Henry Mancini – The Man Who Brought Movies to Life with Music


Our latest episode of Viva Virtuoso was made unforgettable (there’s an Easter egg there for all you Nat King Cole fans) by sax master Chazzy Green. Out of almost three hours of phenomenal footage, we managed to cut the episode down to a full hour. The episode is live on our official YouTube channel, to which you should absolutely subscribe if you’d like to be notified when we release some of the bonus footage from the shoot.

Though we tried to bring Chazzy’s charm and many talents to light in this episode, we did mention the one tune that nearly everyone around the world has certainly heard Chazzy play. Back in 1984, Chazzy Green was invited by Ray Parker Jr., with whom he still plays and tours, to participate in the creation of one of our favorite tracks of the 1980s – for the blockbuster original movie Ghostbusters.

Thanks to Chazzy’s wailing sax on that track, we’ve been inspired to revisit some of our favorite film scores and their creators. Obviously, we had to begin with Henry Mancini.

One of the great names of contemporary music, Mancini produced countless famous scores, from pop culture markers like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Pink Panther and Victor/Victoria to others we’ll recognize in the first four beats.

During his career, Mancini was nominated for 72 Grammy Awards, 18 Academy Awards, and two Emmy Awards – he won 20 Grammys, four Academy Awards and was honored with a Golden Globe. He recorded over 90 albums, the styles of which varied from jazz to pop and onward, and was lucky enough to have eight of them be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OPc7MRm4Y8

Introducing Enrico Nicola “Henry” Mancini.

Born in 1924, in Cleveland, Henry was the child of Italian immigrants. His father, Quinto, was a steelworker and an avid flutist, who had introduced his child to piccolo at the age of eight. The family moved near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Henry soon took up piano and an immediate interest in arranging. He also often played also played flute with his father and a local Italian immigrant band.

Graduating from high school in 1942, the young Enrico (not yet Henry) enrolled in Viva Virtuoso host Warren Peterson’s own musical alma mater, New York’s famed Juilliard School of Music. His studies, unfortunately, came to an end a year later when he was drafted. Mancini served overseas in the Air Force, later moving to an Army Band, where he participated in liberating a group of concentration camps in Austria. We can almost hear the soundtrack to this part of his life in some of his later work.

Mancini joined Universal Studios in 1952, where he spent six years contributing to an incredible 100 movies while there. Classic golden era flicks like It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, and The Glenn Miller Story, which earned him his first nomination for the Academy Awards, were born during that stint. Other notable mentions include The Benny Goodman Story and Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.

With the likes of Johnny Mandel and Alex North, Mancini too pushed for the inclusion of jazz elements in television and film scoring. This was chiefly possible due to his relationship with writer and producer Blake Edwards, which also resulted in them working together on 30 movies, within their 35 years of collaboration. We are deeply grateful to them for leaving us with the Pink Panther series.

He also composed a number of popular songs, recorded and sung by many of our favorites – Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Herb Alpert, to note just a few – and was an in-demand concert performer. The plentiful and superfluous number of engagements that he managed to produce per year, which totaled to over six hundred symphony performances, were always in demand. Among others, he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the LA Phil to boot. Mancini said that the Minnesota Orchestra was one of his favorites to work with.

For those interested in how this brilliant composer’s work habits, Mancini penned two books on the topic. The first being Sounds and Scores – A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestrating, a book vastly popular among students of the musical arts, and the second his autobiography, titled Did They Mention the Music.

Speaking of which, did we mention the new episode and that you should probably bookmark it to watch on a slow evening with your beverage of choice?

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