A simple, successful portrayal of an award-winning but humble artist.




Raymond offers a debut novel that tells the life story of famed film composer Henry Mancini.

Mancini is born in 1924 to Italian immigrants and grows up in a Pennsylvania steel town during the Depression. His father, Quinto, a “piccolo flute-playing steel worker,” is his first music teacher, training him in classical music and Italian folk songs—but Mancini truly loves ragtime and jazz. His forte is arrangement and improvisation, which earns him a spot at the Juilliard School; in his audition, he performs a “‘fantasy on Cole Porter’s ‘Night and Day’ ” which Raymond describes as “five minutes of pure musical genius filled with wonderful grace notes—those non-essential but inspired additions.” Soon after, he joins an Army band (and is lucky to return home from World War II unscathed), tours the United States as a professional band member, and eventually marries and settles in California. There, he’s hired by Universal Pictures as a staff composer and learns to work in a variety of musical genres. He later gets his big break after a chance encounter with director Blake Edwards, who asks him to score a new TV show: Peter Gunn. “Moon River,” The Pink Panther theme, and various other successful works follow. Raymond’s obvious intention in this fictionalized portrayal is to show her subject in a highly positive light. After all, this book is an entry in the Mentoris Project, a series about trailblazing Italians and Italian-Americans, which frames its subjects as role models. For instance, the author quotes popular singer Andy Williams as saying that Mancini was “one of the nicest men I have ever known,” and she writes that the composer’s peers were generally “inspired by how down to earth he was.” As a result, readers will indeed come away liking Mancini as a person. However, his flaws, if any exist, are left unexamined, so readers looking to read about the life of a tortured artist should look elsewhere. Overall, though, Raymond mostly avoids lionization, painting a low-key look at a kind and modest man with an impressive work ethic.

A simple, successful portrayal of an award-winning but humble artist.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947431-14-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Barbera Foundation

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2018

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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