Did you know that, unofficially at least, 2004 is the "year of Henry Mancini"? So says daughter Monica, citing the 10th anniversary of her father's death, the 40th anniversary of The Pink Panther (for which, of course, papa Henry wrote the indelible theme), the reissue of Mancini's superb 1989 autobiography Did They Mention the Music? (written with Gene Lees) and the recent issuance of a stamp (Mancini's second) featuring both the composer and a certain rose-colored feline, all as validation. To commemorate the occasion, Mancini's daughter has just completed an exhaustive 60-city tour and spearheaded an ambitious, 17-track tribute disc aptly titled The Ultimate Mancini (Concord).
Her fourth studio effort, it is, after 1998's eponymous debut album for Warner Bros., her second nod to her dad's remarkable body of work. Both albums were arranged and conducted by Mancini's close pal Patrick Williams. Of the 13 songs that filled the '98 disc, fully 11 are repeated on Ultimate. Monica, whose professional association with Henry's music began when she was a teenager in the 1960s and served, alongside twin sister Felice, as a member of the Mancini Chorus, admits, "It does seem a bit odd to be doing the same thing over again. I think that significant time has passed and I'm a different artist than I was back then. He would love this record because it treats his music with affection." Indeed, where the first album was a reverential bow to a musical giant, the second seems more like a warm hug for a very talented papa.