Consider Sir André’s description of the session (yes, he was knighted in ’96): “I just came in and did them. … I never did a take two on anything.” Such are the extemporizing talents of the “Maestro,” thoroughly bilingual in the worlds of jazz and classical. In the latter idiom, conductors and soloists are encouraged not to deviate from the written score; in the world of jazz … well if you’re reading this you understand the rules, or thereof. Previn can navigate both schools with total confidence.
This collection of standards plus three originals reveals his prodigious technique along with other trademarks. Most notable is his ability to change keys in the most unexpected places. Take “Skylark,” where, in less than 2:40, Previn takes his listeners through six key changes, and at the very end displays his penchant for meter manipulation—still 4/4, or has it morphed into 3/4? On “It Might as Well Be Spring,” Previn reveals even more modulations, plus his gift for serious re-harmonization. He lets his right hand bend tones as much as physically possible on “Angel Eyes,” as he gets pleasantly down and dirty. For “My Ship,” Previn immediately conjures up Richard Strauss, with bi-tonal suggestions of the rose motif from his opera Der Rosenkavalier. Previn’s love of melody is shown on “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”
Amid his balladic meanderings, it’s reassuring to hear Previn abandon the rubato long enough for two references to his jazz roots: a new blues head he fashioned for the date, “André’s Blues”; and two choruses at supersonic speed of “What is This Thing Called Love” that reveal his bop chops.