But the sentiment is absolutely sincere.

And After Hours is as solid a comeback as Previn could have hoped. The playlist is congenial: ten standards (including three Ellington songs—Previn will play a lot of Ellington from here on in) and the obligatory improvised blues, “One for Bunz.” Brown and Pass—Previn’s “fail-safe insurance,” as he called them—make for an adroit combo, Previn and Brown picking up where they left off in the 60s, and Pass an inspired addition, one of the few guitarists with the dexterity to grab threads of Previn’s solos and run with them in the same way Previn keeps doing to him. Truth be told, one some tracks, Previn shadows Pass’s solos far too closely, leaning on such on-the-fly imitative counterpoint instead of his own complementary accompanying ideas. But elsewhere, Previn’s playing is alive and adventitious, his usual tricks largely replaced by responsive conversation. (It’s as if he listened to the Perlman albums and thought, that’s too many blues licks even for me.)

This was Pass’s sole outing with the group (my conspiratorial side wants to believe that it’s because Pass thought Previn was trying to upstage him too often on After Hours, but I suspect it’s because Previn wanted someone to tour with, and Pass was busy with his own established quartet). His replacement, guitarist Mundell Lowe, was a studio veteran who had also composed for film and television, crossing paths with Previn in that sphere many times. (Lowe had also married Betty Bennett after she and Previn divorced.) He was a less melodically-virtuosic player than Pass, building up motives into easy-swinging solos and comping with a conscientious, creative sense of voice-leading. That noticeably changes the affect of the trio: everything’s a little more moderate and expansive. Uptown, the new group’s first album, functions as a double anthology of Previn favorites—six Harold Arlen songs, the rest all Ellington or Ellington-associated (Johnny Hodges’ rhythm-changes “Good Queen Bess” gets a revival). The modular approach that I’ve mentioned before seems to be making a comeback (and more of Previn’s favorite licks are back in his fingers) but, even in fast music, Previn is more conscious of space and texture than his younger self; he’s not filling up time with riffs as much as deciding where in time to deploy them. 

His comping is more concerned with rhythm than counterpoint, too—though hitting a lot of points on the rhythmic grid, rather reminiscent of Peterson. 

Uptown was, in fact, recorded while Brown was in New York City for a series of Blue Note concerts reuniting the Peterson-Ellis-Brown trio, preserved on a series of well-received albums. The Previn trio’s next album would also be a live recording, Previn’s first since he was a teenager. Old Friends finds the group onstage in San Diego playing standards straightforwardly enough that when, on a “Bad and the Beautiful” / “Laura” medley, Previn is suddenly in his late 50s-early 60s tilt-a-whirl-harmony style, it’s a noticeable gear shift. There’s not much overlap with the studio albums (though Previn’s introduction on “Over the Rainbow” pretty much mirrors that on Uptown) but the feel is completely consistent: comfortable, amiable jams.

André Previn / Thomas Stevens: A Classic American Songbook (DRG, 1992)

Stevens was a trumpet legend in the classical realm, principal of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for nearly twenty years, a champion of new music for the instrument (premiering works by Luciano Berio, Henri Lazarof, and Hans Werner Henze, to name a handful), and a composer and arranger himself. This recording is very much jazz-adjacent, but in a familiar way. Stevens doesn’t really improvise, but has a lush, Harry-James-like tone and the kind of breath control Previn prized in singers. The result is something akin to Previn’s albums with Dinah Shore or Doris Day: lavishly-appointed pop, with Previn shaping studio-ready, jazz-inflected arrangements on the spot. Previn drops back into his old manner without a hiccup.

