Web Liner Notes
on Steven King CDs
Steven King, USA Finger Style Guitar Champion
Henry Mancini raised the bar for the art of music, as is the ultimate goal of all great composers, arrangers and performing acts. Born 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio, a state that boasts many outstanding musicians with whom I have worked, and having been encouraged by the great Benny Goodman and later serving as the pianist in the post-WWII Glenn Miller band under the leadership of Tex Beneke, Mancini continued to grow, moving into the Hollywood movie and television score career for which he is best remembered. His chance meeting with Blake Edwards at a barber shop in 1958, after having completed a six-year movie scoring run with Universal Studios, got him the Peter Gunn TV series score, much of which I consider to be his best work (at least to me, having taken college scoring and orchestration classes in the early seventies using Mancini's "Sounds and Scores" text book which cited and analyzed music from Peter Gunn tracks). Not only was he an inspired composer, and a most innovative arranger (combining instruments in new ways to form his signature sounds, such as vibes with piano, vibes with flute, counterpoint French horn lines, and low grumbling bass trombones), but it was also clear in the improvisation sections of his recordings that Mancini used the finest musicians in the world for his sessions, making his music most compelling on so many levels (the Peter Gunn soloists included guitarist Barney Kessel, tenor saxist Ted Nash, trumpeters Pete Condoli and Conrad Gozzo, bassist Rolly Bundock, trombonist Jimmy Priddy, and Hollywood's future most celebrated theme writer John Williams on piano). With this level of training, composition, arranging and musicianship, how could Mancini recordings do other than raise the bar and continue to inspire musicians for generations yet to come?
A cherished memory for me was performing as a solo guitarist at singer Abbe Lane's home in Beverly Hills for a couple of lunch parties in the mid eighties, at which an impressive contingent of the Hollywood entertainment royalty were guests. There were two warm-hearted souls who came over to me at different times as I played during one of these events, one was Steve Lawrence, who started singing along with the tune I was playing. (How joyous is that?) And the other was Henry Mancini, who walked over to me, stood two feet in front of me and watched as I played. We never spoke, but how nice it was to be acknowledged, and by my hero! A year or so later I sent a demo cassette recording I made of his "Dreamsville" to his Hollywood office, never counting on it ever getting to him. Mr. Mancini answered me personally with an encouraging letter (copied here on my web site "press" page). This gives insight into the kind heart of this man, who encouraged even an unknown guitarist.
"Mancini Magic for Solo Guitar" contains my all-time favorite Mancini compositions, which I have arranged for solo guitar in a way that brings out the counterpoint of simultaneous melody with walking bass lines, while keeping the arrangements loose and alive enough to employ the guitarist's own creative jazz improvisations at appropriate times. I hope that in however small a way, this CD will continue to expand the avenues of inspiration that Mancini has opened for music students young and old. I hope you enjoy it.
Glenn Miller began his career as a free-lance trombonist and arranger. In 1937, Miller stepped out to form his own band, but it was not successful until he realized his unique sound -- produced by the clarinet holding the melodic line while the tenor sax plays the same note, and supported harmonically by three other saxophones - an easily recognizable style that would set his band apart from all the rest.
Formed in March 1938, the second Glenn Miller Orchestra soon began breaking attendance records all up and down the East Coast. The Orchestra was invited by ASCAP to perform at Carnegie Hall with three of the greatest bands ever - Paul Whiteman, Fred Waring and Benny Goodman -- and created more of a stir than any of them.
There were record-breaking recordings, as well, such as "Tuxedo Junction", "In the Mood", and "Pennsylvania 6-5000", all appearing on the RCA Victor Bluebird label. In early 1940, Down Beat Magazine announced that Miller had topped all other bands in its Sweet Band Poll, and capping off this seemingly sudden rise to the top, there was, of course, Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" radio series for Chesterfield cigarettes which aired three times a week over CBS.
On October 7, 1942, Alton Glenn Miller reported for induction into the Army, and was later transferred into the Army Air Corps, where he ultimately organized the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band. Miller's goal of entertaining the fighting troops took another year to be realized, but in late 1943 he and the band were shipped out to England and played many engagements there. In the Fall of 1944, the band was scheduled to be sent on a six-week tour of Europe and would be stationed in Paris during that time. Miller decided to go ahead, in order to make the proper arrangements for the group's arrival. And so, on December 15th, Glenn Miller boarded a transport plane to Paris, never to be seen again.
Glenn Miller's favorite quotation was from Duke Ellington: 'It Don't Mean a Thing If it Ain't Got that Swing!'
As a teenage guitarist in the 60's, my influences were Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash and Joni Mitchell. In the 70's more great artists affected me, like Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Joe Pass, & Henry Mancini. In the mid 70's I discovered the music of the Big Band Era, and was most moved by the music of Glenn Miller. I have played his music for decades now, and it never gets old, like the Beatles', always delightful, and I feel it will continue so for generations to come.