Michael Feinstein: Change of Heart: The Songs of Andre Previn

As the press notes explain, when Michael Feinstein finally got André Previn to agree to a collaboration after much nudging, the now-84-year-old composer and pianist initially downplayed his non-classical book’s value. Previn, says Feinstein, insisted he hadn’t even written some of the songs Feinstein wanted to sing. Fortunately Feinstein, an indefatigable champion of the Great American Songbook, knew not to take “no” for an answer: Change of Heart-Previn playing piano, Feinstein vocalizing, David Finck on bass-is a celebratory affair that’s a welcome addition to both artists’ discographies.

The recording marks the first time Previn-who can boast a roomful of awards, among them a Lifetime Achievement Grammy-has reportedly worked directly with a male vocalist, and as far as better-late-than-never ideas it’s a visionary one: The two are a natural fit.

Several of the dozen tunes were written by Previn for films, notably Valley of the Dolls and Goodbye Mr. Chips, and for musicals. Although these were essentially works for hire, Previn’s inherent sense of tunefulness and attention to detail allow them to stand apart decades after the fact. Feinstein, as an artist who similarly pores over nuances and never falls short in nailing a lyric, delivers Previn’s words in a canny, warm tone.

Those accustomed to Feinstein’s livelier, more uptempo side won’t find it here-these are nearly all ballads, and Feinstein sings them tenderly and sans flourish. Those who know Previn for his classical and opera work may be surprised to hear how deftly he navigates a jazz-imbued melody. His piano choices are urbane, economical and just right for these songs-even the ones he swears aren’t his.