Kiri Te Kanawa: Kiri Sidetracks (Philips, 1992) (recorded May 1991)

Kiri Te Kanawa: Kiri! A 50th Birthday Celebration of Her Greatest Hits Live (Decca, 1994) (recorded March 1994)

The subtitle of Kiri Sidetracks is “The Jazz Album,” a bit of an irony, since this album gets better the less overtly “jazzy” it is. This wasn’t Te Kanawa’s first crossover effort—albums with Nelson Riddle and historically-informed-music-theater-performance scholar John McGlinn had preceded it—but recording with only a trio (Previn, Lowe, and Brown) was new. (According to Previn, it was his idea, suggested over a beer at Vienna’s Imperial Hotel.) The obvious comparison is with Right as the Rain, on which Leontyne Price seems to have instinctively known that, while plenty of jazz singers could do things she couldn’t, none of them could do what she did, which is to sing like Leontyne Price. Here, Te Kanawa gets a little too breathy a little too often, and her phrasing often emphasizes a vocal effect at the expense of highlighting the text. (And sometimes, when she does highlight the text, she goes too far in the other direction, which is all that needs to be said about her version of Neil Hefti’s “Cute.”) On the other hand, when she lets Previn, Lowe, and Brown handle the jazz part, and she just sings, the results can be ridiculously good.

mean. “The Shadow of Your Smile,” with Lowe deftly underpinning the first chorus before Previn comes in with a spare solo, is equally direct and lovely, as is “Autumn Leaves,” underwritten by the dividend of Te Kanawa’s French diction. And Previn does get to enjoy, on “It Could Happen to You,” a singer with the pitch control to go along with his twisty modulations. 

A documentary was filmed around the making of this album, which gives a glimpse into Previn’s working style—at the piano, with a stack of sheet music, trying out different keys, seeing how far he can push the arrangement without tripping up the singer. Previn also talks about mediating between jazz style and operatic singer: “It’s not possible to teach someone how to swing, but it’s possible to make someone aware of what it means.” (One is reminded of Will and Ariel Durant’s description of Axel Oxenstierna, the 17th-century Swedish statesman: “to say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.”)

Coda: For her 50th-birthday concert, Previn and Te Kanawa reprised “It Never Was You” and “Why Don’t You Do Right?” from Sidetracks (with Dave Cliff and Dave Green standing in for Lowe and Brown), the former as divine as before, the latter a little prosaic.

Kathleen Battle / Frederica von Stade / Wynton Marsalis / André Previn: A Carnegie Hall Christmas Concert (Sony Classical, 1992) (recorded December 1991)

Previn’s duties on this album, a soundtrack release of a concert that was filmed live and broadcast on PBS, are mostly on the podium, while Marsalis mostly plays with his septet (with Stephen Scott on piano). But for an exasperatingly brief few bars of introduction before Battle sings Mel Tormé’s “Christmas Song,” Previn and Marsalis play in duet. For the rest of the number (which segues into von Stade’s singing of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”), Previn does his usual fine work giving the opera singers jazz-pop support, which isn’t really enough to make up for the missed opportunity. At least on the video you can enjoy Marsalis’s expressions as he waits.

What Headphones? (Angel, 1993)

Since his return to jazz in 1989, Previn had distantly echoed his jazz career from the 50s and 60s. He had made trio recordings along mainstream lines, but with offbeat, ruminative touches. He had repackaged his jazz style in the wrappings of classic American popular song. He had provided a visa for an operatic diva to visit the jazz realm. So, naturally, Previn’s next step was to hire the guy who produced hits for Billy Joel. And also hire a gospel choir. Like one does.

Previn’s surreal flourishes had always been so cushioned by his mainstream disposition (and had always been repeated enough to seem merely a library of licks) that it’s easy to forget just how weird he could be. Not that this album is an avant-garde turn in any real way. But Previn always had a taste for trial-and-error beyond what a casual perusal of his various catalogs might have indicated. (Recall the rock band crashing the party in his Guitar Concerto.) Working with a 50s sort of small group—Lowe and Brown joined by drummer Grady Tate, and Warren Vaché, Richard Todd, and Jim Pugh on cornet, horn, and trombone, respectively—Previn is very much in a playful mood.

This album is actually three albums in one. There’s an all-Previn album: three originals, two new, one old. There’s an Ellington album: four numbers, in new Previn arrangements. And then there’s the gospel album, with, quite literally, the choir from down the street: the storied Antioch Baptist Church of Bedford Hills, New York, near where Previn and his family lived for a number of years. Previn remembered taking Ray Brown to hear the choir:

I was jumping all over the place. I loved it so much. And [Brown] said, “You’re an idiot, man. If you had them play what they’re singing on instruments, you’d have the Basie band.” Of course, he was right.

