Andre Previn

An extremely versatile and talented musician, André Previn (b. 1929) has played jazz piano, been an arranger-composer for Hollywood films and conducted classical orchestras, making it all look easy.

Born in Berlin, he studied piano as a child. He moved with his family to Paris in 1938 and eventually the United States. In Los Angeles, Previn was considered a prodigy, recording jazz at age 15 and arranging scores for MGM while still in high school. After serving in the Army, he emerged in the 1950s as a swinging bop pianist. Previn’s trio with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Shelly Manne recorded jazz versions of the music from My Fair Lady, a hit record that, to Previn’s regret, was released under Manne’s name. It started the trend of jazz groups recording the scores of Broadway shows and movies.

During 1957-1960, Previn made the best jazz recordings of his career for Contemporary. Double Play is by an unusual two-piano trio with pianist Russ Freeman and Shelly Manne, featuring songs having to do with baseball (including "Strike Out the Band”). Pal Joey, Gigi, and West Side Story are jazz versions of scores, performed by Previn, bassist Red Mitchell, and Manne. Previn recorded three albums of solo piano titled Plays Songs by Vernon Duke, Plays Songs by Jerome Kern, and Plays Harold Arlen. His trio with Mitchell and drummer Frank Capp interprets a more diverse program on King Size and plays eight of his own originals on Like Previn.

André Previn gave up playing jazz altogether in 1962 to work in classical music, including conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Other than a couple of side projects (such as the Ella Fitzgerald Pablo album Nice Work If You Can Get It), Previn did not return to jazz until 1989 when he resumed playing part-time in the same swinging style he had displayed during his Contemporary dates.