Here’s a capital idea executed brilliantly: 13 inventive acoustic guitar arrangements of Mancini classics – 12 solo and one bonus duet – by a dozen top-flight pickers.
Even though this already won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album of the Year (beating more commercial fare by Mason Williams, smooth jazzers David Koz and Boney James, and an all-star tribute to Luther Vandross), it may have snuck under most people’s radar. Don’t let it slip under yours.
Mancini’s catalog has been interpreted in a variety of ways, but this, the first acoustic guitar tribute to the composer, is one of the most original and refreshing – with a warm, intimate sound, even though each player’s distinctive tone remains intact.
Former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber opens the show with a spirited reading of “Pink Panther Theme,” with CGDGAD tuning allowing the fingerpicker to capture the essence of Plas Johnson’s sax solo while maintaining a walking bass. Pat Donohue sounds even more like two guitars, simultaneously playing melody and bass line on a mindboggling version of “Peter Gunn.” Similarly, William Coulter juggles melody and bass on “Baby Elephant Walk,” from Hatari.
That is two guitars, though, on “A Shot In The Dark” – Mark Hanson and Doug Smith’s appropriately fun nod to Inspector Clooseau, with a reference to “Pink Panther” slipped in at the end.
David Cullen gives “The Days Of Wine And Roses” a bossa nova feel on gut-string, while steel-stringer Ed Gerhard patiently focuses on the beautiful melody of “Moon River,” and Mike Dowling shows that the TV theme for “What’s Happening!!” sits comfortably in a relaxed ragtime groove.
Each artist contributes a description of his selection, and as Aaron Stang points out, he relied heavily on minor 9th chords to add mystery and suspense to “Charade,” which he pulls off quite successfully. And Al Petteway explains that he changes tunings from CADGAD to DADGAD on the fly (without losing a beat) in “The Thorn Birds.”
A book of all these arrangements with a CD of tips from the players is also available from acousticmusicresource.com. So either sit back enjoy or get to work – but check this out. It’s a winner!
This article originally appeared in VG‘s OCT. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.