Which might be why Previn changes his style hardly at all. It’s a risky move (after the choir establishes the fervent atmosphere of Jay Terrell’s “Holy Spirit in Me,” Previn nearly undoes it with a single cocktail-ish riff), but when it works, Previn’s hard-bop mantras appear in a new light, like an agnostic who suddenly realizes he’s been quoting the Bible his entire life. 

Previn’s own “Outside the Café” (featuring a plaintive turn from Pugh) and a trio reading of “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” easily could have found a place on many previous Previn albums, but the title tune is something else entirely, a loopy collage of brief ideas framing a blues of almost comically recalcitrant deliberateness. That sets up the Ellington numbers—“Take the ‘A’ Train,” “A Portrait of Bert Williams,” “Warm Valley,” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light”—for which Previn supplies some unusually puckish horn charts. 

Previn’s new producer, Phil Ramone, had once been a Juilliard student chafing at classical boundaries. As Ramone recalled in his memoir Making Records, Previn’s versatility was a “real inspiration” to him as he looked for his own path. Ramone engineered a number of notable jazz albums in the 60s (Getz/Gilberto, for instance), then went on to become a rock and top-40 stalwart. He enjoyed unexpected jazz-pop juxtapositions: Michael Brecker with Paul Simon, Freddie Hubbard with Billy Joel. When he signed on with Previn, Ramone had just finished the first of Sinatra’s Duets albums. So he was well-suited to try and rope the various threads of What Headphones? together into a coherent whole; that the attempt is only partly successful is the album’s biggest drawback, but also its biggest charm. It’s the scruffiest record Previn ever made.

Sylvia McNair / André Previn: Sure Thing: The Jerome Kern Songbook (Philips, 1993) (recorded September 1993)

With Eileen Farrell, Leontyne Price, and Kiri Te Kanawa, Previn had made pop albums with three different generations of opera singers. Sylvia McNair would be the fourth, and, in many ways, as representative of her era as the other three had been of theirs. McNair had performed primarily Baroque and Classical repertoire, her singing exemplifying historically-informed-performance-practice ideals: clarity, agility, textual fidelity. Applying those virtues to Jerome Kern songs—singing them almost entirely straight, but with crystalline diction and intonation—proves felicitous. McNair spins out Kern’s elegantly sinuous melodies with assured precision, Previn provides the requisite jazzy atmosphere. That’s all you need, it turns out.

This was Previn’s first album with bassist David Finck, who, at this time, was in a regular group with pianist Steve Kuhn and playing on a fair amount of Latin-jazz sessions for Chesky Records, but who had spent much of the 80s playing for singers: Joe Williams, Annie Ross, Rosemary Clooney. (Finck had also worked with Phil Ramone, here producing again,on Sinéad O’Connor’s rococo big-band-and-torch-song album Am I Not Your Girl?) Previn and Finck are still audibly getting used to each other here. Finck mostly walks, and Previn will frequently drop into one of his familiar stock improv ideas when he’s figuring out where Finck might go. They clicked, though—Finck will eventually become Previn’s last regular jazz collaborator.

André Previn and Friends Play Show Boat (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995) (recorded March 1995)

Previn, Lowe, Brown, and Tate resurrected the old Broadway-show album format by reinterpreting a truly old Broadway show, Jerome Kern’s 1927 hit. One might accuse Previn of rank nostalgia, but, then again, a Harold Prince-directed revival of Show Boat actually was the biggest hit on Broadway in 1995 (and it’s hard to imagine Previn fashioning modern jazz interpretations of, say, Les Misérables).

Except for a modest bitonal frame around “Make Believe” and solo versions of “Bill” and “I Might Fall Back on You” that would not have been out of place on Previn’s Contemporary albums, the transformations, compared with some of Previn’s 50s entries in the genre, are slight, and the manner is very much in keeping with the more straightforward tendencies of Previn’s post-1989 style. (Though not the repertoire—one of the virtues of the show albums was always how it pushed Previn away from his two-dozen or so go-to jazz standards.) “Ol’ Man River” is incongruously but engagingly spry, while Previn decorates the rarely-performed “Life upon the Wicked Stage” with characteristically nimble embellishments.

