Neal Hefti (1922-2008) - JazzWax

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October 15, 2008


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Bob Curtin

I still have Basie Plays Hefti on vinyl stored in my basement-- I can't afford the Mosaic box, which would result in a lot of duplication, and I would get tossed from my home if I tried to bring out all the vinyl in addition to the CDs.. It's the album I'd most want seen as a single CD. That album is an arranger's tour de force. My personal sleeper from it -- the Marshall Royal feature "It's Awfully Nice To Be With You" really shows his alto off effectively.

Of his Herman stuff, I've always loved "Wild Root" -- what a grabber, right from the intro!

By the Basie era, Hefti's jazz writing was so melodic and pure, it lent itself to the addition of lyrics. For vocal fans out there, check out Bobby Darin's "Don't Dream of Anybody But Me" (which is "Little Darlin'") and Mel Torme's "Oh What a Night for Love" (I forget what this was originally, although I have the original instrumental recording - was it "Softly With Feeling"?).

And don't forget that Hefti was the arranger on the Sinatra-Basie album, in which he had the audacity to write new arrangements of some of the tracks Sinatra had recorded with the all-time vocal-with-band chart champ, Nelson Riddle -- and pull it off!

Michael Steinman

Marc, you have outdone yourself -- I would love to have envisioned the big-band sections talking, shouting, and badgering, and I admire that sentence immensely! From one writer searching for new ways to express what he hears to another, I tip my imaginary hat to you. (And the Hefti post is up to your usual high standards, I have to point out, including your notice of Ben Webster's solo on the Sinatra album . . . too bad such things didn't happen more often: I can hear Ben in my mind's ear on those Capitols of the Fifties.)

Brian P Buckley

I'm having some problems tracing a Neil Hefti album, titled Harry James plays Neil Hefti, or Neil Hefti plays Harry James. Any Help would be appreciated

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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