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** 1/2 ORANJ SYMPHONETTE, "Plays Mancini," Gramavision

December 01, 1996|Bill Kohlhaase

On all but his most beautifully lyrical pieces, the late film composer Henry Mancini injected disarming, off-kilter touches to his music that served to suggest character or movement. Tunes like "The Pink Panther Theme" and "Baby Elephant Walk" (from the John Wayne movie "Hatari!") reinforced visual images in eclectic ways that few film composers have matched. It's these suggestive touches that the four-man, San Francisco-based Oranj Symphonette exploits in its tribute.

With Joe Gore's electric guitars and the cello of leader Matt Brubeck (son of pianist Dave Brubeck), these readings have a wiry, electric feel that can be either comic ("A Shot in the Dark") or sinister ("Experiment in Terror"). "March of the Cue Balls" is especially funny, with Ralph Carney's baritone chugging along in tandem with Scott Amendola's clicketyclack percussion. And you'll never think of "The Days of Wine and Roses" quite the same again after hearing the Symphonette's whiny, shuffle-on version.

At times, the funny stuff gets a bit old, but overall this is an unexpected, irreverent and entertaining disc.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent).

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