But then, surprisingly, there’s an all-Previn EP tucked inside this album like a prize in a cereal box: three originals leaning hard into Previn’s surreal side. “Lickety Split” is a kooky blues that sounds like a cousin to “What Headphones?,” “White Wood” is a moody, harmonically-barbed ballad, and “Dr. DJ” (dedicated to Pittsburgh radio host Evelynn Hawkins) stretches the seams of a Brubeck-like jazz waltz with 5-bar phrases and voluble flourishes.

Jazz at the Musikverein (Verve, 1997) (recorded June 1995)

The recorded swan song of the Previn-Lowe-Brown trio is another live set, this time in the most opulent of spaces, Vienna’s historically and acoustically legendary Musikvereinsaal. It wasn’t the first such program to be played there, but jazz was a rare enough visitor that, in some characteristically charming (and German) introductory remarks, Previn was compelled to remind the audience that, while his previous appearances there, with the Vienna Philharmonic, were all conscientiously prepared, das kann nicht ich diese Konzert es behaupten—he couldn’t make the same claim for this concert. Still, Previn went on, they had a list of songs, at least: mostly standards, as usual, with only a couple of originals along the way—Brown’s jump-blues “Captain Bill” and Previn’s “Hi Blondie,” another entry in his 1990s catalog of eccentrically-packaged blues. 

The overlaps with Old Friends, the trio’s earlier live album, show the evolution of both the group and Previn’s late-period jazz practice. “Stompin’ at the Savoy” gets a more tightly-arranged head; “Satin Doll,” earlier given a straight-ahead reading, now comes with an elliptical Previn re-harmonization; the guitar-bass riffs that kicked off the trio’s customary encore, “Sweet Georgia Brown,” have expanded into an entire prologue, and the tempo has relaxed from up-tempo excitement to leisurely, offhanded expertise. Previn’s playing has eased up, too. In faster numbers, he’s occasionally a bit on top of the beat, but his solos have more considered architecture.

Sylvia McNair / André Previn: Come Rain or Come Shine: The Harold Arlen Songbook (Philips, 1996) (recorded August 1995)

One thing that this survey should make plain is that, if you fell into Previn’s circle of friends and colleagues, at some point, you were going to do a bunch of Harold Arlen songs. This collection of two dozen of them is one of Previn’s most plentiful, and one of his best. McNair’s gossamer transparency and control are again in evidence, Previn and Finck have become a playfully reciprocal duo, and the repertoire, even on Previn’s nth revisit, continues to fire his ingenuity. “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” whips through some two-handed 1930s hot jazz, Ellingtonian swing, and a weird polytonal boogie, and back again, all in under two minutes. Previn and Finck get a piquant, vaguely Latin ostinato going behind “That Old Black Magic.” “I’ve Got the World on a String” slips into a bouncy version of “Get Happy,” with Previn and Finck trading some increasingly outrageous fours. A few usual Previnisms—the harmonically-murky skies that clear into “Over the Rainbow,” a touch of Rosenkavalier for “the bloom of our love” at the end of “Right as the Rain”—are more favorite accessories than twice-told tales. And the ballads are, as expected, subtle and sensitive, with nary a note out of place.

If the recording weren’t proof enough, Previn’s liner notes make clear that he was smitten with McNair’s singing. (He even dusts off one of his best and most musically complimentary pickup lines—“if an orchestra were lacking an oboe, they could not do better than to tune to her ‘A.’” It worked for Betty Bennett!) McNair must have seemed like Previn’s Platonic ideal of a big-band singer: the words, the tune, the song is always clear as day, giving the rest of the musicians (and, not incidentally, the arranger) a certain measure of liberty. It’s a sign of how, for all his assimilation of modern, West Coast, hard-bop-and-beyond ideas and tools, a part of Previn’s jazz always remained faithful to the pre-bop lessons he learned as a teenager, from Cole, from players like Red Callender and Jackie Mills, from Sinatra, from all the other singers, famous and forgotten, that he backed up on radio and at MGM in those halcyon days. The album’s highlights—a series of ineffably smooth, three-card-monte modulations on “This Time the Dream’s on Me,” say—seem to combine the veteran’s proficiency with the prodigy’s self-assured spark.

Previn’s liner notes suggested that further songbook albums with McNair were to come, but this ended up being the last. They did continue to work together on concert music. Most notable was the 1997 premiere of Previn’s soprano-and-orchestra work The Magic Number, on a text by Dory Previn Shannon—Previn’s first collaboration with his one-time wife in almost thirty years. (The piece, curiously, has never been recorded.)

Ballads: Solo Jazz Standards (Angel, 1996)

An interesting album in that it’s one of the few of Previn’s that feels like it’s in dialogue with a specific predecessor—in this case, 1967’s All Alone. Three of that record’s songs return here; “As Time Goes By” even opens with the same idea, a few bars of the melody in austere canon. But the new version, like the album as a whole, conjures the earlier record’s generally moderate atmosphere on more emotionally equanimous terms. And while some tracks are, as before, only nominally jazz—Previn’s gentle take on “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” is as straight a standard as he ever played—there’s just enough improvisatory flair to justify the subtitle. Previn actually surrounds “My Melancholy Baby” with some sly, understated blues paragraphs.

Two Previn originals—“In a Little Boat” and “Dance of Life,” the latter from the musical The Good Companions, co-written with Johnny Mercer—show well Previn’s penchant for reworking popular-song structure around the sevenths and ninths and lateral substitutions common to jazz harmony. The album is a reminder of how much value Previn could place on sheer musical agreeability.

Various artists: The Popular Songs of André Previn (André Previn Music, 2000) (new tracks recorded 1998)

This two-CD promotional compilation, put together by Previn’s management to market his songwriting catalog, mostly consists of pre-existing recordings. However, it also included two new songs—“Quiet Music” and “Prelude to Goodbye,” both with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman—making stealthy debuts in the form of demo recordings by singer Sandy Stewart, accompanied by Previn in his characteristically understated, decorative pop style. If “Prelude to Goodbye” is a rueful pop aria in search of a musical, “Quiet Music” is something closer to a long-lost standard, and would soon become part of Previn’s jazz performances (see below). 

Sandy Stewart and André Previn: “Quiet Music” (1998)

Previn’s notes for the CD promised that he and the Bergmans would “be working together very soon,” but if this was hinting at some larger project, it never came to pass. A few years later, however, at the behest of Barbra Streisand, the Bergmans fitted new lyrics to a theme from Previn’s score to the 1962 film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; “More In Love with You” premiered on Streisand’s 2003 release The Movie Album.

André Previn / David Finck: We Got Rhythm: A Gershwin Songbook (Deutsche Grammophon, 1998) (recorded August 1998)

André Previn / David Finck: We Got It Good and That Ain’t Bad: An Ellington Songbook (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999) (recorded August 1999)

André Previn with David Finck: Live at the Jazz Standard (Decca, 2001) (recorded October 2000)

The barrelhouse bluster at the outset of “They All Laughed”—“Bartók boogie-woogie,” as Finck calls it in the liner notes—is a signal that Previn showed up at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall (in between guest-conducting appearances) ready to make mischief on We Got Rhythm. All of Previn’s various jazz personae are part of the cast: the fleet-fingered virtuoso, the deadpan wit, the contrarian stylist, the restless mixologist of chord substitutions and contrapuntal roads-less-taken. Sometimes one or the other takes the lead. Previn and Finck’s peek-a-boo, bare-minimum exposition of “A Foggy Day” contrasts with a spiky, glitteringly full “Fascinating Rhythm.” There’s lavishly meditative solo-piano ballads—a long medley of “Soon” and “Do It Again” is especially plush—that function almost as grand flourishes between the more driving numbers. The late-Romantic strains of “Love Walked In” get reimagined as a hard-bop single. And sometimes it’s everything at once, as in an “I Got Rhythm” that veers between Stravinskian abstraction and sleight-of-hand swing.

You can hear why Previn liked playing with Finck. He’s almost like a double-bass version of Shelly Manne—well-versed and versatile, with melodic flair (including a Manne-like awareness of melodic possibilities of the percussion of a plucked string) and a good sense of when to sit back and delineate the beat and when to goose it up with accents and spangles.

Back in Ozawa Hall the following summer, Previn and Finck recorded an Ellington collection that, while a measure more reverent to the source material, still shows the two players nimbly bouncing off of each other. Like A Touch of Elegance, the emphasis is on the refinement of Ellington and Strayhorn’s compositions—a delicate reading of “Chelsea Bridge,” for instance, reveals the efficient brushwork behind Strayhorn’s impressionist mist—though there are raucous contrasts, a buy-one-key-get-two-free romp through Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” most of all. And the deference does go too far on Previn’s solo version of “Come Sunday,” which is so admittedly but classically beautiful that the music’s churched aura turns secular. That’s an exception, though. Previn’s rewrites—a triple-time re-routing of “Take the A Train,” a bitonal buff on Johnny Hodges’ “Squatty Roo”—are to the point, and the playing is technically and conceptually buoyant.

Previn and Finck would continue to perform together into the 2010s, but would only make one more duo album, a live set recorded at New York City’s Jazz Standard in October of 2000. There’s some reruns on the playlist—“Lady, Be Good” and that deadpan, deconstructed “I Got Rhythm” from the Gershwin album, “Chelsea Bridge” and “Come Sunday” from the Ellington (with the later, somehow, conjuring a more convincing atmosphere). And Previn re-ups “Hi Blondie” from the Musikverein concert. But then Gerry Mulligan’s “Westwood Walk” is there, kicking off the album with a gust of California breeze.

André Previn and David Finck: “Westwood Walk” (2000)

“My Funny Valentine” gets an unusually penetrating reading, and Previn and Finck tear around some parlous corners in “What Is This Thing Called Love?” A medley of Previn’s “Quiet Music” and Finck’s “New Valley” is some lovely quiet fire, and “Bye Bye Sky,” by Previn’s son Lukas, gives Previn’s touch an unpretentious but divertingly asymmetrical showcase. The best curve balls are the most literal: Russ Freeman’s “Fungo” and “Batter Up” from the Double Play! album, dusted off and polished up to a sharp shine. Previn’s imagination is at a high pitch throughout, his improvisations in the moment, his virtuosity (and Finck’s) deployed with wily, relaxed affect. We Got Rhythm might be the more outwardly creative and audacious album, but, as a display of the casual, consummate confidence that always marked Previn’s best jazz, Live at the Jazz Standard is unmatched.

Alone (EmArcy, 2007)

A decade after Ballads, and four decades after All Alone, Previn released another album of solo-piano ballads. Maybe it was Previn’s way of checking in with himself, seeing how his musical imagination and abilities had and hadn’t changed. Maybe that’s all record companies were interested in. Or maybe it was just pleasurable work. (Or maybe all of the above.) No fewer than three numbers stay on from Ballads (with Matt Dennis’s “Angel Eyes” also having been on All Alone).And, to be sure, Alone is a pretty comprehensive collection of Previnisms going back sixty years and more. But it’s also another measure gentler than its forebears. Yes, there’s some ear-fogging re-harmonizations (“Night and Day” reverses the climbing dissonances from All Alone’s “Everything Happens to Me” into a murky nocturne, and, on “My Ship,” Previn’s long flirtation with the chromatically-lightheaded rose motif from Der Rosenkavalier becomes a torrid affair), but then, Previn’s harmonies on “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” tend in the opposite direction, leaning on simple triads and root-position stability. And, yes, there’s no shortage of familiar turns of phrase (a couple of up-tempo choruses of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” are like Previn thumbing through his library of riffs and licks), but then, a quietly observant tour of “I Can’t Get Started” feels absolutely present, even the stock phrases adroitly falling into place. The spur-of-the-moment “André’s Blues” is a lyrical version of that progression; another Previn-Mercer song from The Good Companions, the categorically gorgeous “Darkest Before the Dawn,” is like one last walk around the MGM lot. The final track is an unfussy statement of what might as well have been Previn’s theme song, expressing the constancy, the consistency, the ubiquity, the threat, the assurance, the promise of his music-making: “You’re Gonna Hear From Me.”

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